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Branding

Published on: Aug. 24, 2023, 3:11 p.m.
Rebranding Air India: Dawn of The Vista
  • The new look Air India

By Suman Tarafdar

Move over (beloved) Maharaja, it’s now the age of The Vista. Yes, decades after the Indian government nationalised the airline from the Tatas, the Tatas finally have their airline back. They have been itching since then to refurbish the much-battered image of the airline and 10 August proved to be the day the airline came out with some announcements regarding the overhaul.

The rebrand goes much beyond the logo though. “We are in the midst of a total transformation to re-imagine the role of India’s flagship airline,” reveals Campbell Wilson, CEO & MD, Air India. Irrespective of whether it is still the flag carrier or not, the planned changes include new aircraft livery, new look cabins for all the classes, a phased launch of new Air India website, mobile app, loyalty programme, with a new ‘open all hours, every day’ customer contact centre in nine Indian and foreign languages by the end of this year, as well as a completely redesigned loyalty programme in early 2024 that will enable thousands of new redemption possibilities.

Air India had earlier announced a major five-year transformation roadmap. Describing the overhaul as a ‘national mission’, N. Chandrasekaran, chairman, Tata Sons, said: “We have been at work during the last 15 months or so on this journey – because our mission is to make this airline world-class in terms of modernity, safety, technologically most advanced, exceptional in terms of customer service and an experience that Air India used to be known for”.

He admitted however that “This requires enormous amounts of work – on technology, fleet, maintenance, ground handling, all aspects of operations, and more”. Though he pointed out that the airline had placed a historic order for new planes, they would take time to arrive, he admitted.

In what will possibly be the biggest relief for flyers, the airline’s fleet upgradation has already begun, with the airline leasing and buying 20 wide-body aircraft this year, including planes from Singapore Airlines and ex-Etihad. A $400 million programme to completely refurbish the interiors of its legacy fleet of 43 wide-body aircraft commences mid-2024, which will lead to the installation of brand-new seats in every cabin, new in-flight entertainment systems and in-flight Wi-Fi internet connectivity.

  • Chandrasekaran and Wilson unveil the new livery of the airline

By March 2024, about 33 per cent of the airline’s wide-body fleet will be upgraded and, over the next two-and-a-half years, its entire long-haul fleet will be reborn. However, the timeline for refurbishment of the narrow bodies in the airline’s fleet and Air India Express planes remains to be seen, though news on the latter is expected soon too. Incidentally, Air India Express is the only profitable part of the four airlines under the Tatas which, besides Air India, includes Vistara and AIX Connect (formerly AirAsia India).

The new logo and design were made keeping in mind ‘the aspirations of a new India’, informed Wilson, elaborating on the rebranding. Care had been taken to ‘ensure that our new look feels, reflects our country, respects the airline’s rich history as it confidently moves towards the future’, he enthused.

As for the Maharaja, his only presence might be in the premium cabins, if the renderings are an indication! “The reports of his demise have greatly been exaggerated,” Wilson noted. “The Maharaja will evolve.” 

  • The new goldframe draws from the airline's legacy

‘Window of possibilities’

Air India’s new logo symbol – ‘The Vista’ – has already drawn extensive comments from a wide spectrum of people, many of whom are regular flyers on the airline. So, what does the new logo stand for?

The logo itself is inspired by the peak of the gold window frame, signifying limitless possibilities, progressiveness and the airline’s bold, confident outlook for the future, the airline said in a statement.

“What excited the design team was the idea of new possibilities,” commented John Tipple, chief strategy officer, FutureBrand Global. “The new design is based on a huge respect for the past, while also being excited about the future. That meant being careful about what we decided to keep, what we decided to evolve, what needs adding and what needs leaving behind.” He also pointed out that it was important to keep the brand “meaningful within India but not to forget it was going to be flying around the world”.

Air India planes have been distinctive for the red window framing. Indeed, the window has been part of the brand from the start, as Tasneem Ali, chief creative officer, FutureBrand India, pointed out. “On the plane, in the plane, on the boarding cards – we took that symbol and we turned it into a new angularity to reflect our new brand personality – going forwards and upwards.” 

The new look re-imagines the iconic Indian window shape, historically used by Air India, into a gold window frame that becomes central to the new brand design system – symbolising a ‘Window of Possibilities’.

To its traditional colours of red and white, “a lovely purple to indicate premium-ness and the gold frame to give an almost tactile feel,” explained Ali. “We have also done a signature pattern, which also comes from our identity itself, which is from our existing tailfin, which is the charkha. All the elements have deep meaning.”

Ali also pointed to flexibility of the symbol saying that it could tell stories of people and places and be used in the apps.

Flying four colours

Air India also released a rendering of the new livery and how the cabin refurbishments would look like, including a look at how the new LOPA (Layout of Passenger Amenities) is likely to be. Air India’s brand-new aircraft livery and design features a palette of deep red, aubergine and gold highlights, as well as a chakra-inspired pattern. Each cabin will have a new colour identity – red for economy, burgundy for premium economy and purple for business and a rose gold for first.

It also gets a new custom-made Air India Sans font, rather chunky at first glance, especially when contrasted with the style of the logo, designed to appeal to a global audience. Ali described the font as having ‘personality and gravitas’ and said it would be instantly recognisable.

The tailfin also will get a new look, the frames in the new colours of the airline. “The same window idea has been expressed on the tailfin,” added Ali. Incidentally, now the airline name will be prominently visible on a flying aircraft from below – renderings indicate the airline name written in huge red on the bottom of the fuselage. “It’s all about being aggressive, bold, confident,” explained Tipple, also adding that he “if the wingtips were not seen on Instagram, we haven’t done our job.” Well, the first planes to fly the new livery will be new A350s, the first of which is expected by the end of the year.

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