Beleaguered American Airlines Looks For A Fresh Start With New Look

American Airlines unveiled the first change to its logo and the look of its planes since 1968 on Thursday.

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American Airlines is getting a makeover. Today, it unveiled a new logo and a new paint job for its airplanes. The airline is in bankruptcy and discussing a merger with U.S. Airways. As NPR's Wade Goodwyn reports, American's management hopes the move will be symbolic for a company that badly needs a fresh start.

WADE GOODWYN, BYLINE: For more than 50 years, American Airlines jets have sported a sleek silver aluminum body with red, white and blue stripes front to back. The stripes flowing along the windows hinted of the flag, but also gave the plane a certain corporate feel - the jets' blue suit and red tie, as it were. For those who grew up with these aircraft, the look was iconic. No matter where in the world you might be, when you saw the silver jet with the eagle on the tail, you felt closer to home.

In a slickly produced video, American unveiled its new look today. The new livery takes what was good about the old and builds upon it. The silver paint remains, but it's brighter, wider. The red, white and blue stripes along the body are gone, moved to the tail where they come together to scream the American flag. The jet is now entirely silver. The eagle logo moved from the tail to the front door, reduced to a small red and blue slash, bisected by the eagle's head.

The jet looks fast, modern and with the vibrantly-colored tail, bolder. Here's CEO Tom Horton in the video that unveiled the new livery.

(SOUNDBITE OF PROMOTIONAL VIDEO)

TOM HORTON: We know there are still big decisions that need to be made about our future, but today marks the next step in our journey to modernize as we prepare for the first 777-300 aircraft to enter service in just a matter of weeks.

GOODWYN: But while the airline may be beautiful on the outside, it's still corrupted on the inside by decades of bitter fighting between American's management and workers.

TOM HOBAN: They want to get people to forget about the old and get on with the new here and that's why we've got a new paint job here. But it just doesn't fix the toxic culture that we've got.

GOODWYN: Tom Hoban is a 22-year veteran pilot with American and an officer in the Allied Pilots Association. They're pushing for a merger with U.S. Airways as a means to jettison American's current management.

HOBAN: We've got to start to emulate those airlines that provide a higher level of customer service that we've seen at Southwest, for example, where the employees are empowered and trusted as opposed to being micromanaged. And that's what the strategy at American Airlines, you know, the beatings will continue until morale improves.

GOODWYN: The pilots, mechanics and flight attendants wishes may well come true. Documents emerging from the negotiations this week indicate the merger is well on its way. Wade Goodwyn, NPR News, Dallas.

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