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A Look at U.S. Airline Logos Since the 1920s

3 June 2013

A logo is a graphic or image that’s associated with a particular company, organization, or individual and used to encourage instant recognition. The power of a well-designed logo can be immense, but what’s popular – what ‘speaks’ to people – changes over time and company logos evolve to change too. When two companies merge, their individual logos may be kept or left behind depending on the needs of the new company going forward.

Let’s take a look at the logos of the top four airlines over time.

American Airlines Logo History

American Airlines is no newbie to consolidations. The company was formed when a number of small airline companies were incorporated into American Airways, Inc. In 1934, American Airways became American Airlines, Inc. Up untiil the most recent logo redesign, their logo always held the eagle (although facing different directions) and used the colors of  the American flag: red, white, and blue.

The first American Airlines logo (1934 – 1945):

American Airlines Logo 1934

American Airlines flipped the eagle to face the other direction and dropped the red color from 1945 – 1962:

American Airlines Logo 1945

Then, in 1962, the company cleaned up the brand to look like this:

American Airlines logo 1962

In February, 2013, American Airlines and US Airways Group announced that the two companies would merge and retain the iconic American Airlines brand with the following logo:

American_Airlines_logo_2013

(Image credits https://logos.wikia.com/)

Delta Airlines Logo History

Delta Airlines began its company history as the first aerial crop dusting company, formerly Huff Daland Dusters, and was established in 1924. It began international mail and passenger routes in 1927. It was an early supporter of the hub-and-spoke system where airplanes brought schedule passengers into a hub airport where they were then connected to other Delta flights to continue on to their destination.

The Delta Airlines logo changed often and so we include only a few variations here.

Delta Airlines logo 1929-1930:

Delta Airlines logo 1929-1930

Delta Airlines logo 1934-1951:

Delta Airlines logo 1934-1951

Delta Airlines logo 1953 – 1955:

Delta Airlines logo 1953 - 1955

Then, Delta decided to clean up the logo and make it simpler (Delta Airlines logo 1959 – 1960):

Delta Airlines logo 1959 - 1960

Later, the red and blue arrows were pointed upward instead of forward (Delta Airlines logo 2004 – 2007):

Delta Airlines logo 2004 - 2007

The current Delta Airlines logo:

Delta Airlines logo current

(Image credits https://www.deltamuseum.org/)

Continental Airlines Logo History

Continental Airlines was founded in 1934 as Varney Speed Lines, which was named after Walter Varney who also started United Airlines (more on that later). Originally, Varney Speed Lines operated as an airmail and passenger service in the American southwest – Texas, New Mexico and Colorado.

Continental_first

The airline was soon closely allied with Lockheed and flew Lockheed planes: the Model 9 Orion, the Electra Junior, and the Lodestar. Following the cancellation of all domestic air mail contracts by the Roosevelt administration in 1934, Robert Six purchased the airline and renamed it Continental Air Lines (later changed to ‘airlines’ in 1937).

Continental_Airlines_1965

In 1967, Continental introduced a new classic logo and returned to its original red hue:

Continental_Airlines_1967

In 1991, the company changed to a blue-hued logo and added the globe:

Continental_Airlines_1991

It was displayed in a few variations, including the longitude lines painted on the airplane tail fins in gold. There are even several versions where the word ‘Airlines’ is eliminated.

(Image credits https://logos.wikia.com/)

United Airlines Logo History

United Airlines was founded in Boise, Idaho in 1926 as Varney Air Lines – an air mail service of Walter Varney who also founded Varney Speed Lines which later became Continental Airlines.  Varney Air Lines was renamed Boeing Air Transport in 1927 after it was acquired by the aircraft manufacturer.

In 1933 United began operating the Boeing 247 – the first all-metal airplane and able to fly transcontinental in 20 hours, which made it significantly faster than its earlier predecessors.

United Airlines first logo included an outline of the U.S. map. Notice the use of ‘air lines’ versus ‘airlines’ too:

United_Airlines_Logo_1930

After passage of the Air Mail Act in 1934, United became an independent company again and their logo looked like these two until 1939:

United_Airlines_Logo_1933
United_Airlines_Logo_1935

Through the 1930s and 1940s, the United Airlines logo took on the look of a badge or shield. They also added the U.S. map to demonstrate coast to coast service and later deleted it again:

United_Airlines_Logo_1930s
United_Airlines_Logo_1940s

On the mid-1950s through the 1960s, the shield theme held, but it was slanted:

United_Air_Lines_1955
United_Airlines_logo_1965

In the 1970s, the United Airlines’ logo took on it’s tulip shaped ‘U’ effect which it continued through 2010. It was also here that ‘airlines’ became a single word:

United_Airlines_70s
United_Airlines_80s
United_Airlines_1993

In 2010, United acquired Continental Airlines in a merger and a strange twist of fate considering both were started from the same guy, Walter Varney. The two logos were merged as well:

United_Airlines_2010

(Image credits https://logos.wikia.com/)

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Damian Tysdal
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DamianTysdal

Damian Tysdal is the founder of CoverTrip, and he believes travel insurance should be easier to understand. He started the first travel insurance blog in 2006.

Damian Tysdal is the founder of CoverTrip, and he believes travel insurance should be easier to understand. He started the first travel insurance blog in 2006.