Last night I enjoyed attending a party at the Museum of Flight for many of Alaska Airlines’ employees, business partners, and customers to celebrate the new brand unveiled on Monday afternoon. And this morning I passed through the airport on an early flight to Houston, taking some pictures of the new signage that was installed overnight.
People can make up their own minds about whether they prefer the new look or the old one, but I can say this roll-out is among the most flawless I’ve ever seen. The website and mobile app were updated within minutes of presenting the new livery. Signage throughout Sea-Tac was updated within a day. Even the name tags and bag sizers have been replaced. I’ve seen other airlines make a flashy presentation and then two years later they’re still updating the logo at some remote outstation (or even a hub). Let’s hope that doesn’t happen here.
It’s worth noting that despite streamlining its wordmark and removing some of the exaggerations in the “icicle” font, Alaska is still a long way from the previous sans serif look it used the 1970s. Some of the older liveries are much more different than the evolution we’ve seen this week.
Several executives were on stage to talk about the future of Alaska Airlines as a company and the work that went into the new brand. This campaign was spearheaded by Sangita Woerner, the VP of Marketing, who was celebrating her one year anniversary at the company last night. However, the most excited person in the was definitely CEO Brad Tilden. I think it’s great when a company’s leadership has such authentic enthusiasm for creating a great service and a great place to work.
I think one of the best parts of the evening was this amusing investigative report on the identity of the Eskimo painted on the aircraft tail (and just about every other piece of branded material). The best quote in the film: “Everyone in Alaska knows who’s face is on the tail. They just can’t agree.”
There were also several details I picked up in the various speeches and imagery that weren’t actively promoted in Monday’s announcement.
Let’s dispel one rumor first. One Mile at a Time had a sharp eye and noticed that expiration dates on the new Mileage Plan loyalty cards were different. Are there changes coming to the elite qualification period? Alaska, like most U.S. airlines, awards status based on a calendar year, but some international carriers just provide it for a period of 12 months that begins as soon as it’s earned.
It turns out the design firm was just mixing things up for variety. I received an official confirmation that there are no plans to change this.
There are more reciprocal benefits coming to members with elite status when they fly on Alaska’s international partners. British Airways and Hainan were mentioned by name last night so I think we should look for announcements in the near future. Alaska already has had extensive partnerships with American Airlines and Delta Air Lines for years, and they announced new arrangements with Icelandair and Emirates in 2015.
Changes are coming to the credit card. A new agreement with Bank of America was mentioned. However, the only benefit that was revealed is the disappearance of foreign transaction fees (which are increasingly uncommon among travel credit cards with an annual fee). Last year Alaska began including a free checked bag for the first time, and I think we can look forward to other improvements.
Finally, the Board Room is going away! I received different explanations, ranging from “the name is too long” to “it doesn’t reflect our message” to “customers think it’s for business meetings.” The new name will be the Alaska Lounge. I think it’s a big generic, just like the change from the Red Carpet Club to the United Club, but whatever. I did put in a request for a rooftop deck when they build the new lounges at the North Satellite and Concourse C. 😉
There are more changes coming, still unannounced and which Alaska has managed to keep from me. I hear rumors all the time, but they’re speculative and could be next month or next year. For now, I think it’s safe to say that 2016 will be an interesting year of change at Alaska Airlines.