Amazing Airplane Paint JobsKulula Airlines
The airlines call them liveries, but we call them fun! Take a visual tour of some of the best custom paint jobs in the sky.
South Africa’s Kulula Airlines may be small, but it has a jet-sized sense of humor. Check out this paint scheme that points out everything from the black box to the loo. Their humor extends to their website, as well, where you’ll find such gems as this from the section on unaccompanied minors: "Unfortunately, we do not cater for unaccompanied kiddies on our flights. Your little monsters must travel with someone who can keep an eye on them." Kulula is a regional carrier based in Johannesburg.
Inspired by the dramatic colors of sunset on Uluru — also known as Ayers Rock — this Boeing 747-400 owned by Qantas represents one of the many dreamtime journeys of Australia’s aboriginal people. A wunala is a kangaroo, seen painted on the nose cone, among other places. The artwork blends ancient patterns and symbols with modern technology: Both aboriginal and nonaboriginal artists transferred the design from the computer to the airplane.
Seattle-based Alaska Airlines flies approximately 30 million pounds of Alaska seafood to destinations in North America and Mexico each year, so in celebration the airline painted a 737 with a silvery king salmon. It took 30 painters and airbrush experts 24 days to complete the elaborate livery, which used up 140 gallons of paint, twice the normal amount. Since it first started flying in 2005, the Salmon-Thirty-Salmon has flown more than 1 million passengers, who are also treated to custom-painted overhead bins with halibut, sea stars and other fishy images.
Each winter, FinnAir adds a friendly Santa Claus to its fleet, appropriate considering that it flies to Rovaniemi, the capital of Finnish Lapland. This Arctic Circle city is perhaps more famous for being home to Santa Claus Village. Not into meeting Santa? Travelers can also play ice golf, go on a snowmobile safari and try sautéed reindeer.
Meet Buddy the Badger, the latest member of Frontier Airlines’ stable of animals featured on the tails of its fleet of Airbus aircraft. He joined Larry the Lynx, Trixie the Red Fox, Grizwald the Bear and more than 50 other critters after Frontier Airlines merged with Wisconsin-based Midwest Airlines. His name was chosen by people in Wisconsin after a monthlong naming campaign.
The bear is the official symbol and ambassador of Berlin, and bears can be seen everywhere in the German capital: on the city flag, the city coat of arms and postage stamps, and in front of coffee shops and embassies. It can also seen on Germanwings’ Airbus A319, aka the Berlin BearBus. Germanwings is a discount regional carrier that flies to 75 destinations around Europe.
State flag themes are a specialty of Southwest Airlines, which honors the destinations it serves with a unique aircraft. Florida One, the Boeing 737 shown here, joins a fleet of planes featuring the flags of Illinois, Arizona, Texas, Nevada, California and New Mexico. The airline serves seven Florida cities, including Tampa Bay, West Palm Beach and Panama City Beach, and carries 20 percent of all traffic into the state.
The All Blacks
Rugby is a big deal in New Zealand, which will host the Rugby World Cup starting in September. The national team is the All Blacks, and they got a huge shout-out from Air New Zealand recently with this A320 painted in the team colors. The plane can be seen on domestic routes in New Zealand this spring. For a real treat, watch the All Blacks do the traditional Maori haka war dance before a game.
Passengers on Southwest Airlines’ Shamu One get to ride in the belly of the beast — a plane painted like an orca to honor the airline’s ongoing partnership with SeaWorld. Employees of SeaWorld recently brought some special guests onboard, namely penguins that were catching a ride to the San Diego park. Watch videos of the cute birds stretching their flippers up and down the aisles.
When Swiss International Airlines launched its new nonstop Zurich to San Francisco service last summer, it celebrated with a fun and funky '70s paint job. The "flower power" Airbus 340 — the largest in Swiss Air’s fleet — will be flying for a year, so keep an eye out for peace and paisley if you fly through the Bay Area. A bonus if you book a flight to Zurich: The business-class seats can be adjusted to your preferred firmness.
In April 2008, AirTran Airways transformed a Boeing 717 into AirTranica to pay tribute to one of its sports endorsers, Danica Patrick, the first female driver to win an IndyCar race. While the plane is no longer flying, Patrick keeps collecting accolades: Already this year she became the first woman to lead a lap at the Daytona International Speedway, and she placed fourth in the NASCAR Nationwide Series in Las Vegas.
The Pink Plane
In 2003, Delta painted its first plane pink in support of the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, and in 2010 it unveiled a new Boeing 767-400 and set off on an international tour to promote cancer prevention and a cure. The Pink Plane has been busy: It logged more than 2 million miles in 2010, enough to circle the globe 84 times, and frequently made special visits carrying breast-cancer survivors. Last year, Delta’s passengers and employees donated more than $1 million to the foundation.
Spirit of Disneyland II
If you fly Alaska Airlines on the West Coast, you may see the Spirit of Disneyland II painted with Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Donald Duck and Pluto. This festive plane was inspired by the airlines’ partnership with Disney and the Make-A-Wish Foundation: On its inaugural flight in December 2009 three children boarded the plane for Disneyland to have their wishes fulfilled. This 737-900 is the fourth Disney-themed aircraft for the Seattle-based airline.
Pokemon and Pikachu
The first anime-themed aircraft, rolled out in 1998 by All Nippon Airlines, was so popular with travelers that the airline launched four more. Fans of Pokemon, Jigglypuff, Squirtle, Mew and the gang can get their anime fix on the interior of these planes as well: The Pokemon theme is used on the headrests, drinking cups and attendants’ aprons. All Nippon Airlines is the largest airline in Japan and flies to 76 domestic and international cities including New York, L.A., San Francisco, Chicago and Washington, D.C.
What do you get when you cross an AirAsia jet with an NFL football team? An Oakland Raiders-themed airplane complete with cheerleaders and an eye patch. This black-and-silver Airbus A340 is part of the discount Malaysian airline's fleet, and is one of the many ways the football team is reaching audiences worldwide. (The team’s website has translations available in five languages, including Tagalog.) The unique partnership includes an annual giveaway of 1,000 free seats to Raiders home games.
The Party Plane
Horizon Air creates a lot of sports-team liveries to celebrate college teams such as the Oregon State Beavers, the Montana State Bobcats, the University of Idaho Vandals and the University of Washington Huskies. However, one of the Seattle-based airline’s most colorful paint jobs was for the Party Plane, which honored its 25th anniversary in 2006, complete with streamers and confetti. Although the anniversary has come and gone, this Bombardier Q400 is still flying in the Horizon fleet.