You can now read 5 articles in a month for free on BostonGlobe.com. Read as much as you want anywhere and anytime for just 99¢.

editorial

Coat of paint doesn’t cover American’s ills

An American Airlines 737-800 aircraft with a new painting and the company's new logo was at a gate at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago.

KAMIL KRZACZYNSKI/EPA

An American Airlines 737-800 aircraft with a new painting and the company's new logo was at a gate at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago.

Continue reading below

Touting his planes’ new flag-like tail stripes and eagle-like nose decorations, American Airlines’ chief commercial officer Virasb Vahidi recently enthused that “being the flagship carrier of the United States of America is a privilege.” Alas, the United States, at last glance, was a capitalist democracy and does not have a national airline: American is no more the official airline of the United States than Southwest is the official carrier of cowboys and Indians.

Still, it’s easy to understand why American sought an eye-catching new look. As the airline emerges from bankruptcy — and as it retrenches by cutting flights at non-hub airports such as Logan — it needs to project a fresh and energetic image. But if the airline wanted to show its pride it might have spared a paint can or two and spent more on repairing customer service. The airline fares poorly in major customer satisfaction surveys, ranking no higher than 10th and 11th in two of them. Its regional affiliate American Eagle had by far the worst mishandled bag performance in 2011, according to an annual survey by Purdue University and Wichita State University. Meanwhile, the airline’s unions are clamoring for a merger with US Airways, seeking what they call a change of culture.

American is an iconic brand, and its new look prompted strong reactions pro and con. But the flag imagery on the tail ultimately matters far less than how the airline runs.

Loading comments...
Subscriber Log In

We hope you've enjoyed your 5 free articles'

Stay informed with unlimited access to Boston’s trusted news source.

  • High-quality journalism from the region’s largest newsroom
  • Convenient access across all of your devices
  • Today’s Headlines daily newsletter
  • Subscriber-only access to exclusive offers, events, contests, eBooks, and more
  • Less than 25¢ a week
Marketing image of BostonGlobe.com
Marketing image of BostonGlobe.com
Already a subscriber?
Your city. Your stories. Your Globe.
Yours FREE for two weeks.
Enjoy free unlimited access to Globe.com for the next two weeks.
Limited time only - No credit card required!
BostonGlobe.com complimentary digital access has been provided to you, without a subscription, for free starting today and ending in 14 days. After the free trial period, your free BostonGlobe.com digital access will stop immediately unless you sign up for BostonGlobe.com digital subscription. Current print and digital subscribers are not eligible for the free trial.
Thanks & Welcome to Globe.com
You now have unlimited access for the next two weeks.
BostonGlobe.com complimentary digital access has been provided to you, without a subscription, for free starting today and ending in 14 days. After the free trial period, your free BostonGlobe.com digital access will stop immediately unless you sign up for BostonGlobe.com digital subscription. Current print and digital subscribers are not eligible for the free trial.