The Meaning Behind Air Tahiti Nui’s Livery

Air Tahiti Nui

I like a good-looking airplane as much as the next guy, but I’m also usually strongly against complex and expensive designs. (For further study: my hatred for American’s livery.) That being said, every so often, a stunning, complex design with real meaning comes out and find myself smitten. Air Tahiti Nui’s new livery falls into that category.

Air Tahiti Nui rolled out its new livery when it took delivery of its first 787. You might say “hey, this doesn’t look all that much different than the last livery on the A340…”

… and you would be right. It’s really a refined version of the original. And while complexity has been added, it’s all been done to both modernize the old livery and to add more meaning into the design itself.

You may all know this already, but I was surprised to learn just how much symbolism is involved.

The two red (and now narrower) stripes on the bottom of the fuselage honor the flag of French Polynesia.

I didn’t even know French Polynesia had its own flag.

Then on the tail, there is the trademark white tiare flower. The way Air Tahiti Nui describes it, the tiare is meant to carry “us into the future while being a proud reminder of our past.”

But the most complex piece is the addition of all those designs on the back half of the fuselage. On the A340 it was just a different shade of blue, but on the 787 it’s an intricate story being told through the “tattoos” that are on the aircraft. I’ll let this image explain what each one means.

The finishing touch? The aircraft tail numbers also put together a story. There will be four 787s in the fleet, and they will be registered F-OMUA (named Moorea), F-ONUI (named Bora Bora), F-OVAA (named Rangiroa), and F-OTOA (named Nuku Hiva). The names are after four of the larger population centers in French Polynesia, but what’s with the random registrations?

The last three letters of those registrations are Tahitian words.

  • MUA – forward
  • NUI – big
  • VAA – canoe
  • TOA – warrior

This comes together to form the sentence, “The warrior (TOA) going forward (MUA) in the great (NUI) canoe (VAA).”

Many believe that the livery matters most to the employees of the airline. If that’s the case, then all these proud, hidden meanings are bound to appeal to those who see the fleet every day. Well done, Air Tahiti Nui.

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16 comments on “The Meaning Behind Air Tahiti Nui’s Livery

  1. Neat airline trivia! Why your blog is head and shoulders above the rest as many devote too much print touting cards.

  2. Any chance of getting a better pic of the rear of the plane in order to actually see those symbolic elements on the aircraft?

  3. Interesting post… although I had to look at the address bar and make sure I hadn’t gone to “Ask the Pilot” by mistake :)

  4. “Air Tahiti Nui, TOA”

    I suppose they could also do a bionicle themed livery too.

    That would really mess with Lego.

  5. Air Tahiti Nui’s names have changed:
    the First 787 F-OMUA is Fakarava ( Atoll of the Tuamotu Archipelago)
    F-ONUI just delivered is Tupaia the first native sailor who went back to Europe with the Captain Cook

  6. I agree that the Tahiti planes looks sharp.

    Do you still dislike the AA livery? I’ve always liked it. I personally think AA should wave the flag. Their name is their biggest asset. They should be proud to be “American.” They should do everything they can to display this pride. Not necessarily in an old-fashioned jingoistic way, but in a modern way that every American customer would be proud to endorse. Like why on earth does American pour foreign wine? Isn’t that nuts? America is, by far, the richest and most successful country is the world. We’re proud of ourselves and the vast majority of the world at least respects us for what we are. American Airlines should strive to be “American.” Including the tail.

    Not that I think management currently appreciates this idea. I think the name is an afterthought to them.

    1. iahphx – Yes, I still dislike it. I know that they can’t do bare metal anymore, but seeing the gleaming MD-80 makes me miss that a lot. And it reinforces that the new livery just looks like a plain gray. The tail is unnecessarily complex, and it still bugs me. I don’t mind the logo or the font at all.

      1. Orange man bad?

        Seriously though, most of us here don’t really care what the rest of the world thinks, it’s all

        “America you guys are warmongers!”


        “America why aren’t you going to attack and blowup $_COUNTRY_HERE they are gassing people!”

        Just because Europe can’t keep their business in order doesn’t mean we should have to be the worlds policeman.

        1. “Just because Europe can’t keep their business in order doesn’t mean we should have to be the worlds policeman”

          No, you shouldn’t. It helps when you don’t try to be, to be honest.

          ‘Seriously though, most of us here don’t really care what the rest of the world thinks’

          Which is why you are in the mess you currently are. Not saying that other countries (my own, for example) aren’t currently becoming a cesspit…

          1. Well at least we agree on that bit.

            I disagree on us being in a mess because of ignoring you lot however; if anything we’re much better off.

            Heck thanks to Trump’s trade policies people in my neck of the woods have seen a return of manufacturing jobs lost due to that crappy nafta nonsense and the crappy economy we had here during the Obama years.

  7. Thank you for telling the story that was in front of us, but we didn’t see. Hats off to Air Tahiti Nui for the positive, unifying symbols!

  8. Interesting insight, never really noticed the tattoos previously.
    Another livery which I find impressive is from “neighbour”(….well they’re only 2000 miles away) Fiji Airways.

    The unique motifs certainly make the plane standout presenting a boldness and pride in the local culture against the increasing blandness of our globalised world. It also jettisoned the previously horrendous Air Pacific colonial outpost kitsch stereotype of what is paradise, clearly drawing a line in the sand that the place was no longer going to be run by the seconded management of the 46% shareholder.

  9. Air Tahiti Nui did the right thing with an updated version of their original livery unlike the horrible update of what Lufthansa did.

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