It's all a matter of associations. Hawaii or Jamaica stand for flowers, rum, music, women, holidays rather than for efficiency, globalized business ... whatever. That may be a platitude, right, but don't we all project different things on different countries?
Aircraft liveries are vehicles to transport images and to provide an overall impression at the first glance that is consistent to the maintained branding of the company and often takes associations, linked to the nation it represents, into account.
Over the recent years, European airlines where more concerned of the inner consistency, the "look and feel", of their brand. They wanted their passengers to think that what they see at the airport or in a commercial fits to the overall image of a safe, efficient and reliable airline. Distinctivity was a criterion of lesser importance, since only enthusiasts compare the beauty of airplane liveries.
For a designer, white is no color at all. Same goes for black and neutral grey. Since white is no color (it's the result of brightening any
color to the maximum extend) it has no so called complementary color and does not interfere with other colors used for the logo. Not only do we associate colors with moods (blue: coolness, business; red: warmth, love or aggressivity), the usage of differnt colors next to each others cause interferences that have a calming effect - or can make you nervous.
White helps to maintain an image of a reliable, efficient company that communicates well with its employees, partners, shareholders and clients.
To answer the question: It's not poor marketing.
[Edited 2004-09-16 13:56:53]