The World's Most Creative Airline Designs
Dom Herrera, 25.05.18
Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Yes. It's a plane. But why has it got Homer Simpson's face on it?
It's said that at any given moment, there are around 9,700 planes flying in the sky. Every so often, an airline will get its creative juices flowing and create an aircraft with such a fun airline livery that you'll want to fly with them just to see it in person.
We've compiled a list of the best themed airplanes from over the years that showcase the world's most imaginative airlines.
Alternative Airlines' favourite airline liveries
Star Wars, All Nippon Airways
ANA's Star Wars livery takes to the skies
All Nippon Airways (ANA) celebrated Star Wars’ eagerly anticipated return to cinema, The Force Awakens (2015), by painting four of its aircraft to look like droids from the science fiction franchise. The most iconic of these liveries was a Boeing 787 Dreamliner that was designed to look like the character, R2-D2.
Still in use today, this aircraft might not have the capacity to take passengers to outer space like the Millennium Falcon, but it does serve a number of international routes for ANA from Japan to destinations such as Beijing, Jakarta, Munich, Paris, and Sydney. And we think that’s pretty cool too.
Tail Fin Heroes, Norwegian Airlines
Since 2002, Norwegian Airlines has had one of the best airline livery concepts in the world by painting a number of different famous Scandinavian figures on the tail fin of their aircraft — all of whom poses the same boundary pushing qualities that the airline itself proudly claims. From athletes and scientists, to artists and pioneers, the tail-fin heroes are a who’s who of Scandinavia’s biggest achievers.
As Norwegian Airlines have grown extensively in the UK over the past few years — currently flying more than 5 million UK passengers to over 50 destinations — they have started to put some iconic British figures on the tail of their aircrafts too. Today, you can expect to see the likes of Bobby Moore, Sir Freddie Laker and Freddie Mercury on the tale of Norwegian's livery.
Toy Story, China Eastern Airlines
The most recent airplane from our selection comes from China Eastern, who designed a Toy Story plane in April 2018 that allows passengers reach for the sky. With Buzz Lightyear painted on one side, and Woody on the other, the beautiful airline livery was created by the Chinese airline in association with Disney to promote Shanghai Disney Resort on the central coast of China. Still flying today, the interior of the plane is decorated with other Toy Story favourites, including Mr. Potato Head, Slink, and Rex, while the ceiling is painted in sky blue with big white clouds.
For those who flew on the inaugural flight of the Toy Story jet, the fun didn’t stop with the aircraft itself either. Passengers were able to check-in using a custom Toy Story check-in machine and were also invited to indulge in a special Toy Story themed menu — the ultimate Toy Story flying experience!
China Eastern’s Toy Story plane now operates as one of the aircraft on a regular schedule between Beijing and Shanghai. China Eastern Airlines flights between Beijing and Shanghai are available with Alternative Airlines. So, if you’re lucky enough, you might be able to take a flight with Buzz and Woody yourself!
Pokémon, All Nippon Airways
Phokemon plane livery, ANA. Poto credit: Haseo
Before ANA brought us the Star Wars plane, they brought us the Pokémon plane. Well, nine of them to be exact. The Japanese airline revealed its first ever Pokémon plane back in 1998, when the animated media franchise was at the height of its popularity. Since then, it has created an additional eight, building them a reputation as the 'Pokemon airline'. The last Pokémon plane was created in 2011 to celebrate the release of the Pokémon Black and White video games.
I guess if you’ve gotta catch ‘em all, you can’t do it from just one country.
Sadly, ANA retired its last Pokémon themed plane in 2016, meaning there are currently no Poké-planes being flown today. You can still fly the Tokyo—New York route that the first ever Pokémon themed plane flew though, along with many other routes on All Nippon Airways.
Flying 101, Kulula
Kulula's fun flying guide livery. Photo credit: Hansueli Krapf
Both witty and informative (kind of), Kulula's flying 101 aircraft is an idiot-proof guide to the Boeing 737-800 aircraft and a fantastic airline livery concept from the South African carrier. Created in 2010, the bright green plane features markings on its body that label various different parts of the jet in a somewhat comical fashion.
For example, an arrow pointing to the front door of the aircraft is accompanied with the text, ‘front door (our door is aways open...unless we’re at 41,000 feet).'
The flying 101 aircraft has proved to be immensely popular with the public, with many people saying that it's refreshing to see an airline not take itself too seriously. The aircraft is said to still be operating regular scheduled services for Kalula today, recently flying the route between Durban and Cape Town.
FC Barcelona, Qatar Airways
Qatar supporting FC Barcelona in the air. Photo credit: John Taggart
To celebrate their first direct flight to Barcelona, Qatar Airways decorated a Boeing 777 to match the colours of the city’s beloved football team, FC Barcelona. The body of the plane sported the FC Barcelona emblem sitting proudly on top of a swirl of the football club’s signature colours, red and blue. And if that wasn’t enough, written across the side of the plane in crisp gold was the inspiring tagline ‘a team that unites the world’.
It's one of the best airline liveries in the world if you're an FC Barcelona fan. We just hope there weren’t any Real Madrid supporters travelling to the Catalan capital with Qatar Airways that day!
The Simpsons, Western Pacific Airlines
Westerten Pacific's Simpsons Plane. Photo credit: Aero Icarus
The Simpsons has pretty much done it all. So, it’s no surprise that America’s favourite cartoon family had its own jet advertising the hit animated series. The entire jet was painted in the famous Simpson yellow, with characters Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa, and Maggie on the side.
Western Pacific Airlines were the first airline to sell advertising space on the exterior of their aircraft. And while people loved The Simpsons plane, it didn’t generate enough revenue to keep Western Pacific in business. The airline ceased operations in 1998, only three years after launching. Today, you can fly with a number of airlines that travel the domestic routes within the USA that Western Pacific used to, including Cape Air, Spirit Airlines, JetBlue Airways, and Frontier Airlines.
Flower Power Airbus, Swiss Airlines
Swiss Airline's Peace out. Photo credit: Aero Icarus
In 2010, to celebrate the launch of their new service between Zürich and San Francisco, Swiss Airlines painted a plane with peace signs, flowers, stars, rainbows, and generally all things hippie.
In true San Fran spirit, Swiss decided to give the power to the people and put the design of the aircraft in the public’s hands. Readers of the Swiss daily newspaper, 20 Minuten, were able to choose from three different designs for the plane. After 30,000 votes, the late 60’s inspired jet came out on top, showing that the Summer of Love continues to run deep in the hearts of Swiss Airline passengers.
Captain Marvel, Alaska Airlines
Ahead of the release of Captain Marvel (March 2019), you could see the heroine flying through the sky at 30,000 feet in the air. However, this time, she wasn't using her powers to fly, nor was she trying to save the world.
Instead, she was taking passengers of Alaska Airlines' from point A to point B, as the airline created a Captain Marvel airplane livery which featured actress Brie Larson in her role as the latest Captain Marvel.
The plane flew its first service on 5th February 2019 and continued to fly routes to Hawaii as the superhero blockbuster's release date grew closer.
Star Wars, United Airlines
Introducing the newest member of our intergalactic fleet.— United Airlines (@united) April 12, 2019
Retweet for a chance to win two tickets to the premiere of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker! @starwars #UnitedSWCC #StarWarsCelebration pic.twitter.com/OyhJ2AcVBO
We know what you're thinking. 'What? Another Star Wars plane?'. But when the biggest franchise in cienma history closes its final chapter (for now), you can expect that the big airlines are going to want to wear its iconography.
That's exactly what United Airlines is doing ahead of the release of Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker. United has painted one of its Boeing 737-800 aircraft black and seperated the dark from the light side of the Force with a blue lightsaber on one side of the plane and a red lightsaber on the other.
The special aircraft will first take flight in the second half of 2019 bug will not fly on any specific route. Instead, it will be used to carry out services on a number of different United flights within the US. Which means, if you're flying domestically in the USA later this year, you might just find yourself going to a galaxy far, far away.
Updated: 24th April 2019