25 Of The Best Aircraft Livery Designs Show Planes Have A Sense Of Humour Too

There’s a long-standing tradition of airlines getting creative with paint jobs for promotional purposes and we love it! We’ve gone in search of the most interesting aircraft livery designs we could find … Enjoy!

Aisle, Window, Middle Earth – Air New Zealand

Air New Zealand's Boeing 777-300ER with its Hobbit livery.

Air New Zealand, the self-proclaimed ‘airline of Middle-earth’, has been wowing travellers in its super detailed Hobbit regalia. Leveraging on the fact that Tolkien classics are filmed in the land of the long white cloud, the Kiwi national carrier has done a sterling job of capturing the attention of audiences worldwide by transforming a Boeing 777-300ER into a flying billboard for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. The decal covers the length of the plane, and is the largest graphic ever to be applied to an aircraft. It took about six days and 400 man hours to install the artwork.

Rock Out With Your Landing Gear Out – Rolling Stones Boeing 767

Rolling Stones Boeing 767

The exterior might be minimalist with the famous “Tongue and Lip” insignia of The Rolling Stones being the only décor rocking the side of the bands B767, but we’re sure the planes interior is anything but. That’s not a tiny private jet, by the way; an SAA 767, for comparison, carries just over 200 passengers.

An “Unbelievable” Makeover – South African Airways

South African Airways, Airbus A340-300, ZS-SXD, in its London 2012 Olympics special livery.

Following the publicity success of Ndizani – the plane used to transport the SA team to the 1996 Olympics, SAA revealed a new paint job in 2012 ahead of the Summer Olympics which took place in London. The spectacularly decorated long haul Airbus A340-300 caused a splash at international airports with its bold and colourful images of national sports heroes. The spectacular design was created by Adri le Roux, a first year design student at Stellenbosch University. A colourful and vibrant visual, it uses the colours of the South African flag to create brush strokes covering the plane … something for Chad Le Clos dad to be proud of.

Gummy Air – TUIfly

TUIfly B737-800 plane in gold Haribo gummy bear livery.

This special edition B737-800 operated by German low cost carrier TUIfly showed its sweet side in 2010 when it emerged on the runway in full Haribo livery. The B737-800 plane actually comes in two varieties of Haribo colours – gold and blue, and both are operated by TUIfly. No matter how you look at it, for fans of the popular German gummy candy this Haribo adorned plane is a definite winner.

Cheap Flights from Homer to Springfield – Western Pacific

Western Pacific Airlines Boeing 737-300 in its The Simpsons paint job.

This Simpsons branded Western Pacific Airlines Boeing 737-300 took its first flight on 15 May 1985; however, the airline ceased operations in 1998. While it never did fly to Springfield, the colourful livery was a well-received advertisement for the adored series which is now in its 26th Season.

Sorry Brazil; Not Enough ‘Gol’s’

Gol Brazil 2014

The host nation’s low cost airline certainly got lively with their plane livery over the World Cup. Brazilian carrier Gol Transportes Aéreos was appointed the official transport for the Brazilian national football team during the month long tournament so they did what any self-respecting airline would do – they enlisted the help of local street artists Os Gêmeos to tag the entire façade of a Boeing 737 in dozens of portraits representing the people of Brazil. The striking result: a vibrant ode to the national teams adoring fans from the tail to the nose and engines.

Free Willy – Southwest Airlines

Southwest Shamu Plane

Since 1998, two Southwest aircraft are painted to look like an Orca, as advertisements for SeaWorld. Despite the sugary whale aesthetic, many Southwest clients were pleased when the airline ended their 26-year marketing relationship with SeaWorld mid-2014; the Orlando-based theme park operator has come under increasing fire for capturing and training orca whales in recent years.

Pokémon Plane – ANA

ANA Pokemon Plane

In a bold and imaginative move, Japan’s All Nippon Airways (ANA) unveiled its first Pokémon jets on 1 July 1998, timed with the release of Pokémon: The First Movie. Passengers on the Pokémon Jets received a complete “Pokémania” experience – the aircraft and flight crews were decked out in Pokémon themes, including headrests, flight attendant uniforms, food containers, inflight entertainment, and souvenir bags. All Nippon Airways reported that its Pokémon promotional livery resulted in a marked increase in the number of passengers carried.

Fast & Fizzy – Air France

Air France Pepsi

In 1996, Air France briefly painted F-BTSD in a predominantly blue livery, with the exception of the wings, in a promotional deal with Pepsi. In this paint scheme, Air France were advised to remain at Mach 2 for no more than 20 minutes at a time, but there was no restriction at speeds under Mach 1.7. F-BTSD was used because it was not scheduled for any long flights that required extended Mach 2 operations. Of course, Concorde last took to the skies in 2003; eventually retiring due to rising maintenance costs and low passenger demand.

SWISS Flower Power

SWISS Flower Power

In an effort to tap into the San Francisco groove, Zurich based SWISS came up with this flower power peace livery to connect with their customers on a deeper level. The A340 wearing the hippy flower child livery first graced the skies in 2010, and the adhesive foil used to decorate the fuselage covered an area of more than 300 square metres! The printing time for the foil alone took several days; thereafter it was transported by truck from Toulouse to Zurich Airport, where a team of eight people spent three days applying it to the fuselage.

Airline becomes Bearline – Germanwings

The 'Berlin Bear' - a Germanwings Airbus A319.

Bearliner, Bearbus; can you think of any more puns for this Germanwings Airbus A319 dubbed ‘The Berlin Bear’? In an effort to promote tourism to Berlin (a bear is Berlin’s coat of arms), the A319 carried this special scheme from May 2005 to January 2011.

Etihad Accelerates to the Starting Grid

Etihad Formula 1 Aircraft.

Etihad’s checkered flag livery on their Airbus A340-600 transformed the plane into something as sleek as the F1 racecars it was promoting. The shaded background (from white through red to black) showed a checkered flag motif on its tail to support the airlines high profile involvement with the first ever Abu Dhabi Formula-1 Grand Prix in 2009.

Midair Pandamonium – British Airways

British Airways Boeing 777-200 in panda livery for flights between LHR and Chengdu, China.

In a cutesy publicity stunt, this British Airways Boeing 777-200 was given a panda face to celebrate the launch of flights between Heathrow and Chengdu, China in 2013. The region is best known for its extremely rare Giant Pandas – the obvious inspiration behind this British Airways livery makeover.

Lufthansa Football Fever – The Only Airborne Disease You’d Ever Want

Lufthansa Fanhansa plane for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil.

By now most of you will know Germany emerged as the undisputed champions of a hard-won and exciting 2014 FIFA World Cup, and what better way to bring the cup home than Fanhansa. A total of eight aircraft in the Lufthansa fleet swapped their familiar lettering for the temporarily updated ‘Fanhansa’ logo. It was the first time that Lufthansa changed its name on the fuselage of some its aircraft since commencing operations almost 60 years ago.

Air Blacks – Air New Zealand

Air New Zealand's All Blacks plane.

The pride and glory of New Zealand, the All Blacks, were given a flying monument to their achievements on the world rugby stage when the national carrier branded their Boeing 787 in full All Black regalia. The aircraft’s paint job is overlaid with a design featuring New Zealand’s distinctive silver fern that extends across the rear of the aircraft up to its tail.

Flying Fish on the Salmon-Thirty-Salmon – Alaska Airlines

Alaska Airlines Salmon Plane

To emphasize Alaska Airlines’ role in delivering Alaskan Salmon (they are the biggest air cargo company doing it) to the United States and Europe, the carrier dressed one of their 737 Next Generation fleet in a giant salmon livery. The name of the aircraft is a word play … instead of Seven-Thirty-Seven they called it Salmon-Thirty-Salmon.

21st Shenanigans at 36 000 Feet – Virgin Atlantic

Virgin Atlantic Birthday Girl

Virgin Atlantic changed its livery, enlarging one of its ‘flying ladies’ and placing her on the tail to celebrate the airline’s coming of age and 21st birthday in 2005. The Scarlet Lady, a.k.a. Lady Penelope, was given a curvier figure and moved to the rear of the aircraft, a Boeing 747–400, and the aircraft was temporarily renamed ‘Birthday Girl’. She holds a glass of champagne toasting the airlines 21 years. The Flying Lady was inspired by the famous Varga girls whose images graced an entire generation of British and American military aircraft during and after the Second World War.

Flying 101 – Kulula

Kulula Flying 101 Livery

Possibly Kulula’s most revered marketing stunt, the Flying 101 infographic plane caught the eye of aviation enthusiasts worldwide for a simple idea executed brilliantly. The Movember moustache that was added in November 2010 was a nice enhancement too.

Aircraft Livery Gold Medalist – SAA

SAA Olympic Plane 1996

Those of us born pre-1990 won’t soon forget the South African Airways plane which transported our athletes to the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta. A colourful and memorable statement from a nation just waking up to a new era of liberation, the Boeing 747-300 dubbed Ndizani, was a symbol of the rainbow nation and a delight to plane spotters across the globe.

Boeing Boomerang – Qantas

Qantas Yananyi Dreaming 737

The plane pictured here, Qantas’ Boeing 737-800, features an Uluru depiction by Australian indigenous artist Rene Kulitja. This aircraft forms part of 5 planes in Qantas’ fleet which were given Aboriginal art treatments, originally to observe the International Year of the World’s Indigenous People in 1993. Named Yananyi Dreaming and launched in 2002; this particular aircraft was repainted into Qantas corporate livery in September 2014.

Which Way uP? – Kulula

Kulula This Way Up

Never one to shy away from the brighter side of life, Kulula reminds its passengers and pilots which way is up … just in case its Flying 101 identity isn’t enough.

Hello Kitty – EVA Air

EVA A330-200 with Hello Kitty livery.

In 2012 Taiwanese airline EVA Air decorated the exteriors of three of their planes with the image of cartoon cat character Hello Kitty. The fleets of A330-300 Airbuses feature the iconic feline waving her magic wand, sprinkling shining stars and heralding the start of a happy journey. In addition to the aircraft livery design, passengers flying on liveried planes are treated to EVA Air employees sporting Hello Kitty gear at a bright pink check-in counter, while boarding passes, baggage tickets and identification are also covered in the cute Saniro character’s likeness. Inside the plane passengers are seated in chairs with headrests and pillows also picturing the face of the cartoon cat.

Scoring Goals in the Clouds – Turkish Airlines

Turkish Airlines Boeing 777-3F2/ER TC-JJI

To mark the sponsorship agreement between Turkish Airlines and FC Barcelona, a Boeing 777-300ER with the badge and squad of the Spanish football club began gracing runways in 2012; the Barcelona branded aircraft was the official sponsor and carrier of the club between 2010 and 2013.

Aces High – Astraeus Airlines

Iron Maiden Plane

Astraeus Airlines branded up one of its planes for Iron Maiden’s Final Frontier tour in 2011 and called it ‘Ed Force One’. As if that wasn’t impressive enough, lead vocalist Bruce Dickinson is an experienced airline pilot, flying the group around with their heavy metal paint scheme.

“We’re Going To Disneyland” – Alaska Airlines

Alaska Airlines DisneylandTwo aircraft in Alaska Airlines’ fleet, the “Spirit of Disneyland II” and the “Magic of Disneyland,” feature well-known Disney characters in tribute to the airline’s long-term partnership with the Disneyland® Resort.

Our Readers Comments

  1. A friend is the designer responsible for the Kulula artwork.

    • We applaud your friends work Kevin 🙂

  2. The Air Blacks – Air New Zealand plane is in fact a 787 and not a 777 as published.

  3. Wow..!! Amazing Design… Lovley Airplane Design.. Great Job and very Good Collection.Thanks

  4. Qantas recently added a cowboy hat to the kangaroo on the tail of the Airbus A380 making the inaugural flight to Dallas-Fort Worth, which was pretty cool!

  5. Love them all; what creativity. Good on Kulula and SAA for scoring twice each in this selection!

  6. It was in the early 90’s when I saw the first advertisement on an American airline. I came back to South Africa and suggested to a domestic airline that they should go that way. Not only is it very catchy but I was sure it could have brought in more revenue from sponsors. Needless to say, they did not follow up on my suggestions and today they also do not exist anymore!
    I love flying and even more so when planes are “decorated”!

  7. I am only missing the Delta Airlines Power Puff Girls livery.

    • Hi Vincent,

      Yes I saw the Delta Airlines Powerpuff Girls livery, pretty awesome 🙂

  8. What about the ANA star wars planes?

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