etihad logo

Image: Etihad

APEX Insight: Every airline logo tells a story. Deciphering its narrative is key to relaunching the brand. In this section of the multipart feature, we look at how Abu Dhabi’s sand dunes serve as inspiration for Etihad Airways’ luxurious Arabian aesthetic.

As the price-driven air travel industry struggles to find the lowest common denominator, Etihad Airways is investing in a luxurious passenger experience. Landor Associates designed a brand identity to match.

For inspiration, Landor looked to the shifting sand dunes and architecture of Abu Dhabi, Etihad’s main hub. What emerged was a customized pattern called the “Facets of Abu Dhabi,” a series of earth-toned, prismatic polygons that configure into various shapes to identify the different levels of service offered by the airline. The motif is also featured on its aircraft.

“The striking new livery continues our commitment to breaking from convention and doing things differently,” said Etihad president and CEO James Hogan in a press release when the livery was unveiled. “This is a real divergence from the norms of traditional airline livery design and will stand out in the sky and at every airport we fly to.”

“This is a real divergence from the norms of traditional airline livery design and will stand out in the sky and at every airport we fly to.” — James Hogan, Etihad

Unlike other airlines, “Etihad is not a seller of seats. It doesn’t have passengers; it has guests,” notes Landor in a summary of its rebranding effort. From a “smarter economy class” that brings fun and spontaneity to passengers to a next-level VIP service, “The Residence,” aimed at high-roller international business travelers, Etihad’s brand of service is accessible from every cabin. “To reflect the aspirations and motivations of its discerning travelers, we conceived each cabin brand as a unique experience.”

“Fusing Arab traditions with technological innovation,” the flag carrier’s current brand is a giant leap from the original eagle emblem in the national colors, complete with Arabic script on a scroll. Branding Journal calculates that Etihad’s rebranding has paid off, to the tune of 17 percent growth in passenger numbers in 2015 from 2014, when numbers were also up from the previous year. Industry insiders have approved as well: At the Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg, Etihad won the 2015 Crystal Cabin Award in the Premium Class and VIP category for its Airbus A380 upper-deck cabin designs and products.

“Brand Anew” was originally published in the 7.2 April/May issue of APEX Experience magazine. 

Jordan juggles deadlines across various time zones as he writes about travel, culture, entertainment, and technology.