Is Southwest Getting a New Livery Soon?

On the heels of the news that Frontier Airlines will be getting a livery refresh on September 9th, a more juicy livery refresh rumor is beginning to take flight on the internet.   The rumor is that Southwest Airlines and their famous ‘canyon blue’ livery may be getting a makeover.  Comments have appeared on both and FlyerTalk.  Both forums have mixed track records on reliability from past rumors that have been posted on the sites.  However, some additional and independent sources have indicated that something is definitely up at Southwest.

There are a couple of reasons why there is a rumor about Southwest’s paint job.  The most likely possibility is that Southwest is just going to be unveiling a special paint scheme soon.  In the past Southwest has flown planes to Spokane for special scheme painting by Associated Painters.  Two Southwest 737-800 planes are currently in Spokane for paint–presumably a special paint scheme.  With the Shamu and SeaWorld liveries going away by the end of the year, it is a real possibility that a new special scheme might be on its way.  It could be a new State flag livery or a unique livery celebrating the end of the Wright Amendment or even one to commemorate the AirTran merger.

Five reasons why @SouthwestAir might be getting a new paint job soon.  – Tweet This

As avgeeks at Avgeekery, we love to speculate.  What if Southwest really is going to replace the purple-people eater painted jets with something more sophisticated?  We are going to disregard probability for a minute and delve into some reasons why Southwest might planning to refresh their paint scheme.  Here are our reasons why we believe that the rumor could have merit:

1.)  Southwest is updating their image.

Earlier this Summer, Southwest CEO Gary Kelly announced that there were at least 50 new opportunities for Southwest to expand.  International routes would be a big focus of the expansion.  Additionally, Southwest has evolved as they’ve grown from a low-cost carrier to more of a traditional legacy model.  They now have services to cater to business travelers and offer other services more premium services for free that other discount airlines sell unbundled. Flight attendant and other customer facing positions have largely ditched shorts and a polo in favor of more sophisticated uniforms.  A revised livery would follow this trend.  It gives Southwest the ability to be seen as a more sophisticated carrier, especially in new international markets.  A paint scheme with larger lettering would help also Southwest gain attention in places where potential customers might not yet be familiar with the Southwest brand.  Additionally, the current paint scheme is relatively complex and most likely costly.  While most airlines now have just two or three colors on their plane, Every Southwest jet currently has 5 distinct colors on every tail.

2.) Canyon Blue paint fades quickly.

If you look out the window of the terminal at any Southwest focus city, you’ll spot a number of Southwest planes that look quite faded.  Sunlight is harsh on the dark blue paint.  The blue paint does not seem to wear very well either.  Southwest could be adopting a lighter color to improve the look of their aircraft and more importantly save money by not needing to repaint their aircraft as often.

3.) Dark blue paint heats up the cabin during extended ground times.

If you’ve flown Southwest recently during the summer, flight attendants now ask customers to lower their window shades before deplaning.  This helps keep the aircraft cool, especially during the hot summers in places like Las Vegas and Phoenix.  The dark Canyon Blue color on Southwest jets absorbs a ton of heat.  On an extended layover, this can heat up the skin of an aircraft more than a lighter color.  A warmer jet requires additional cooling via either external air or the APU.  This is especially true on their older -300 aircraft.  There is precedence for airlines switching to a lighter color scheme.  Back in 2005, US Airways switched from a very dark blue to a white color scheme partially due to the temperatures of the cabin while on the ground in hot environments. Cooler planes mean less energy expenses and happy passengers.  Double win.

4.) AirTran’s Planes need to be repainted this fall anyways.

At the end of the year, Southwest will pull all remaining AirTran 737-700s to be repainted and renovated into a standard Southwest configuration.  If Southwest was going to change their paint scheme, this winter would be the perfect time to start it.  In a short period of time, at least 30 aircraft could be painted in an updated livery without any additional lost revenue.

5.) A new livery is free publicity.

If Southwest were to launch a new livery, it would make sense to do it at the same time as the Wright Amendment restrictions were to disappear.  Southwest will already see additional media attention due to news stories that tout the expanded service offering at the downtown Dallas airport.  A new livery (or even just a special scheme) is additional positive nationwide exposure that can’t be bought.

UPDATE #1:  It is confirmed that Southwest will be replacing their inflight magazine next month.  Others have written in about an expected ‘rebranding’ campaign.  No confirmation yet on if there will be a new livery.

What are your thoughts?  Is Southwest going to be sporting a new livery by the end of this year?