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Airline changes livery as passengers link it to Russian invasion symbol


Julia Buckley, CNN

As Russia’s invasion of Ukraine approaches the four-month mark, one airline has announced plans to change its livery amid concern from passengers that its current look could suggest that it supports the invasion.

Tokyo-based Zipair — a lowcost subsidiary of JAL, Japan Airlines — has announced that it’ll be removing the “Z” from its tailfins as of June 18, replacing them with a geometric pattern of stripes.

The redesign was originally planned as a revamp before the invasion, to mark Japan’s loosening of its pandemic travel restrictions, and was presented at a press conference announcing the airline’s new route from Tokyo to San Jose, California.

However, Shingo Nishida, Zipair’s president, revealed at the press conference that Zipair clients had already been in touch with the airline, expressing their concern over the airline’s existing logo, which had been in use since 2018.

Russia has used “Z” to symbolize a putative victory in its invasion. The letter has been daubed on tanks and uniforms on the ground, and those supporting the Kremlin have used it to make their support public.

Russian gymnast Ivan Kuliak was banned from competing for a year for taping a “Z” to his chest in the gymnastics World Cup event in March.

“I think some people might feel that way when they see it without any explanation,” Nishida said.

A spokesperson for Zippair told CNN: “We can confirm that we have received a number of customer comments regarding their feelings toward the design of the current livery. As a public transportation company, we are aware that the letter in question has been shown over various media channels on a global scale and how the design may be conceived in a negative way.

“Although customers acknowledged and understood that our logo was created in 2018, which was before the current situation, they did share their concerns as a way to show support for the airline.

“Our president is keen to customer feelings and does directly read general customer comments as part of his routine.”

The airline is taking swift action to move to its new livery. Instead of gradually repainting the fleet, Zipair planes will see the tailfins covered with decals from June 18. The aircraft will then gradually be repainted, starting December 2022 for a spring 2023 completion date.

The spokesperson continued: “As several countries start to reopen travel borders, including Japan, Zipair made the decision to renew our livery as a way to show our commitment that a low-cost option for long-haul international flights is possible and through the introduction of the renovated livery, the carrier pledges to pursue services that meet the needs of diverse customer groups around the world.

“In order for an airline to remain viable in a highly competitive industry, we believe that we must continue to adapt to changes and this is the reason why we made the decision to introduce a new livery.”

Zipair’s new nonstop route from Tokyo to San Jose, California, is due to begin in December.

Main image: Kyodo News/Getty Images

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