Aeroflot keeps hammer and (sick)le

  • 2003-05-01

Russia's national air carrier Aeroflot will keep its Soviet-era hammer and sickle logo, its management said April 23, despite a massive overhaul aimed at shedding its image as one of the world's worst airlines.

Aeroflot, the successor to the vast airline of the Soviet Union which was once a byword for unsmiling, shoddy service and poor safety, has come a long way in transforming itself into a serious force among international airlines.

Under a rebranding project dreamed up by the British firm Identica, the carrier is repainting its 100-plus fleet in gleaming navy blue, orange and silver with a Russian flag draped stylishly on each tail fin.

Flight crew's uniforms have been redesigned, meals are going haute cuisine and the fleet is being upgraded with Boeings and Airbuses to replace the aging Russian-made Tupolevs and Ilyushins.

But despite international market research by Identica which showed overwhelming desire for the logo to be changed, the airline has decided for the moment to stick to its communist-style symbol.

"We are in a process of rebranding, modernizing our brand, which includes the logo, service, the color of the planes, the cabin interior, uniforms and meals for passengers," said Lev Koshlyakov, deputy general director of Aeroflot.

"But the Aeroflot logo has not changed because we didn't find the new proposals sufficiently convincing to give up a logo which has been around for 70 years," he said.

The airline, which is now half government-owned, had reportedly been examining a number of new designs including a globe, but found none of them acceptable.

"This is an old Russian brand, which everyone associates with Aeroflot.

This logo is so harmonious that is has proved difficult to replace," added Koshlyakov.

He said the company decided to replace the winged logo on all the planes with an easily removable sticker in case Aeroflot management changes its mind.

Yelena Sakhnova, an aviation analyst at UFG brokerage, said the airline, which serves 108 destinations in 54 countries, should be congratulated for its efforts to change decades of negative perceptions about Aeroflot.

"The important thing, of course, is service and they are making progress in that area. They are changing everything apart from this logo," she said.

The airline now also has an exemplary safety record after a spate of accidents in the 1990s, including one infamous crash in 1994 when 75 people died after a pilot put his 15-year-old son at the controls of a brand-new Airbus.

But Sakhnova described as a mistake the decision not to implement Aeroflot's widely-publicized decision last December to ditch the hammer and sickle.

"The idea was to attract Western passengers and market research showed that the logo has bad associations in the West," she said.

"There were a lot of positive articles in the Western press saying that it's good that Aeroflot is finally getting rid of its Soviet past. It's a pity that after flagging this decision, they've gone back on it now," the analyst added.