Sometimes it seems like the current liveries in the air are quite bland. A white fuselage with a colored tail and engine covers and winglets is the magic formula for airlines. And while there is a good reason why this is done, as paint can add quite a few pounds to the aircraft, we would wish there would be more livery variety nowadays.
But there are airlines which have kept their unique and magnificent liveries from the very first pages of aviation‘s history. Therefore, we present the top 10 most beautiful airline liveries of all time!
However, keep in mind these are not special liveries that airlines use to celebrate an occasion. These are your regular, scheduled flight liveries that you can or could have seen anywhere around the world!
Now I know my words will sound quite ironic, as Pan Am’s livery is literally a white fuselage with a colored logo on its tail. But hear me out – the livery is one of the most iconic liveries of all time. And not only because of the paint scheme. Pan Am was a huge airline at its peak when unfortunately it went bankrupt. It was the largest air carrier in the United States and was the unofficial flag carrier of the country. Plus, at the time it was very uncommon to carry liveries such as these, as airlines opted to paint their aircraft with wild colors. Because of the simple, yet the iconic look of Pan Am aircraft, they will always be engraved into aviation history.
In 1989, Northwest Airlines introduced a new livery after a merger with Republic Airlines. Nicknamed “Bowling Shoe” by its employees, the paint scheme was designed by Landor Associates. The aircraft were painted in 3 different colors: Red, Grey and White at the bottom. The three colors are an excellent match and they have managed to create an incredible looking aircraft. Add a Boeing 747 into the mix, and you have a look that is going to withstand the trial of time. Unfortunately, Northwest used this livery only until 2003, when they switched to a more traditional look.
But the bowling shoe will hit a strike in everyone’s memories, as Northwest Airline’s history book had its last page written in 2010.
Just last week Aer Lingus announced and showcased their new livery. The paint job received mixed reactions – some loved it, some hated it. Admittedly, we do not like it either. Simply put, the old livery had more “Irishness” to it. The green fuselage with the bright green shamrock on the tail truly represented Ireland around the world. As a livery of a flag carrier should do!
The regional airline that was recently bought out by Virgin Atlantic has magnificent looking aircraft. While most of the airlines have a white fuselage with a colored tail, Flybe has done the opposite. A purple fuselage and a white tail with their logo have created a pretty simple, yet beautiful look. Hopefully, Flybe is here to stay – or at least their brand, as we will dearly miss their livery.
Flybe Bombardier Q400. Source: Flybe photo gallery
The low-cost carrier that was established by the creative spirit that was Herb Kelleher, who unfortunately passed very recently, has a livery that truly represents the company values. Daring, yet professional, Southwest’s blue, yellow and red livery has become recognizable all over the United States.
If you thought Southwest’s livery is daring, wait till you see what Braniff International showed up in airports with. Established by the Braniff brothers, the airline always had brave marketing campaigns and business moves. It was only one of the 4 airlines that have operated a Concorde.
To get back to the point, in the 1960s, the president of the company at the time, Harding Lawrence, set out to change the public image of the company. He hired an advertising agency to do the job and the first thing to change was the livery. The campaign, dubbed “End of the Plain Plane”, definitely added a splash of color to the airline. Well, a lot of splashes. You might think that the airline started to use a unique, colorful livery for all of its aircraft. Where that is where you (and me) are wrong – Braniff International showed up with a different livery for every aircraft!
The iconic KLM bright blue livery has dominated the European skies since 1971. KLM introduced the historical livery to celebrate the introduction of new Boeing 747 aircraft. While throughout the years there were several alterations made to it, KLM kept the bright blue fuselage so far. Hopefully, it will never go away, as the livery is truly synonymous with KLM. While a new livery may lead the path towards modernization, like in Aer Lingus’ case, keeping your heritage is also important. Especially when you are called KLM Royal Dutch Airlines – royalty is all about keeping heritage!
The largest airline in the world currently and named the best airline in the world by ATW in 2017, American Airlines has a rich history of various liveries and branding images. While the current AA livery is definitely quite pleasing to look at, we love the old Metallic American Airlines paint scheme. Or rather, lack of paint. Before 2013, the airline was the only major American carrier with parts of aircraft left unpainted. There were 2 reasons why – the first one being the founder of American Airlines, C.R. Smith. He noted that he did not like painted aircraft and did not approve any liveries that painted the whole plane. The second reason was Robert Crandall. He defended the metallic finish of the aircraft because it saved the company money. As paint adds additional weight, flights require more fuel and thus flights are more expensive to run.
Whatever the reason might be, we love the metallic finish!
Pacific Southwest Airlines or PSA for short definitely has the most wholesome livery of all. Simply looking at it makes your heart melt, as if the aircraft was a cute and fluffy dog. Add in the funky coloring of the fuselage and you’ve got yourself a livery that will remain forever in everyone’s hearts!
A primarily domestic low-cost airline in Thailand, the carrier definitely lives up to its slogan. “We Fly Smiles” is perfectly portrayed on its aircraft. Or rather beaks, as Nok means bird in Thai and the logo of the airline is a smiling beak. Similarly to Braniff, Nok Air has a unique and one of a kind design and name to every aircraft. The unique, fun and beaky liveries not only fly smiles but make us smile as well!