As airlines and airplanes have evolved, so have their “liveries” – the exterior designs, including paint colors and logos, on the aircraft.
As planes crisscross the globe, their exterior graphics not only represent the companies that operate them but in many instances also serve as visual ambassadors for their respective homelands.
A great airline livery gives onlookers a taste of a carrier’s values or its culture’s ethos in an attractive and effective color scheme.
After compiling opinions from all corners, here’s a selection of 16 airline exterior designs that look simply amazing. (Note that the numbers do not represent ranking)
16. Wow Air (Iceland)
Since the airline’s founding in 2014, WOW has made headlines for its low prices. However, the Icelandic ultra low-cost carrier’s bright fuchsia paint job has proven to be equally attention grabbing.
15. Malaysia Airlines
Even though the A380’s future in the airline’s fleet remains uncertain, the plane’s blue and white livery is unquestionably beautiful.
14. Etihad (Abu Dhabi, UAE)
Over the past decade, the Etihad has become a global aviation powerhouse and one of the Persian Gulf’s trio of mega-carriers. The Abu Dhabi-based airline’s sandy paint scheme features multi-colored geometric shapes representing the shifting desert dunes surround the emirate.
13. Virgin Atlantic (UK)
As with all Virgin Group companies, Virgin Atlantic carries Richard Branson’s signature corporate logo. Even though it’s been around in various iterations for a few of decades now, the design still looks as modern and stylish as it did on the day it debuted.
12. Garuda Indonesia
You need to fly over the Indonesian archipelago on a clear day to notice how the tones of green and blue in the water below are reflected in Garuda Indonesia’s tonal brand identity. It's just so right.
11. Swissair (Switzerland)
Swiss International's white-and-red design is pure understated style.
10. Fiji Airways (Fiji)
It is the national airline of Fiji. Its tribal-esque exterior is evocative of the island's rich native culture.
9. Kulula (South Africa)
This South African low-cost carrier has built quite a reputation for interesting liveries, but its best effort so far is the 'Flying 101' design that doubles as a teaching tool for anyone interested in the different parts of an airliner.
8. Air Seychelles (Republic of Seychelles)
Air Seychelles is the national airline for the eponymous small island nation situated off the coast of Africa. Its stunning livery consists of a pair of 'fairy terns' flowing amid a sea of tropical colors.
7. Hawaiian Airlines (US)
Even 40 years after its founding, the airline's trademark Pualani (Flower of the Sky) logo is still the most beautiful and distinctive in the business.
6. Qantas (Australia)
The Qantas ‘Roo’ has been part of the brand since October 1944, and has gone through a few incarnations, including the famous ‘winged kangaroo’ designed by Gert Sellheim. However, since 1984, the livery has remained pretty much unchanged, with only small tweaks to the design in 1995 and 2007. The large red tail with White Roo silhouette and the bold QANTAS logotype are the only simple adornments to an otherwise white aircraft.
5. Air New Zealand (New Zealand)
Its ‘All Black’ fern livery is the smartest of all. Still featuring the Koru, the new black and white livery is just a few small changes away from perfection, and the completely black one is certainly the better of the two differing designs found on Air New Zealand’s fleet.
4. American Airlines (US)
American’s shiny, polished, unpainted planes are quite unlike any other airline’s. The abstract rendition of the American flag on the tail is also a striking and recognizable visual asset for American
3. British Airways (UK)
Since early 2008, the Speedmarque and stylised Union Jack have become iconic images associated with the premium carrier.
2. KLM (Netherlands)
KLM has recently refreshed its livery, which had remained mainly unchanged for a few decades. The longevity of the previous livery, along with the iconic duotone blue and white color-blocked fuselages, makes KLM easily identifiable around the world. The recent change, dropping the cheat line around the front of the aircraft, has added a touch of modernity to an otherwise timeless fleet.
1. Icelandic Air (Iceland)
Not only is the livery of Icelandair's Boeing 757's Hekla Aurora design impressive, cabin lighting inside the plane also mimics the Northern Lights.
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