For the past few weeks I’ve had United Airlines on my mind. I’ve actually had United on my mind for quite some time now. I’ve worked for different airlines, airline brands, and codeshare partners over a 25 year (and counting) period. To say that I have a passion for aviation would be an understatement. My aviation career crossed paths with United back in the mid ‘80s when I worked as a part-time customer service representative at PBI. These were the heydays of United – the purchase of Pan Am’s Pacific Division, the only airline flying to all 50 US States, and in the late 80s a stock price valued at over $250. This was also a time of great turmoil at United which included a 29-day pilot strike. Overall, United was on cloud nine, and still flying the friendly skies. So, you can see why I’ve had United on my mind and why I have a soft place in my heart for the “tulip”. Recently I visited Chicago, and while at ORD, I couldn’t help but wax poetic as I walked around. While there I only saw 2 “tulips”, both on regional jets.
With the merger of United and Continental (a “merger of equals”) in 2010, the “tulip” began to disappear and was replaced by the Continental “globe”, albeit the name UNITED was chosen to adorn the aircraft. This “Frankenstein” branding was met with swift disapproval from many in the world of branding/marketing and vehemently discussed by many in the avgeek world.
Some would argue that the name United was mud in the aviation industry and that Continental was the “better” of the two airlines, so the newly merged company should have been named Continental. In the end, United understood that their name still held clout in the world and decided to keep the name.
So, here are 6 Reasons Why The “Tulip” should make a triumphant return:
1. Heritage – The “tulip” was introduced in the early 70s by graphic designer and Academy Awarding winning filmmaker Saul Bass. The “tulip” is a combination of the “U” in United and the shield logo which United had used since the 1930s. For many the “tulip” IS United.
If shown the “U” I do believe most people (avgeeks for sure) would be able to identify it as United. If shown the globe I believe a greater number of people would say “Continental” than would say “United”. In addition, United has done a not-so-complete, or quick, job of replacing the “tulip” with the globe. You can still catch glimpses on regional aircraft and some marketing materials. In contrast, when Delta merged with Northwest in 2008, the goal was “out with the old, in with the new”. Delta sent out teams of people to identify, remove, and standardize all elements of the brand. As a result Delta’s brand image quickly became consistent across their route system including marketing and promotional items.
2. Something for employees to connect with – If I were to show you this image what would be your initial thoughts?
If the slogan for this company were “We Love To Fly And It Shows” would you find it confusing? Not quite hitting the mark? Mismatched? More importantly, if you were an employee of said company, how would you feel? Would you be able to connect?
As a former employee of an airline that saw a few mergers, and a facilitator of customer service, I truly believe if employees do not believe in the message of the company, it is difficult to delivery any promise of great customer service. For any company to deliver consistent, thoughtful, and extraordinary customer service, the people delivering the service must believe the message. If the message is disjointed, confusing, doesn’t add up, this is exactly what will be delivered to the customer. United’s employee need something to rally behind. A message of “merger of equals” and “Frankenstein branding” keeps employees in their “silos”. sUA (subsidiary United) and sCO (subsidiary Continental) employees still have “their airline”. It’s something for them to hold on to. Some may hold on so long that they never move towards working together. This in turn will play out in the customer service that is delivered day in and day out. Contrast this with American Airlines. Approximately 1 month prior to the merger with USAirways in 2013, American decided to change its livery and chose a new look, feel, and livery. Part of me thinks this was by design – new livery, new leadership, new direction, and the upcoming merger with USAirways. Doug Parker (the incoming leader of the merged companies) said of the new livery “maybe we need to do something slightly different than that …The only reason this is an issue now is because they just did it right in the middle, which kind of makes it confusing, so that gives us an opportunity, actually, to decide if we are going to do something different because we have so many airplanes to paint”. Ultimately the employees decided on what the tail of the aircraft would look like (classic AA or “party tail”). By choosing a new livery for the combined company, silos are in effect removed and as a group EVERYONE can move forward in a new direction. It can be difficult letting go of the past. Time will tell how this course of action will play out.
It is my opinion, that having one unified brand will go a long way in helping United employees reconnect with their company.
3. Retro is in – If you haven’t noticed, what’s old is new again. The popularity of retro liveries is a great way of embracing the past. USAirways has done the best job in the industry embracing the family of airlines that are its heritage. And Doug Parker of American has publicly stated that the retro jets will remain in the new American fleet; even introducing a TWA livery in the future. Tapping into nostalgia has a way of unifying groups of people who have a common goal. Seeing the “tulip” evokes in me a time when United was on top of the world. For some, the “tulip” evokes the opposite feeling. As mentioned in the opening, the name United was decided upon as the name of the combined company. If the name United was indeed so bad/so toxic/detrimental, the powers that be would not have moved to keep the name in place. So, to keep the name and not the element associated with the name is confusing from a branding perspective. If seeing the “tulip” evokes such a negative feeling amongst some people, updating or stylizing the “tulip” to be more modern would have been a viable option. If you keep the name, keep the visuals as well.
I recently read that United with keep the retro Continental livery on their B737-900. This is awesome and a step in the right direction.
4. Mismatched branding doesn’t work – After the merger between United and Continental was announced there were plenty of articles written and many discussions on social media on how ineffective this type of branding can be. I can honestly say that whenever I see a United aircraft now, I don’t think United, I think Continental. I know I’m not the only one with this sentiment. When seeing the current United aircraft there’s a sense that something is “just not right” about it. It misses the mark. United article #1, United article #2, United article #3.
Now many of you may think “the traveling public really doesn’t care what’s on the outside of the aircraft” and with that I would agree. Again, it goes back to the people, the employees who deliver the customer service around the message of the company. If there’s a disconnect with how employees feel, there will be a disconnect with how they deliver the service. CE Woolman, the founder of Delta Air Lines is quoted as saying “An employee’s devotion to his or her company, dedication to the job and consideration for the customer determine a company’s reputation.” So, if the employees don’t feel quite right about the message, how can they deliver the customer service needed to take the company to the next level?
For employees, losing “your” airline brand or identity is a tough thing. As a former airline person with over 25 years in the industry, I know this feeling all too well. Back in 2006 when Song Airlines was folded back into Delta, it was extremely difficult. Especially difficult because we had proven that the little airline with 48 Boeing 757s could make a huge difference in the passenger experience. Many lessons were learned and carried back to Delta. Many of the lessons, work rules, on-board amenities, and service delivery procedures make up the new Delta. With this I’ve learned that things change (especially in aviation), that lessons are learned, that if you open your eyes wide enough you will see the fruits of your labor. This holds true for any of the mergers that have taken place. There’s always something that’s brought into the new company. If you slow down for a moment, take a good look, you’ll see elements of “your” airline even it it doesn’t physically exist anymore.
5. Rhapsody in Blue – Ahhh, that iconic 1924 musical masterpiece from George Gershwin. United first used this music in its advertising in the mid 80s. The following commercial is believed to be the first incorporating this music (click here). And then there are all of the whimsical artsy commercials which utilized the music as well. I’m sure you’d agree, each time you hear this piece you immediately think of United. Imagine my delight when in 2013 United reintroduced this timeless classic to its commercials. The piece is galvanizing, soaring, aspirational in its tone. As I mentioned I was in Chicago recently and went through the Tunnel connecting terminals at ORD. There is something magical about the all that neon, the colors, the moving sidewalk, and Rhapsody in Blue playing in the background. Rhapsody in Blue IS United.
6. Fly the Friendly skies – United resurrected “Fly the Friendly Skies” campaign in September of 2013. Long a favourite of employees and the traveling public, the return of this slogan came about as United begin to focus more on the passenger experience in its advertising and marketing. “‘Flyer-friendly’ resonated in feedback from our customers and co-workers,” Tom O’Toole, United’s senior vice president of marketing and loyalty and president of MileagePlus is quoted as saying. Most of United’s current marketing, including TV commercials, now uses the “flyer friendly” tagline.
On twitter and Facebook you will see the AirlineGuys using the hashtag #longlivethetulip. We use it to remind United and our followers of the legacy that is UNITED; not to forget or to bury those elements which brought you to this place and time.
Let’s think about this for a moment. Currently at United we have the UNITED name, Rhapsody in Blue, and Fly the Friendly Skies tagline. It seems as though all the elements are falling into place for a triumphant return of the “tulip”.
I would agree that the classic United tulip has greater brand recognition but with the old CO management in charge (from an odd sort of reverse merger), I don’t expect to see it back unless there is some sort of marketing crisis (e.g., new United plunges to the bottom of the Big 3, Star Partner AC starts grabbing overseas business connecting in Canada, etc.) and maybe even another bankruptcy.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts Gary! Having the name UNITED and then bringing 2 elements of the old brand back (Flyer Friendly, Rhapsody in Blue) creates a great disconnect IMHO, especially from an employee perspective. Again, thanks for your comments.
To me United will always be the iconic blue and red strip with UNITED in the middle and fly the friendly skies of United slogan. I never did care for the tulip or the Rhapsody in Blue theme.
Thanks for your comments Rick. That too was a wonderful livery!
Reason #7 – they’re going to have to rebrand anyway. After they clean up this mess that they created, they’re going to have to do something to show that they’re not this disaster of an airline once represented by the globe. That doesn’t mean the tulip is coming back, but I think the globe is out within a few years.
Jeff, thanks for your response. Yes, feel as though a rebranding is definitely in order. Would you consider a revamped, stylized “U”? 😉
Informative piece, very much interested in airline industry stock.
Long live the Globe!!!! Continental Airlines will always be better than United!!
Sean — many feel this way. Now, with UNITED on the side of the plane, how do you move fwd branding-wise? Or do you just keep charting the same course? Thanks for your comments!
LOL, you CO fanboys are so delusional. Continental was the scum of the airline world, vastly overrated. Arrogant, lazy crews, and a pig headed CEO. Your precious airline is the reason why United is floundering.
You loser united esop failures are moronic. united sucked hind tit for years, and is a shadow of a airline that was. united fanboys just like the united employees , have horrible attitudes and it shows in the past decades. united was at the bottom for a reason.
I suspect that while there was a certain calculus of “winner” vs. “loser” in the merger that led to the monstrosity that is the United + globe livery, I also think that there was some pure economic practicality involved. Continental had a fleet that was generally newer and all painted the same. All that had to be done was to change the name on the planes. United’s fleet had few new aircraft and still had a mix of Battleship and Rising Blue liveries at the merger, so it was likely that no matter what, all of the UAL planes would have to be repainted if there were a new livery introduced. By retaining the Continental paint, the cost of the new livery was pretty much cut in half. Since the last of the Rising Blue is just about gone, I expect that UA will retain the present livery until it has worn out its welcome. The question then is whether or not the Tulip will make a triumphant return of they will go in a different direction.
I’m very much in favor of symbolic iconic logos. Think of the logos that you see that make you automatically think of the brand — McDonald’s arches, Nike Swoosh, Apple “apple”, Mobil Pegasus, Mercedes Benz star, Target bullseye, Motorola batwings, Volkswagen roundel, etc. There is something about the iconic logo that just sticks with you when done well. The tulip logo was in that class.
Patrick — Thanks for your thoughtful and insightful comments. You hit many points squarely on the head. Would agree that there was definitely a financial component in moving with UA’s current livery. Fairly quick solution and not as costly as a complete rebranding. Your last paragraph really resonated with me. Thank you for your comments.
It wasn’t done out of financial terms, it was done out of Jeff’s ego and he even admitted he came up with it on his own. And it would’ve been cheaper to use UA’s already established and marketed brand. The battleship planes would’ve been repainted into rising blue anyway, all you needed to do was the CO planes and rebrand the CO hubs/stations, while leaving the UA side alone.
So incorrect it is a joke. united had airplanes in sad shape, and different liveries. Continental had all it’s airplanes in one livery. You know nothing.
I have to pipe in on number 4. While you may look at the planes and think CO, I don’t, so I think we cancel each other out. And this is coming from a nearly 20 year CO flyer (I started in the meatball days). I also think it’s a nod to the many CO employees who are now a part of UA. You point out that branding is key to employee morale, and I think in this case, it throws a bone to the CO employees who are now part of the new merger carrier. So, it’s a give and take with each side getting something…the legacy UA kids get their song, their tagline, and most importantly their name. The legacy CO kids get to look at the metal and still feel connected to the once great carrier they’ve lost.
What would be interesting is if a talented designer could find ways to incorporate the tulip into other aspects of the branding (not the metal) in a way that makes it consistent with the globe. I’m not sure it’s possible to pull off, but seems like it would be a fun challenge for a real designer.
Hey there Hunnerwoof — Thanks for your comments. I would have to agree that it would be interesting to have a design team come up with something. I’d like to see a design team come up with a new livery. IMO blending the two (name and livery) only keeps both sides in their corners. Throwing ‘bones’ to each side is not how you become unified and move forward. Coming up with something new that both ‘sides’ can be proud of is ultimately what should happen. It’s the ‘something new’ that both ‘sides’ will need to rally around to become united. I like how AA gave employees a bit of input in having them decide the tail. They chose something new. I believe this will assist them as they begin the integration of the two workforces. DL is unique in that they had already decided a new livery at about the same time of the NW merger. I wonder if a blending of the two liveries to appease the workforces would have been prudent. I know what it’s like to ‘lose’ your brand. It happened with Song. It was tough to see the brand I helped build (and whose lessons learned were transferred back to DL) go away. DL was very methodical and decisive when it came to bringing Song back in to DL. To come up with a hybrid livery honoring Song would probably not have been the best course of action from a branding perspective. AA via USAirways is doing the best job honoring the past airlines by keeping in the fleet all those retro liveries. Again, thanks for your comments.
Ok, I will agree with you 100% on this point. But then…why are you advocating a return of the tulip? LOL
Not the same 1980s tulip Hunnerwoof. Something new, stylized, modern. The tulip is iconic. Now that UNITED is on the side of the plane, now that Rhapsody in Blue is back (did it ever leave?), now that “friendly flyer” is in most of their advertising. Doesn’t it make sense? If it did I reckon we wouldn’t be having this discussion 😉 Yes on the tulip. Something new, stylized, modern.
The only bone the CO employees should get at this point is a bone to the head. They need it drilled into their head they’re United employees now, UA acquired them (FACT: UAL Corporation bought out the Continental stock) and the fact that many of the ex-CO employees have defied orders and continue to recite “Continental” and “OnePass” in cabin announcements is further proof their precious globe should’ve been taken away from them.
As for “bones”, what did the UA people get??? A name, tagline (that’s now been ruined) and Rhapsody. Gee, what did the CO goon squad get? Jeff, SHARES, livery, globe, 2-class planes, air-operators certificate, and much more.
The UA employees have been screwed in this deal. The entitlement from the CO employees needs to go away.
Hey there Kit. Thanks for your response. This topic has garnered lots of attention and people feel very strongly about the return of the “tulip” or the death of it. Lots of passion and feeling around this. It’s in the interest of both sets of employees to come together for the betterment of their company. The powers that be, from top down, should be (and more than likely are) focusing on uniting (pardon the pun) these two, very distinct cultures. Until this happens things may not improve. We will definitely be monitoring things. And again, thanks for your response.
Ignorance must be bliss
You need to get your facts straight, perhaps someone needs to hit you in the head with a bone. It was touted as a merger of equals, However, if you read the SEC filling it CLEAR STATES Continental Airlines is the surviving carrier of the new company now referred to as United Continental Holding.
From the SEC filing:
On May 2, 2010, UAL Corporation, Continental, and JT Merger Sub Inc., a wholly-owned subsidiary of UAL Corporation, entered into an Agreement and Plan of Merger providing for a “merger of equals” business combination. On October 1, 2010, JT Merger Sub Inc. merged with and into Continental, with Continental surviving as a wholly-owned subsidiary of UAL Corporation (the “Merger”). Upon closing of the Merger, UAL Corporation became the parent company of both United and Continental and UAL Corporation’s name was changed to United Continental Holdings, Inc. UAL’s consolidated financial statements include the results of operations of Continental and its subsidiaries for the period subsequent to October 1, 2010.
Love you Kit!
waa waa, need your diaper changed. Thank the powers that be that the name united sucked before and still sucks now. Too bad united has sucked Continental down to it’s horrible passsenger ratings.
You completely contradict yourself……merge and come up with something new that both sides can have pride in……and then you say…bring back the tulip. No continental employees would be happy with the tulip….the united name and continental globe are a compromise of the two sides. The only other option to validate what you are trying to say would be something completely new….which WOULD NOT include the “tulip”.
Chauncey – thanks for your response. I see your point. IMHO, a newly-designed, stylized “tulip” (not one from the 1970s) would be appropriate to go along with Rhapsody in Blue, and Flyer Friendly. Otherwise, the current branding is generic, not well thought out, and uninspired. Time will definitely tell. UA needs work in many ways, not just brand wise. Think about when Delta moved away from the Widget (Leo Mullin livery and “wavy gravy”)…those were not the best of time for employees. It was only when Delta returned to the Widget did they begin to do things right by all of the employees and began the road back to profitability. When they merged with NWA the brand was determined. They could have “compromised” to appease a set of employees. I truly believe Delta brand managers, and ultimately the leadership, understand brand. Delta’s brand is consistent and speaks to the employees. We will definitely be monitoring this. Again, thanks for your comments.
You goons (not all of you, of course) have no idea what you’re talking about–and I cringe that I’m even taking the time to respond. I’m a 20 year flight attendant, most of that time spent on the CO side, now just recently and reluctantly United. I’m on the front lines day in and day out, around the world. What I hear and every flight attendant I know would agree, is, “oh, wow!! we miss Continental.” or United passengers who say, “you all are so nice and accommodating, you must be a ‘Continental crew’,” we fight everyday to keep up the image of what we once were at Continental, a happy, well cared for company, who presented a solid consistent product.
These sort of comments from customers is a reflection on how miserable the employees have become, United exes screwed their employees six days ’til Sunday before they merged with Continental, the employees on the United side, are so afraid of change because, ‘change’, hasn’t been for the better in years, each time they lost their ass, with pay cuts, loss of benefits, furloughs–you name it.
Yes, Continental’s history hasn’t always been coming up daisies, if you want to go back 20 years or more, but it nearly changed overnight back in 1994 when Gordon Bethune came on board, 20 years is a pretty good track record, if you ask me. We are Continental ‘proud,’ for a reason. The ‘new’ United runs its company like a caste system, only catering to the top 1% of it’s customers, it’s absolutely insane the hoops we have to jump through for that 1%, when, I ask, “what will we do when that 1% quit flying everyday??” “What about the up and coming customers that we shun??” I have business executive friends that refuse to fly United because of this reason, alone. We’ve given these people such an ego, the 1K’s, of the world that they write flight attendants up, if they don’t get their meal of choice?? On an airplane?? As if we have anything to do with catering?? And then the company sides with the customer…always?? I’ll tell you this, if you take the time to write a bad letter about a flight attendant she or he will get called in by a supervisor, it will be put on record and they will have a black mark against them in their file for a YEAR, long, long after you forgot that you didn’t get your choice of chicken over pasta. You write a good, happy letter we get a note in our file saying, good job. The good letters count but for every 10 good letters, that one bad one overrides them all. Flight attendants go to work, scared shitless, that one wrong move that has nothing to do with safety or how ‘friendly’, they were that they could be written up?? It’s insanity, at best. Times have changed, and the problem or the fix goes way beyond, “the Tulip” or the “the Globe”. Most of us, both on the Sub-Co and Sub-UA sides, are embarrassed to hear Jeff announce that “You’re flying the friendly skies.” When we know that most people think the new United is a disgrace a giant debacle. Don’t’ get me wrong, nostalgia is a beautiful thing, it is, but you can’t bring something back, that doesn’t hold true to what is really happening, if anything you do a disservice to the memory itself.
But with all that said, I and many others hold out hope. I’ve talked to lots of United FA’s, who are curious what it was like for ‘us’ at CO under Gordon Bethune’s management. What I tell them is this– the employees were happy, passengers were happy, going to work felt good, yea, people still had reason to bitch here and there but overall it was good and it felt fair across the board. It was that simple, really.
Yep, it’s a mess right now, it’s actually scary. At the end of the day, I love what I do and so many of us feel the same. Even though, I find myself so often apologizing to passengers, who seem a bit lost and confused. Well, believe me, we are too. But Gordon Bethune and his management skills can not be an anomaly, he once turned around a broken-down and suffering airline–there must be others out there like him, if there isn’t I’m afraid the debate about a tulip vs. a globe will fall on deaf ears.
Bottom line. I think sharing opinions is important and thought provoking but mostly, people need to keep their mouths shut if they don’t know how it works on the inside.
Betty – Thanks for taking the time to respond. I can sense lots of emotion in your response, and rightfully so. I would agree that things are a “mess” right now at the new United. Of course I know, and realize, that a paint job does not make the airline. I too am involved in aviation and have seen many changes in my 25 years. I’ve experienced having “my airline” disappear and it was difficult. I’ve also been on the other side of working through integrating cultures. At the end of the day I kept moving forward, doing a great job for me, the customer, and my company. In the end things got better and many lessons were learned (mostly personal lessons). My thoughts are that the new United will get a leader soon who can rally the troops, bring a sense of pride and stability. I wish you all the best.
I am a fa on the sub UA side and agree with a lot Betty has to say but for her so say what goes on “inside” she too can’t possibly know as she is not onboard sub UA planes. I too experience customers and personnel alike who MISS UA!!! I do agree I never had such experiences before the merger such as being called in for one bad letter, but I think that is a new practice on both sides. As far as service, I read Bethune’s book and thrilled their employees loved what he was about but this “consistency” thing that sub Continental keeps touting has got to give. It should always be about seeing each customer as SPECIAL and this new management can’t seem to get it through their THICK heads! Incidentally, the new management is all CONTINENTAL so the bogus charge how this management is ruining things should be known. They came from the Continental side and Behune handed the reigns over to Smisek and company, ok?!!! Tilton was UA and wanted the merger with this company. They did NOT come from sub UA side!
There’s more to what Betty was writing and she is correct but as a pilot who has flown on both UAL and CAL sides I think there has to be a bit of perspective. While CAL was seen by some passengers as a homey airline with nice people it was run on the cheap and like a large regional airline. UAL, as far as the crew side, has better training, better CRM and a more professional way of doing business. If you don’t believe UAL was the better run of the two just look at the direction of the flight operations. Howard Attarian was chosen as the VP of Flight Ops and the Houston training center is being closed and the new pilot training center will be located in either Denver or Chicago. Nothing personal but as far as running an airlines day to day UAL was superior and the CAL side needs to step up their game just a bit. I agree with the author that it’s just a matter of time before we see the tulip return and a more UAL centric airline.
The condition and the paint on united aircraft totally destroy your ‘opinion’. united was run on the cheap, every year cutting back and back till there was nothing left but people with horrible attitudes that was reflected in pre merger united’s customer rankings. The tulip is dead and not coming back.
Thanks for your reply. Yes, it is our “opinion” that United needs to change its livery in order to propel the company forward. 5+ years into the merger and things are stagnant. For the employees sake (subCo and subUA), I hope UAL gets its act together. Otherwise the future for the employees who are United will does not look too good.
“My thoughts are that the new United will get a leader soon who can rally the troops, bring a sense of pride and stability. I wish you all the best.”
We all think this is the right course and we’re hoping for this too.
Betty is right on alot of issues but as a guy who has flown on both sides her perspective is a bit one sided. CAL was run on the cheap and resembled a regional airline on many levels. While they had a reputation of being a nice homey airlines that was nice to passengers they were never considered on of the big guys. IMHO, UAL is the more professional of the two airlines and things are going more towards the UAL way of operating in the flight ops arena because CAL was not really run like a major airline should. Two examples being Howard Attarian being chosen as VP of Flight Ops and the Houston training center being closed in favor of a Denver of Chicago location. The training, CRM and just day to day flight operations at CAL were a bit lacking. CAL was a good medium sized airline but UAL has already been a behemoth and we know how to run a big international major airline. It’s more than just being nice to customers and getting planes from A to B, at least it should be. Biggest problem I see is the former CAL CEO trying to run this new ship like CAL and we can see what a disaster that’s been so far. But to tie it up from a pilot’s perspective even during the great Gordon Bethune days CAL was last on every pilot;s list of carriers they wanted to fly for.
pilotx – Thanks for your comments. And thanks for your insight and perspective. Once UAL is able to rally the troops, it’ll be on its way to returning to sustained profitability and a more certain future with engaged employees. We wish you all the best! #longlivethetulip
Another point that needs to be mentioned, is the fact that there’s only a certain amount of times you can re-paint an aircraft….believe its 3 or 4 before having to be stripped down to the bare metal and repainted from scratch, thus incurring more expense and delay whilst being in the paint shop, so I would seriously doubt the unveiling of a new scheme or return to the Blue Tulip scheme any time soon, currently there are 4 a/c in the old Blue livery awaiting the Continental colour scheme, personally the best option would have been to leave the Continental livery and brand on their aircraft and just have painted the remaining United battleship grey aircraft with the Blue Tulip livery thus keeping everyone happy & highlighting that there is 2 airlines within the company, look at IAG for example both BA and Iberia kept their colour schemes etc….after all the company is now United Continental Holdings. In essence and in hope, the best I think we could hope for is the return of the Blue Tulip livery as a special anniversary or so called ‘retro’ livery, or the last remaining 4 aircraft to remain as is.
Thanks for sharing Peter.
Would love another chance to photograph a Blue 777
Customer Support Manager
KG Aircraft Rotables Co., Ltd
4 Cygnus Court
East Midlands Airport
Tel: +44 (0) 1509 670820
Fax: +44 (0) 1509 670828
Four years after the merger I can’t believe that the combined branding of the new United hasn’t grown on me. While I terribly miss the Tulip, I am, as a Sub-UA employee willing to move past it and welcome a totally new branding without either the Globe nor the Tulip to embrace the new family. What’s sad is when one subsidiary still thinks superior over the other and I see this a lot among FA’s. Truth is, there are always bad apples in every crate regardless of which side of the company you come from. This attitude is absolutely divisive and slows down the company from moving forward and achieving its full potential.
Leon – thanks for sharing your feelings around this. We agree with you on this matter. We’ve been through a few cultural changes before. It can be a difficult time, and has the potential to be a rewarding time as well. At the end of the day it’s about moving forward as ONE. Embracing the past and looking forward to the future is the winning way. Good luck! We’ll definitely be monitoring.
Talk about us v’s them . What abut the Delta / Northwest merger. A non union airline merging / buying a heavily unionized airline . As of today Delta is still non-union in all groups except Pilots / Dispatchers. Perhaps the bosses at AA / US /AW and UA /CO should ask why . Many of the employee groups are still at logger heads at these airlines. Does Delta have a magic formula ? I’m an FA just flew a trip with a pre merger DL with NO-UNION tag on her bag and a PMNW wearing her IAM badge on her uniform . We did our jobs making an easy trip , did an extensive de-briefing at our layover. No pro /anti talk just professionals doing their job and respecting their position . Even though the IAM is still trying to organize a union vote with FA’s Delta manages to come out top on many customer services surveys . Is it various Bonus schemes rewarding employees for doing their jobs . I don’t know but I happily accept the $$$
Thanks for your response. At the end of the day it’s about mutual respect for all. Glad your trip went well.
No “tulip”… bad Bass design. So OLD United Air Lines. Need something new. Something new United.
Agreed. Re-read post. Something new based on the “tulip” would be ideal. To shed your past completely would be a big mistake…that is our opinion. In order for United to get back on track they’re going to have to rebrand and embark on a cultural transformation. It starts at the top and trickles down. To combine 2 very distinct cultures is a challenge, however, it can be done. To combine a name and a logo to create a “new” airline only serves to keep both sides in their “silos”. Until they rebrand, United will be forever “stuck”.
As a Legacy United FA (16 years) and a Airline Geek, since birth (Dad flew for the original National Airlines, then Pan Am). I’ll have to say, “All comments are valid here, however, an important Point has been missed.” The merger’s of Delta/Northwest, Southwest/AirTran, US Airways/American and even Pan Am/National back in1980; all these “merged Airlines” had one Corporate Identity, one Name, therefore, one Livery and a Brand the Flying Public and the Employees, could get behind. The New United, was setup to fail from the inception – due to the two CEO’s naming the Corporation, “United Continental Holdings”. This identity crisis is and will always be, simmering “just below” the surface at the New United. UCH is just that, two different Groups, two different Cultures, here at the New United. As a Legacy United FA, the only thing “United” from my prospective, is the name. Continental is in charge of all Corporate Decisions – we are Continental. From the Aircraft Livery, Aircraft Interiors and layout, to Airport Signage and Inflight Service – welcome aboard Continental. United, the “U” (tulip) and the airline United once was, are gone…. UCH is the here and now; no matter what name is painted on the Aircraft.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts Kevin. IMHO your comments are spot on. Wish you all the best at United and look forward to how things progress. Sylvester
I agree with everything the pilot had to say and do. It mean to be divisive but as far as safety and training I undergo each year, I must say it is MUCH more LAX since the merger!!!!
Should say do not mean not do it mean…
I have been waiting for someone to write an article on this issue! Their new globe branding is terrible!! It totally diminished United’s brand. When they used the iconic tulip U it spoike volumes that United is a polished professional airline and besides it is simply MUCH nicer. When cContinental used the globe it looked fine because this was THEIR branding. But morphing it into another brand simply doesnt work.
Thanks for your comments Jake! Can see there’s lots of passion around your feelings for the UNITED “U”. Let’s see what the future holds.
In Cleveland, people saw the globe in 2010, and thought, “That’s the airline that gets me anywhere.” Once United dropped us as a hub, we hated the globe, and CLE became more of a regional airport, than the international airport we once were.
Nick, so many changes in the past few years. Secondary hubs like CLE, MEM, CVG, PIT, all have seen declines in service. The airline industry is definitely an exciting and ever-changing one. Thanks for your comments. Sylvester
That old United commercial gave me so many feels. Wow. Nothing says “United” more to me through sound than Rhapsody in Blue; though visually it’s The Tulip.
Brian, thanks for your comments. UA is synonymous with those two elements. It will be interesting to see how Oscar Munoz approaches the situation. He has lots of work to do. Sylvester
I love both branding and as one with airplane disease, I’m happy as long as they are still flying, no matter if it’s a tulip, a globe or a merger of the two. I also enjoy writing about my travels and write a blog to share with others: http://www.penguinlust.blogspot.com
There just seems to be a Really Immature and Holier than Thou attitude coming from the Tulip Club! Get over it!! In fact, get Rid of Rhapsody, Bury your Tulip and Stop Whining!! Even after you got the name, you’re STILL Whining!! The SEC filings were Very Clear who the surviving carrier was and it WASN’T the most recently Bankrupt one!! I suppose trading the United name for Continental with a Tulip on the tail would just lead to MORE Whining! Here’s a Novel Concept…….. Be nice to each other, Do your Job and Focus on the Customer!!………. It’s been tried successfully at another carrier named Continental!
Thanks for your response Ed. Emotions are riding high on both sides. It’s has been almost 6 years now and UAL is way behind the other airlines that have merged. IMHO part of what keeps UAL stuck is the merging of the brands. The employees must believe in what the company stands for. The leadership must see to it that they are conducting business that honors the employees, shareholders, and the communities in which they serve. When Smisek communicated that it was his idea to combine both brands to create a “merger of equals” I had a feeling that things could go south. There are a few posts on the web regarding this Frankenstein-style type branding; rarely does it work. In addition, naming the company United Continental Holdings, blending the branding has not done a lot to get the employees rallied around a single cause. My hope is that Oscar will be the unifying leader to move UAL in a better direction.
United should have been left at the Bottom of the Trash Heap from which it has just Recently crawled out of!! Too bad Continental had to poison it’s Great Name with this broken down behemoth known as United!!
Ed, thanks for your response. Again, branding both companies as one has kept many of the employees in their silos. I can honestly say seeing a United plane makes me think Continental; there’s a definite disconnect. It appears there’s a disconnect amongst employees as well. As long as this disconnect remains, UAL will be forever stuck in its current predicament. My desire is that Oscar will be the unifying leader to move United in a different direction. In my opinion a total rebranding is in order. Take the best of both and create something different, something new.
My dad says always: ‘Hey is that a Continental airplane?’ When he see a United post merger livery plane. And i want the Rising Blue livery back so badly…
Sven, thank you for your comments. Each time I see the current United livery, I too think of Continental. United has lots in the works, including the introduction of Polaris; their new business class product. Change is in the air! Maybe a rebranding is in order? 🙂
Do you know if Rhapsody in Blue was intentionally withdrawn for a few years after the merger? I thought didn’t hear it as much on airplanes or on TV. If it was brought back there must have been research to back that. I’d love to know more.
Hi Colleen, thank you for your question. After the merger with Continental United withdrew its use of Rhapsody in Blue in its commercials and marketing. And it appears that United re-introduced Rhapsody in Blue in late 2013. It’s such an iconic piece. Whenever I hear it I immediately think of United. It will interesting to see if/when United rebrands and if they’ll keep this familiar tune. Thanks again for connecting here. Sylvester
Your 5 senses have so much to do with memory and emotion. Only 2 can really be used with airline branding, sight and sound. Rhapsody in Blue will always be United airlines. While I’m glad the theme song came back, why did Smisek spend 6 figure$ to record the song by the London Philharmonic when the rights to the song were already owned by UA? ( inflight safety demo lead in ) At the very least have the Chicago Symphony record it as the home town airline ! Continental did in fact run the airline since the merger until recent changes that were needed took place. Why is this the only merged airline with the 2 names in the parent company? I agree that the old CO was never more than a glorified mid-size airline trying to run a much larger global United, it has not worked very well. The new mgt seems to understand the importance of the Passenger and Employee right behind Safety. I have worked at United for more than 1/3 of it’s 90 yr history and seen many changes. Maybe the time is right to bring back a newer design Tulip. Maybe if you look at the early logos of UA and CO you can see strong similarities and a combined modified logo would represent both companies original heritage that both came from the same place, Varney. Now, that is Retro…. !
Marc – thanks for your comments. It’s always good hearing how ppl, especially emps, feel about the “tulip”. Will be interesting to see when, if any, logo updates or rebranding takes place soon. Thanks again Marc.
The tulip is dead, the meatball is dead, the Globe is the future. After 7 years, give it up, there is no going back to those old brands.
– Thanks for your comments. Truly this post isn’t about reviving the old brand of United. It’s about forging ahead with something bright and fresh. The Continental globe is not fresh and new. It’s definitely time for a brand refresh at United. Oscar Munoz appears to be doing a great job motivating the employees. IMHO keeping the current brand is stale and doesn’t communicate the upward trajectory that is gaining at United. Thanks again for your comments.
The United Globe is refreshing, and it is for the forseeable future, the future. There has been a drastic campaign over the last few months to get rid of the ‘tulip’ and ‘meatball’. The United Globe is the future and will be the centerpiece of the next re-branding, when it happens
I would disagree with you that there has been a “drastic” campaign over the last few months to get rid of the ‘tulip’ and ‘meatball’. In fact, UAL has not done a thorough job, since the merger with Continental, of standardizing its branding. On occasions you still may run across a ‘tulip’ in the wild. Less and less however. Other airlines have done a more thorough job of branding than the UA/CO mash-up. The CO globe was introduced in 1991…26 years ago. Time to come up with something fresh and new. And not advocating reintroducing the original ‘tulip’. Let’s see what the future holds.
Your disagreement could not be more wrong. Management has been tasked with getting rid of every ‘tulip’ and ‘meatball’ that is still on property, on any sign, and on personal clothing. So you think you know more than a person who actually works for them eh ? Typical media, full of bad information, inflated egos and full of wrong’ opinions….
Why don’t they put the Continental Name with the Continental Logo? United is terrible with Continental. Continental should separate from United.
Too late for that. Must work with what you have. Almost 8 years into the merger of these 2 carriers a rebrand is definitely in order.