An opinion poll by the Geneva-based Institut fur Markentechnik claims that BA's pounds 60m programme has failed to get its message across, at least to the Germans.
Three hundred passers-by in Hamburg and Munich were interviewed and shown three BA tailfins and three from Cathay Pacific's range.
The survey found that two-thirds said the designs gave the impression of a "small national airline" and one guessed it was Zimbabwe's national carrier. The same proportion said it looked like a "relatively cheap" airline.
Only 6 per cent perceived it as the safer airline out of the two and just one in nine said they could imagine the German president using the airline.
A BA spokeswoman said a sample of 300 German shoppers was not representative of either its customers or the world air-passenger market.
"You have to remember that the fins only form one part of the corporate identity so any research based on that one element is flawed before take off," she said.
Baroness Thatcher famously showed her contempt for the BA designs by using her handkerchief to cover the tail of a model plane.
BA unveiled the revamp two years ago and plans to have its 330-strong fleet rebranded in time for the millennium.
Only Concorde retains a "British" image based on the Union flag.Reuse content