The world-famous silver bird of Fort Worth-based American Airlines is getting a bold new makeover.
American Airlines CEO Thomas Horton debuted the airline's new livery in a recorded video on the airline's website at 9 a.m. Thursday. Two hours later, Horton hosted a news conference at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, where a 737 with the new livery, pictured above, was on display.
The old livery, which has been in use since the 1960s, relied on the plane's metallic fuselage for much of its look, along with iconic red, white and blue stripes that stretched the length of the fuselage.
Instead, there will be a silver, mica-painted plane with an American flag emblazoned on the tail.
"Since the polished metal look was no longer an option [due to the composite skin of new aircraft on order], the importance of the paint selection became critical to honoring American's silver bird legacy," the airline said in a news release.
Ahead of the wings, the word American in big, thin gray letters along the fuselage will be easily read from the ground. Closer to the cockpit on both sides of the fuselage, the company's new eagle logo looks forward, toward the direction of travel. The look can be seen in the photo above and in the gallery to the below, left.
The new logo will debut on Jan. 31 with a flight from DFW to Brazil.
"Our new logo and livery are designed to reflect the passion for progress and the soaring spirit, which is uniquely American," said Virasb Vahidi, American's chief commercial officer. "Our core colors -- red, white and blue -- have been updated to reflect a more vibrant and welcoming spirit. The new tail, with stripes flying proudly, is a bold reflection of American's origin and name. And our new flight symbol, an updated eagle, incorporates the many icons that people have come to associate with American, including the 'A' and the star."
American hopes to have 25 to 30 percent of its fleet outfitted with the logo change by the end of year. By the end of next year, most of the fleet should be outfitted.
Horton said the timing of the new livery went well with shipments of the Boeing 777-300ER coming into service. A shipment of 59 Boeing 737s and 777s will become part of the fleet by the end of the year.
The airline also has composite aircraft on order -- the Boeing 787 and planes from Airbus.
"Since placing our landmark aircraft order in July of 2011, we've been building anticipation toward a moment in time when the outside of our aircraft reflects the progress we've made to modernize our airline on the inside," Horton said. "While we complete the evaluation of whether a merger can build on American's strengths, we remain steadfast in each step we take to renew our airline, a step we take with great respect for our name American. Today marks important progress in that journey as we unveil a new and updated look for the first time in more than 40 years."
The makeover comes at a time when the company is still evaluating whether a merger with US Airways could benefit the company. Even with a merger, some analysts believe the new look would help signify a reinvented American Airlines and a signal that the brand is here to stay.
"It's a new day and they are restructured, reimagined, reinvented, they certainly want their customers to know that," said Jeff Millet, of Holmes Millet Advertising.
After the reveal Thursday morning, travelers at DFW Airport said they liked the new look but said that what the airline does next to emerge from bankruptcy matters the most. The pilots and flight attendants unions shared the sentiment.
"We'd prefer that the focus be on fixing AA's systemic network, revenue and cultural problems rather any cosmetic issues such as painting schemes," Allied Pilots Association spokesman Tom Hoban said.
"APFA is excited about the change this means for our employer," said Leslie Mayo with the Association of Professional Flight Attendants. "We hope this rebranding is the first of many steps toward making American Airlines a company that we can be proud to work for and one that can grow and compete in today's marketplace. That can only happen with a merger inside bankruptcy. A merger is the best path forward for our company, our industry, the employees and the traveling public, and APFA hopes to celebrate an announcement shortly."
"We applaud our friends at American as the new brand elements and livery mark the culmination of a significant amount of work and coordination, and clearly those efforts have produced a compelling result," US Airways said in a statement. "As American continues its restructuring, today's announcement represents the ongoing evolution of both the brand and the company, and we look forward to seeing the new American brand across their planes and around the world."
Horton said Thursday that the switch to the new brand may take years to filter down to all planes, airports and terminals, but that the switch would happen soon at hubs in DFW, New York, Miami and Chicago.
DFW Airport's Terminal A will also feature the new look when it is complete in early February.
Editor's Note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that the Boeing 777-300ER has a composite skin. The Boeing 777-300ER is an aluminum plane. NBC 5 regrets the error.
NBC 5's Kendra Lyn, Ray Villeda and Christina Miralla contributed to this report.