An aircraft livery- the colourful graphic insignia painted on an aircraft - is a tradition in commercial aviation and to this day is perhaps the most distinctive and significant characteristic of an airline.
A painting an aircraft livery is a job of epic proportions. It can take up to two weeks with a team of 30 people, depending on the size of the aircraft, and the largest wide-body planes such as a Boeing 777 can cost over £100k to complete.*1
Airlines have become ever more creative with livery designs; some of the most fantastic include Japan’s All Nippon Airways (ANA) Star Wars themed Boeing 787 Dreamliners; or Air New Zealand’s series of liveries to promote the new ‘Hobbit’ films, as the official airline of Middle Earth.
Christmas is one of the most celebrated airline holidays and is often accompanied by a special livery. We’ve rounded up a few of the best…
For almost a quarter of a century, the Finnish national carrier has been the Official Airline of Santa Claus, so it is no wonder that for Christmas 2014, the airline celebrated by marking with two Airbus A321 aircraft with a vintage Santa stamp-style hallmark Christmas livery and launched their viral #officialairlineofsanta social competition.
Very soon, we will say farewell to Air Berlin’s livery in favour of a Lufthansa Crane or orange tailfin, but in a previous era the carrier was the first German airline to have a Christmas aircraft.
Air Berlin’s ‘Flying Home for Christmas’ campaign has seen Air Berlin aircraft decorated in a variety of festive designs over the years.
In 2013 Air Berlin presented their new Christmas Plane in Hangar 7 at Dusseldorf airport. The Boeing 737-800 was known as the "Merry Santa" Christmas aircraft and the design along the fuselage featured a candle-like light for each day of Advent.
Another livery we’ve said farewell to this year is Thomson Airways, which has recently rebranded as TUI - having merged with the German travel group in 2014 - and has been flying with a new livery since summer 2017.
But back in 2010 Thomson painted Boeing 757 and 737 aircraft in a ‘Merry Christmas’ livery including antlers and holly – but as many eagle-eyed aviators have noticed, the nose of the 737 does not match the rest of the aircraft body.
The oldest livery on the list, legacy airline British Airways said “Happy Christmas” in a youthful hand-drawn style edition in 1994 on a B737 aircraft. Long gone are the days of Boeing short-haul flying at British Airways as the fleet ever transitions to Airbus, and this Christmas aircraft in particular went on to live in new paint at Aerolineas and then Aloha airlines. Today it rests in Victorville Airport in California, a logistics airport and transitional facility for large commercial aircraft.*2
True to type, Ryanair have taken a typical tongue-in-cheek approach when it comes to its Christmas liveries. Perhaps the most iconic is the ‘Santa Strike’, painted on the nose of a B737-200. It was so satirical, that for a while many who hadn’t seen it for themselves believed it was a joke livery!
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