Celebrating 50, Southwest and Disney unveil new livery; We have some thoughts

Sep 29, 2021

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In case you haven’t heard by now, the 50th anniversary of Walt Disney World Resort is upon us (Oct. 1) and Southwest Airlines, which marked its 50th anniversary as a company in June, decided to join in on the celebration by unveiling a new livery on its Boeing 737-700 aircraft, and its design has sparked quite a reaction among aviation fans — or, dare I say, AvGeeks.

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Let’s back up a bit. If you are wondering what a livery is, as I was when my editor assigned this story to me this morning, a livery, in addition to being a new word in my vocabulary, refers to the identifying design features of a specific aircraft, whether it be a certain color, graphic or another typographic element, featured by airlines on special jets.

Airlines often introduce new liveries to mark celebratory occasions, such as Alaska Airlines’ Pride liverySouthwest’s Freedom One livery or even new versions of the presidential jet Air Force One.

United Airlines’ “Star Wars”-themed aircraft celebrating “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.” (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Disney)

“This partnership has been in the works for…more than a year! We’ve had a longstanding partnership with the Walt Disney World Resort, as we’ve hosted sweepstakes and promotions with them over the years,” a spokesperson for Southwest told me via email. “We know many of our Orlando-bound Customers (and Employees) are big Disney fans and visit the park, so it’s a very natural collaboration. What great timing that we each turn 50 this year.”

(Photo by Stephen M. Keller/Southwest)

Southwest and Walt Disney World Resort announced the cobranded aircraft on Sept. 28 at Houston’s William P. Hobby International Airport (HOU), where cast members from Disney sent the aircraft into service to Orlando International Airport (MCO).

“The aircraft design was a partnership between the two brands, with teams on both sides providing direction and input on how to make the creative really pop and to highlight the 50th anniversary elements of each company. This is the first promotional aircraft we’ve unveiled that brings the design into the interior of the aircraft, as the window shades and overhead bins feature EARidescent creative,” the SWA spokesperson said. “Each window shade onboard features a Disney character, and then the overhead bins feature both logos and the pixie dust treatment from the exterior of the aircraft. It’s fun to spot your favorite character onboard!”

(Photo by Stephen M. Keller/Southwest)

Read more: 18 airline liveries that will catch any AvGeek’s eye

Symbolizing “50 Years of Memories and Magic,” the livery showcases a stencil outline of the Magic Kingdom, with Walt Disney himself walking toward it, with the famous Walt Disney World script prominently centered. Inside the aircraft, the overhead bins are marked with the same design, along with “Walt Disney World 50,” and there are character shapes on the window shades as well.

Related: Southwest unveils new ‘freedom’ livery, gives workers 50,000 points for 50th anniversary

“As Walt Disney World Resort kicks off The World’s Most Magical Celebration commemorating our 50th anniversary, we are thrilled to bring even more magic to guests’ vacations and to the sky with the help of our friends at Southwest,” Claire Bilby, the senior vice president of Disney Destinations, said in a press statement. “Both Walt Disney World Resort and Southwest Airlines share an incredible 50-year legacy.”

(Photo by Stephen M. Keller/Southwest)

When it comes to this Disney-SWA livery collaboration, reviews seemed to be mixed, even among the biggest Disney and Southwest fans of them all.

“This could have been done so much better. I wanted to see something like WestJet’s ‘Frozen’ plane or Alaska Airlines’ Disney plane,” said Benét J. Wilson, a self-proclaimed Southwest expert and senior editor at TPG. “With both brands celebrating their 50th anniversaries, this was a missed opportunity by Southwest. Go big or go home!”

The Southwest queen is certainly not alone, as TPG senior writer Zach Griff noted he’s seen “a ton of hardcore AvGeeks say that they don’t like it.”

Related: New Ratatouille ride opening date announced as part of Disney World’s upcoming 50th anniversary festivities

TPG’s Madison Blancaflor (travel editor) and Summer Hull (director of travel content) are both currently in Orlando covering the 50th anniversary of Walt Disney World Resort. They are some of the biggest Disney fans I have ever met, along with those adults who get engaged at Disney.

Related: My ride on the ‘Star Wars’ plane

“It’s hard to top the ‘Star Wars’ livery Disney worked with United on, but it’s still amazing to see these two companies who are celebrating their 50ths team up for this collab,” Blancaflor told me on a break in between rides. “Summer and I would have both loved a Disney version of the ‘Star Wars’ collab; this was a bit underwhelming comparatively. But regardless, I hope I get the chance to fly with it!”

(Photo by Stephen M. Keller/Southwest)

As a “Disney freak,” Hull agrees. “The ‘Star Wars’ plane this is not.”

Related: First look at the ‘Star Wars’ plane

While TPG senior aviation reporter David Slotnick says “special liveries can be hit or miss,” this one hits the mark for him.

“Even some of the ‘good’ ones can be tacky or poorly executed. That said, I think this one is excellent. Even though I’ve never been to Disney World, I obviously grew up with the brand and characters,” Slotnick told me. “I think it’s well integrated along with the existing livery, is tasteful, and I love to see the integration of the cabin interior! Such a cool idea, really well done.”

Clint Henderson, a senior news editor at TPG, said, “I love the Southwest livery with a couple of big caveats. The decals on the plane’s exteriors are a weird color and hard to see. It would have been amazing to have a little more effort put into the interior of the cabin like decals on the seats or even mouse ears on the back of all the seats.”

“There’s a certain amount of Disney magic missing here,” Henderson continued, “That said, I love when airlines do special livery. Check out how thrilled I was with a ‘Star Wars’ plane I lucked into on a recent trip to Puerto Rico.”

Whether you love it or hate it, look for this Southwest-Disney livery, which will be hitting the skies through March 2022, next time you fly.

(Photo by Stephen M. Keller/Southwest)

Read more: Alaska Airlines shows its Pride with LGBTQIA+ livery

Featured photo by Stephen M. Keller/Southwest Airlines.

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