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Why do Airlines have Special Liveries?

Despite the fact that many flyers will choose their carrier based on the price, route, and convenience of departure, branding and marketing are big business for airlines, they spend huge amounts of money on this exercise.

Indeed, in order to establish a successful brand, the airline needs to deliver what it promises in its brand values proposition. Brand awareness is largely influenced by visual clues that an airline shows to the public, they can take the form of a company name, logo, colour or font that is uniquely related with the company and impacts on brand knowledge, equity and awareness (Keller, 2003).

Perhaps, aircraft liveries are one of the most visible and familiar expressions of an airline’s brand and corporate identity (Budd, 2012). This consists of a combination of colour painting schemes, airline name and logo that are applied to the fuselage, wing tips and tailfin of aircraft.

From a branding perspective, the design needs to accurately represent the airline’s values and characteristics. The livery is designed to promote the key brand values of the airline and visually distinguish its aircraft from those of its competitors. Furthermore, the design must work with and complement the physical shape and form of the aircraft itself. The livery makes the fuselage vulnerable to corrosion, dirt, friction, solar radiation, and other effects on high altitude (Taylor, Pitfield and Budd, 2013).

From a traveller's point of view, an effective livery should stand out both high in the sky and on a crowded, cluttered tarmac—from artistically designed color schemes to highly refined graphic icons that simply but effectively transcend geography, culture, and language to communicate universal themes.

When it comes to special liveries, they can be applied to aircraft for a variety of reasons. These could include sponsorship agreements, historical celebrations, and the acknowledgment of significant anniversaries. In fact, there are countless opportunities. but aviation enthusiasts are often more interested in unique liveries and will go out of their way to spot one.

Each livery project has its own set of highlights and recognitions. A strong livery program must cater to a variety of interests and criteria. Let's look at some of the reasons why airlines paint special liveries on their planes.


Milestones are a great reason to create a special livery for aircraft. Quite often, a special milestone livery will tell people exactly what is special about that particular plane. For example, to mark the occasion of the FIFA World Cup in Qatar in a couple of weeks, Qatar Airways have hand-painted a special livery on its B777-300.

This aircraft was showcased at Farnborough International Airshow 2022, and delighted thousands of attendees by offering tours onboard the state-of-the-art aircraft, equipped with the World’s Best Business Class, Qsuite.


Airlines can also decide to paint unique liveries on their aircraft to commemorate their history. In fact, these planes are referred to as retro jets. To see a prominent example of retro jets, we need look no further than British Airways, which celebrated its 100th birthday in 2019. The British Flag carrier painted four aircraft in vintage liveries as part of its celebrations. This applied to BOAC livery, the BEA livery, the Landor livery, and the Negus livery.


Another reason why airlines may repaint aircraft in special liveries is to do with sponsorship deals. German low-cost carrier Eurowings has a partnership with the German football team Borussia Dortmund. The airline now flies one of its aircraft in the Borussia Dortmund color scheme as a result of the partnership.

However, football teams aren't the only special liveries you will find on the side of aircraft. Aircraft liveries frequently incorporate imagery from movies and television shows. Japan's All Nippon Airways is a great example of this. The airline has a few unique Star Wars liveries on aircraft as part of a collaboration with the Star Wars movies.

Emergency services and armed forces

JetBlue is one of several US-based carriers to pay tribute to the country's military, doing so with a paint scheme known as Vets In Blue. The airline explains that, with this livery, “we honor our vets and military every single day – in the sky and on the ground." It can be found on an Airbus A320 registered as N775JB.


Airlines do sometimes paint entire planes with simple designs. Condor unveiled a new livery, taking the cover of its new striped color scheme. A large portion of the airline's fleets are A320, A321, A330 and B757 will be painted in the striped theme. Green, yellow, blue, red, or beige paint will be used to decorate the aircraft.

This new livery is not only intended to emphasize that the airline is a leisure carrier, as apparently “vacation is stripes” but also used for promotional purposes, which helps to and stay competitive.

“Inspired by parasols, bath towels and beach chairs, Condor is evolving into a distinctive and unique vacation airline” , said by CEO of Condor.


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