Decoding the New Identity of Air India

The aviation industry is no stranger to mergers and rebranding efforts, but the recent merger between Vistara and Air India has sparked both surprise and debate within the industry and among passengers. The unexpected decision to position Air India as the dominant brand raises questions about brand identity, heritage, and the challenges of modernizing a legacy carrier.

Vistara, with its contemporary Indian brand, sleek hard products, and modern aesthetics, had carved a distinct niche for itself in the market. Its elegant brand image stood in stark contrast to the image of Air India, a legacy carrier with nearly a century of history but a crumbling reputation. The expectation was that Vistara’s youthful vibrancy would breathe new life into the merged entity. Yet, as the dust settles on the merger, it becomes evident that the decision was rooted in the enduring brand value of Air India.

The choice to make Air India the dominant brand reflects the recognition of its historical significance and enduring legacy. With almost a century in the skies, Air India’s brand value carries a weight that outshines even the most polished newcomer. While Vistara brought its modernity and contemporary appeal to the table, the resonance of Air India’s name across generations could not be overlooked.

However, this decision raises questions about the potential missed opportunities for leveraging Vistara’s strengths. A brand that offered world-leading hard products, an excellent livery, and bold modern uniforms could have been the perfect template for building a new Air India. Unfortunately, the merger seems to have resulted in a departure from this potential, leading to a brand identity that feels muddled and confused.

One of the most evident areas of this confusion is the new livery. The logo, featuring a golden window arch, is striking but lacks a connection to Air India’s brand history. Successful brand evolutions often draw inspiration from previous iterations, but the new design appears to have started from a clean slate. The livery, reminiscent of a blend between Iberia and Air Arabia, struggles to capture the vibrant cultural inspiration that India offers.

The livery’s design cues, resembling those of other airlines, raise questions about the intent behind the redesign. Instead of capitalizing on the rich heritage of Air India, the new livery appears to have been developed in isolation, detached from the nostalgia associated with the legacy brand.

The interior improvements, including Safran Unity seats and premium economy offerings, do offer positive advancements. However, the disconnect between the cabin design and the brand identity remains apparent. The choice of colors, the absence of India’s cultural motifs, and the lack of a cohesive design language further highlight the design frustration.

Comparisons with other airlines, such as Riyadh Air, shed light on the potential for a balanced and graceful execution of a window motif in branding. Yet, Air India’s approach feels unbalanced, even resembling that of a low-cost carrier rather than a premium international flag carrier.

The missed opportunity to infuse the brand with India’s rich cultural heritage is regrettable. Unlike airlines like Hawaiian Airlines, which embrace distinctive textures, patterns, and motifs, Air India’s brand identity fails to capture the essence of its home country. The disconnect between livery, brand, and interiors is palpable, reflecting a missed chance to create a unified and inspiring image for the legacy carrier.

In conclusion, the Air India-Vistara merger and subsequent branding decisions offer a valuable lesson in the complexities of merging legacy carriers and modern newcomers. The prominence of Air India’s brand value is undeniable, yet the missed potential to infuse the brand with a sense of cultural richness and modernity leaves room for reflection. As the airline navigates its new identity, there’s hope that future iterations will truly embrace what makes India remarkable and provide a coherent and inspiring brand for generations to come.

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