Air Canada rebrands

Air Canada revealed its long-awaited new livery during three simultaneous events in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver on Feb. 9, 2017.

Air Canada airliner in flight, with new livery
The new branding is touted by the airline as the debut of a modernized image and the evolution of an iconic Canadian brand. Air Canada Photo
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Designed by international design firm Winkreative–headed by Canadian entrepreneur Tyler Brûlé–the new black, white and red livery is truly reminiscent of several of the airline’s previous looks.

The black titles and cockpit window mask bring back memories of Air Canada’s very first livery after it was rebranded from Trans-Canada Air Lines in 1965.

The only colour on the upper part of the aircraft is the classic original red Air Canada maple leaf logo, reincarnated after more than 20 years. The black tail harkens back to the second-last Air Canada colour scheme presented in 1993, while a large red maple leaf rondelle adorns the belly and is clearly visible from the ground.

Air Canada airliner in new livery at press event in Toronto
Although not specifically “retro,” the new look has enough elements of the legacy liveries to be considered a nod to the past. Andy Cline Photo

The simplicity of the basic black, white and red colour scheme not only makes it distinctive, but easy to clean, maintain and refinish. It was designed with much input from Benjamin Smith, Air Canada president of Passenger Airlines, himself an avid aviation enthusiast. He has always been a big fan of the original Air Canada livery, and even remembers his first flight number in 1975.

Photo of front portion of Air Canada airliner with new livery.
The black titles and cockpit window mask bring back memories of Air Canada’s very first livery, when it was rebranded from Trans-Canada Air Lines. Andy Cline Photo

The new look, although not specifically “retro,” has enough elements of the legacy liveries to be considered a nod to the past, and the airline’s 80th anniversary this year played a large part in the roll-out of the design. The original plan was for it to be introduced when the new Boeing 737 MAX deliveries commence later in 2017. However, a bigger splash was desired, thus the Feb. 9 events were planned.

Along with the new livery, Air Canada also unveiled its new corporate branding and associated employee uniforms, along with featured samples from a new menu and wine list. The airline’s new charcoal grey and black employee uniforms with red accents and accessories were produced by Canadian designer Christopher Bates.

Photo captures the tail of the Air Canada Dreamliner, with new livery.
The black tail harkens back to the second-last Air Canada colour scheme presented in 1993, while a large red maple leaf rondelle adorns the belly and is clearly visible from the ground. Andy Cline Photo

Award-winning culinary partner, British Columbia-based chef David Hawksworth, and world renowned Quebec-based sommelier, Véronique Rivest, answered media queries at the Toronto event. Both are actively involved in developing Air Canada’s premium menu choices.

The new branding is touted by the airline as the debut of a modernized image and the evolution of an iconic Canadian brand. It complements the new uniforms and improved cabin features, which showcase Canadian talent and premium on-board products.

The painting

One Boeing 787-8 and two Airbus A321s were painted in secrecy at Dean Baldwin Painting at Grissom Air Force Base in Peru, Ind., starting in January. Air Canada plans to repaint the entire 300-strong fleet of mainline and regional aircraft in the new colours within four years, with priority going to the widebody Boeing 777 and 787 Dreamliner fleets which will be completed within 18 months.

Airbus A321 C-GJWO at the Montreal event
Airbus A321 C-GJWO was featured in the Montreal event, and another A321 was at the Vancouver event. Patrick Cardinal Photo

In an elaborate effort to conceal the new colour scheme before the official unveiling, the first three aircraft were brought into their respective cities under the cover of darkness on Feb. 7. White film had been applied over the fuselage logos and titles, and “decoy” Star Alliance decals were on each tail. This caused much confusion amongst the aviation enthusiast community; however, it was not unfeasible that this would be part of the new design since Air Canada is one of the nine founding airlines that formed the alliance in 1997.

The Star Alliance decals were later removed for proper unveiling of the new Air Canada livery, to reveal the black tail and the classic red Air Canada rondelle logo.

Air Canada Boeing 787-8 C-GHPQ returning to Toronto after dark.
Air Canada Boeing 787-8 C-GHPQ returned to Toronto from the Dean Baldwin paint shop in Indiana on Feb. 7. It featured a decoy Star Alliance tail decal covering the actual new markings. It arrived at Pearson under the cover of darkness and was quickly hangared for the event on the Feb. 9.  Andy Cline Photo

The airline’s 80th anniversary in 2017 marks a huge milestone. Founded as Trans-Canada Air Lines in 1937, it is one of the oldest airlines in the world.

Air Canada has celebrated milestone anniversaries in the past by painting aircraft in its fleet with commemorative colour schemes. This new livery is a testament to the airline’s long and rich heritage, featuring elements of several previous designs.

Four people standing in a row.
The airline’s crisp and clean new branding, including the new uniforms, were simultaneously presented in Toronto by president of Passenger Airlines, Benjamin Smith. Andy Cline Photo

“Air Canada’s new livery signals a pivotal inflection point in our 80-year history,” said Air Canada’s Smith at the event in Toronto, where the airline’s largest hub is located. “On the occasion of Canada’s 150th anniversary year, with our new livery, new uniforms for our employees, the award-winning international cabin standard introduced with the launch of our Boeing 787 aircraft, and enhanced onboard offerings, the future Air Canada represents the strength of our nation and the future-looking spirit of our airline.

“On behalf of our 30,000 employees worldwide, it is a privilege to fly Canada’s flag, and we are proud to showcase some of the best of this nation’s talent as we continue to expand Air Canada’s horizons to fly to more than 200 destinations on six continents.”

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