Photo on the left shows the new painted bottom. The one on the right shows the old aluminum bottom.

Photo on the left shows the new painted bottom. The one on the right shows the old aluminum bottom.CLICK FOR LARGER.

You might be an airline nerd if this interests you. Warning: I am an airline nerd.

On the Twitterverse and, there were some questions around why American Airlines has started to paint the bottom of their new Boeing 737s. There was some speculation (and questioning if American is even really painting the bottoms), but officially from American:

“All 737’s have fluid discharge ports along the bottom Aft fuselage. AA has decided to paint the underbelly of the aircraft for aesthetic purposes and to prevent any contact of these fluids with the bare aluminum skin.”

Nothing too shocking, the bottoms have been painted to slow corrosion. I only hope that this is not a sign that American plans to keep this dated livery over the long-term. As I am sure you remember, the airline recently went into Chapter 11 bankruptcy, which would give them a perfect reason to get a new livery (even though I know there are a lot of American livery lovers out there).

Both photos taken by Drewski2112 at Boeing Field

EDITOR-IN-CHIEF & FOUNDER - SEATTLE, WA. David has written, consulted, and presented on multiple topics relating to airlines and travel since 2008. He has been quoted and written for a number of news organizations, including BBC, CNN, NBC News, Bloomberg, and others. He is passionate about sharing the complexities, the benefits, and the fun stuff of the airline business. Email me:
HOLD THE DATE: Aviation Geek Fest on Sunday February 19, 2012

I personally enjoy the classic appearance of the bare aluminum. I think it contributes to less weight and fuel savings (similar to Eastern and what USAir used to do). The shiny reflection is a great symbol of a landmark airline.

Delta originally developed their white on top paint scheme to keep passengers cool way back when they started. The darker colors absorbed heat so much it was hard to keep the pax cool (pre-HVAC days). This aspect of Delta has stayed with it to today and is a great character quality of Delta that they’ve managed to hold onto.

Dark colors and heat is still an issue. Summer heat at the PHX and LAS hubs was reportedly one of the reasons that post-merger US Airways changed to a white-based livery rather than keeping the nearly-black blue from pre-merger US Airways.

Yasa Kusuma

I’m on the other side – I’ve always hated the American livery. It takes all the glamor (what glamor? lol) of flying away – kinda like boarding a Greyhound. Just personal preference I guess…

I don’t get why they are sticking to this livery. It is really old, and more and more they are having to paint on gray instead of the polished aluminum, which looks even worse than the current livery.

Bruce In KC

Since they already own the rights to it anyhow, why not do a complete rebranding and call it……TWA!!!!

I like it!

But good luck with that happening.


I always thought the introduction of the 787 to American would have been a great opportunity to introduce a new livery since well.. ya can’t polish carbon composite.

They have metallic aluminum spray paint at Home Depot, think that might work?

I’ve always hated the current livery, but I do think the old AstroJet livery is great. I’d love to see it replace the 70s-80s look they sport today, that is if they’re not going to entirely replace it with something new.


.. while Continental is doing the opposite: Their B737 bellies aren’t completely grey and have bare

Yup, I found the article interesting. Spose that makes me an airline geek too!…. wouldn’t have it any other way!..

I have always been an American fan, I would not be to happy if they change their livery, but if they do it better be a good one. When US Airways announced the change of livery I was not to happy but their new livery is gorgeous. Sometimes is better to stick to the classic unless you’re comming with something better.

From an engineering standpoint, this is a good article to read about Painting vs Polishing

On a 737-700… American’s livery would weigh about 25 lbs… where a complete paint job weighs 179 lbs.

When fuel costs go up, their livery looks better and better.

Yasa Kusuma

Does the weight diff really matter that much for profitability? I think how a product looks affects customer satisfaction. Happy repeat customers could offset the fuel cost penalty.

Let’s assume airline A vs airline B. Everything is the same (cost/service.etc), except airline A has an outdated, ugly livery and B has a gorgeous one. I would choose the nicer looking airplane – but that’s just me.

Weight on one plane can really add up. Cover that over an entire fleet and it makes a huge difference. But I it is obvious that most airlines agree with you, that providing a better looking aircraft and not having to polish the bare aluminum is the right way to go.



After 9/11, there was video footage of the underside of at least one of the planes that crashed into the World Trade Center. It was pointed out that there was extra equipment, black in color, that was attached to the underside of the plane. It was also pointed out that this type of extra equipment is not found on passenger airline jets. Now (after the 9/11 event and the discovery made) they are painting the undersides of these passenger jets black, which would make it more difficult to detect extra equipment that doesn’t belong there. You dig?


Furthermore, there is no aesthetic value whatsoever, because the planes that are painted black on the bottom, actually look a lot uglier than a plane that doesn’t have its bottom painted black.


I love it! We sit in our yard and watch
For a jet to fly over. We have our binoculars
so we can look for the color of that jet. The
Pink ones we don’t even need our binoculars
because we can see them without them.

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