Topic of the Week: Your Favorite Special Livery

It’s been a busy week for special liveries. Southwest rolled out is Missouri-themed aircraft this week and Lufthansa put its stunning 747-8 in a retro livery into service. Most awesome of all, however, was the introduction of ANA’s new Star Wars aircraft. But these are far from the only airline that puts special paint jobs on its aircraft. I’m a big fan of special and retro liveries. What’s your favorite? Post a link in the comments so all can see. And don’t put the ones you hate. Let’s save those for another week.

While I have trouble picking one that I love most, I’ll kick things off for one of my favorites. Behold, the Air New Zealand All Blacks 777.

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64 Responses to Topic of the Week: Your Favorite Special Livery

  1. Grichard says:

    The ANA link just gives the Cranky 404 page.

  2. Adam says:

    I realize I will be in the minority here, but I couldn’t care less about special liveries. I’m flying inside. I can’t see the giant outside billboard. And any inside accompaniment only makes it feel more like a New York subway. Actually, my favorite livery decision was American Airlines about 20 years ago. American decided not to paint its planes at all. They were all shiny metal tubes with just the American logo. American’s point was that paint added 300 pounds to a plane’s weight, resulting in higher fuel usage. One bare plane might not mean a lot but a whole fleet of bare planes meant savings to the company and ultimately the passenger. Whether there was any truth to that or whether it was just a marketing idea is debatable. But the basic concept of it just seemed to make more sense to me than a jet painted like a giant whale or balloon festival.

    • drybean says:

      The AA shiny silver livery actually debuted in the late 1960s. It spoke loudly not just about Bob Crandall’s refusal to paint any planes or the economic benefits of unpainted aircraft but of the pride in being American. Bright and shiny…it was truly something special in the air.

      • oldiesfan6479 says:

        “…The AA shiny silver livery actually debuted in the late 1960s. It spoke loudly not just about Bob Crandall’s refusal to paint any planes…”

        In the late 1960s, Crandall was still pre-AA (Hallmark?).

        The bare metal (+ decals) schemes had been with AA for years before the 1968 changes which lasted until the new current disaster scheme. The “Astrojet” in the ’60s and the “Flagship” in the ’50s were both decals on bare metal. Heck, it was the same scenario going back to the DC-3s in the mid-1930s.

        • Former AAer says:

          Let’s not forget, it’s America West that took over US and AA, not the other way around. Parker is making the decisions. And despite working for Crandall, he is nothing like Crandall!

    • Andy says:

      EVA Air not only put Hello Kitty liveries on two of their planes, they also overhauled the planes’ interior to reflect the Hello Kitty theme.

    • CF says:

      Adam – I like the look of the bare metal scheme as well, but believe it or not, it’s actually more costly to do it that way. Airplanes that aren’t painted need to be polished much more frequently using a material that helps with corrosion protection. Here’s a Boeing article on the difference in costs:

    • Hov says:

      Here, here!! Love the AA logo and eagle and I was sad to see them be retired. Loved the bare metal shining and shimmering in the sun as the plane would turn and catch the sun in just the right angle.

      But I actually must admit that I also love the new eagle logo and flag. I know I’m in the minority at this blog but I think the new Eagle logo is classy, sophisticated and combined with the American flag on the tail proudly displays our nations strength. The planes carry it well, especially some of the smaller ones.

  3. Abby says:

    An early favourite for me was Wunala Dreaming from Qantas…

  4. Bravenav says:

    Salmon Thirty Salmon

  5. Chicago Airline Geek says:

    I know Sea World has fallen on some hard times lately, but I always liked the Shamu livery that Southwest had for all those years. Even an adult could feel like a kid getting on one of those!

  6. Ex-TWA says:

    My will be the TWA livery that AA will be putting back on one of the birds.

    • ZuluLima says:

      Remember the reverse colors TWA MD-80? That was even better. They also had Rams helmets on a 727 and 757 I think. Its unfortunate the new AA/TW retro will say American and be on a 738.

  7. PiedmontFH227 says:

    Definitely AA’s retro 737-800 with the early 60’s livery.

  8. Rusty Shackelford says:

    My wife loved Southwest’s Seaworld plane.
    I love the US Airways Carolina Panthers special livery.

  9. A says:

    I would like to see the old Continental meatball again. Even better if there were still a massive DC-10 tail to paint it on. Fond memories.

  10. Paul Hughes says:


    Does it have to be paint or can airlines do temporary ones with “wraps” (as on motor vehicles) or would those come right off at 35,000 feet?


    Paul Hughes 949 833 8373 x236



    *Success happens from doing the same thing over and over [and] becoming great at it.Kevin Plank* +

  11. Jason H says:

    Alaska has some pretty good ones, but the best one I’ve flown on is ANA’s panda B767 (google it).

  12. Ben says:

    Hello Kitty! (Well, my daughter loves it…)

  13. D.J. Dogg says:

    Maryland One!

    I wonder how it will look in the new Southwest Heart scheme.

  14. aflapr says:

    I second the votes for the American Airlines retro Astrojet livery. I wish they had gone back to this instead of that horrible new scheme…

  15. Bill Hough says:

    There’s just so many to choose from:

    AA’s 757 “Jet Flagship” and 737 “Astrojet.”
    US, now AA’s AL, PS and PI Airbuses.
    LH’s 747-8 retro
    Southwest’s Triple Crown One

    The list goes on…

  16. JayB says:

    It’s always so much easier to pick the ones we hate. Painting planes in the logo of Piedmont…now really. Obviously, you’re not old enough to remember!

    Of course, any plane painted with the “Star Alliance” logo…oh, please! It’s like painting a plane “Unilever!” Very warm and fuzzy!

  17. SJ says:

    Maybe skirting on what truly counts since it was Boeing and not an airline that painted it, but I loved the 12th Man 747 (deep down, I think the airline gods cursed the Seahawks in this year’s Super Bowl for Boeing’s decision not to paint up another 747 :P).

    I like the old legacy Piedmont Airlines ones as well done by American/US Airways, but that’s probably just childhood nostalgia.

  18. I’d have to say the Western Pacific Simpsons 737 is my all time favorite. Also the South African Olympics plane from the 90s (halfway down their Wikipedia page). Might be too bold and garish for some but I remember it nonetheless.

    I just saw this an hour ago on a friend’s FB post: ANA Star Wars – I’m not a huge Star Wars person but pretty creative:

  19. NS says:

    Alaska’s Salmon Thirty Salmon!

  20. Harlan says:

    I’m kind of old school, the airline that started all this was Braniff. I always loved both the Calder airplanes!

  21. I have to pick just one?!?

    Seriously though, as an avid planespotter, I love them all. The more of the aircraft they cover, and the more intricate they are, the better. And bonus points for aircraft with a different livery on both sides like the new Turkish Airlines Istanbul/San Fransisco special.

    Wunala was repainted by the time I started spotting, but it surely would have been a favorite of mine.

  22. Mark R says:

    Being from CLT and my dad having worked for Piedmont and retired from US Airways, I have to go with the hometown Piedmont heritage A319 from AA ( I kind of wish it was a 737 painted this way instead of an Airbus, but I guess beggars can’t be choosers. Great topic!

  23. rybob1 says:

    my vote, and how could you not have this at or near the top of your list is the Alaska Salmon thirty salmon.

  24. Hajime Sano says:

    There are so many cool special liveries. The aforementioned Salmon Thirty Seven and The Simpsons are ones I’d forgotten.

    The EVA Air Hello Kitty is one of my favorites, mainly because I have a niece who was Hello Kitty crazy when she was younger, and the thought of an airline catering to that special demographic is too amusing for me.

    I’d have to say the just-revealed ANA R2-D2 is my favorite.

  25. CraigTPA says:

    I have to go with the USAirways PSA retrojet – many fond memories of PSA:

  26. efr says:

    AA Astrojet

  27. Dianne says:

    Any of the Qantas Aboriginal Dreamtime liveries, true art in airplane form. Here’s one small example.

  28. g.weiss says:

    Hello Again, Lord Snyder!

    Thank you for calling our paint job awesome! I wish I could take some credit……..

  29. dkmoo says:

    Please unsubscribe me.

    Thank you!

  30. PF says:

    I don’t have one favorite. At the top of the list
    CO, with the red & gold stripe, golden tail and black bug
    TWA, with the red stripe and gold outline globe
    PA, classic 60s blue stripe, Pan American above the windows
    Morris, with the pink stripe fade and compass on the tail

  31. Tonei says:

    I’ve always loved the Horizon 25th anniversary plane – it’s the one that made me want to start collecting model planes.

    Also a fan of Alaska’s 75th anniversary retro livery:

  32. MC says:

    love the Lufthansa retro and the Qantas 737-800 retro…..non retro is Azerbaijan Airlines….it actually has a scheme and color….most airlines seem like the paint slid to the back on take off….Air New Zealand Lord of the Rings i saw in person and it was awesome….the new colors are horrid in my opinion although i have see several 777’s lately with white bodies and logo on tail…..Southwest is to predictable with the states….Lone Star One and the Penguins are the only Southwest special liveries i like…..Malaysia Airlines hibiscus and Singapore’s Tropical scheme are up there as well…..wish airlines would just put color on the whole plane, not just the back and i do wish AMERICAN WOULD GET RID OF THAT HORRID SCHEME THEY HAVE NOW….the only thing that might make it better is to put the AA back on the tail…..

  33. Yo says:

    The Breitling Super Constellation, beautiful. Braniff’s Calder plane, AWA Team Work Coast to Coast, the two QANTAS aborigine designs. Western Pacific’s “Simpson’s” plane. Icelandair’s Northern Lights plane, Austrian Airlines Millennium plane, AWA Phoenix Suns plane.

    Can’t wait to see the TWA colors fly again on an American plane, will look sweet.

  34. GregJ says:

    This is purely nostalgia from my flying as a kid in the 80s, but I wish the “Cheatline” would come back to Delta and United. I know DL put it back on the 757 they have at the museum in ATL, but they should fly one around, too. And United’s Tulip livery. Those would make good “contemporary” Retro jets.

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