As one of the fastest modes of transportation, airplanes are a part of our everyday scenery and with their distinct tail patterns and colors; it’s easy to see which plane belongs to which company. But in the past couple of decades airlines have upped their game in terms of aircraft design and livery. Simple exterior paint jobs are no longer the norm and airlines are teaming up with networks, amusement parks and other companies to create giant flying billboards and pieces of art. Not only are the exteriors of planes being revamped but the interiors to match. From Hello Kitty to Disney to Star Wars, here are the 12 best themed planes in the world.
12. Alaska Airlines
It is one of the airlines that make many amazing themed planes and over the years have created two Disney planes, a Make-a-Wish plane and a Spirit of Alaska plane. The Disney planes feature the signature ‘Disneyland’ logo and a multitude of characters including Mickey and Minnie, Goofy and the Cars crew. In 2009 this airline released its Spirit of Alaska Statehood plane, featuring a design by a 16-year-old Sitka student who won a statewide contest to come up with a design that would capture the spirit of the 49th state. The design features a musher and sled dog, canoe, bear, whale, state ferry and a statement that reads “We’re all pulling together”. The design took 48 painters and over 160 gallons of paint to include and the student who designed the artwork even personally signed the plane.
11. Adventure Time, Thai Smile
Thai Smile, a subsidiary of Thai Airways and the Cartoon Network teamed up to create this incredible themed plane after the show Adventure Time, featuring the characters of Finn, Jake and Princess Bubblegum. The plane first took flight in April of 2015 and was created to celebrate the one year anniversary of the Cartoon Network’s waterpark, Amazone. Although the outside paint job is beautiful, it’s inside where Thai Smile has really upped the game. Passengers will find decorated overhead compartments and headrests, along with themed cups, serving trays and even the air-sickness bag. The flight attendants who are dressed in their brightly colored orange uniforms match beautifully with the theme of the plane. Considering the world smile is a part of their name, it’s no surprise that this airline has teamed up with a loveable fun network and we expect more planes like this to come.
10. Star Wars, All Nippon Airways
This airplane hasn’t actually hit the skies yet but it promises to be one of the best themed planes in the world. All Nippon Airways has released the R2-D2 design to fans and the plane is expected to hit the skies in the fall of 2015. This marks the first time a Star Wars character will appear on the exterior of a commercial aircraft. The plane will be covered in the signature blue and silver colors of R2-D2 and feature the Star Wars logo on the side while the cockpit and front half of the plane are designed to look like the shape of the droid. This plane’s unveiling came days after the trailer for the newest Star Wars movie was released and expect to see more planes from All Nippon Airways featuring Star Wars as they signed a five-year ANA Star Wars Project and agreement with The Walt Disney Company (Japan) Ltd.
9. Formula One, Etihad
Etihad and Formula One Abu Dhabi Grand Prix joined forces back in 2009 and created a stunning plane complete F1 livery. The Airbus A340-600 featured a shaded white, black and red background with a checkered flag on its tail and a large ‘F1’ along the side. A smaller Airbus A320 was also painted, this time in full back with the words ‘Formula 1’ stamped across the side and Formula 1 car on its tail. The larger of the two airplanes fly all over the world, ensuring that racing fans get a chance to see it. The good news for fans is the two companies have signed a deal that ensures the sponsorship remains until at least 2021, and you can bet on seeing these planes in the sky until then.
8. Disney Magic Plane, WestJet
This amazing plane is a collaboration of WestJet, WestJet Vacations and Walt Disney Parks & Resorts and was unveiled in December of 2013. The design boasts 36 different colors of paint and took 26 painters working round the clock over 24 days to complete the paint job. Both sides of the plane are mirror images of each other, except for one small detail with Mickey as a sorcerer being the focal point. Inside the magic doesn’t stop as the headrests have been custom designed with star patterns and the cookies they hand out are in the shape of Disney characters. There is just something about seeing Mickey Mouse fly through the air that makes everyone smile.
7. Flower Power, Swiss Airlines
In 2010 Swiss Airlines introduced their “Flower Power” airplane to the skies to celebrate their new flights from Zürich to San Francisco and back. The design is a multitude of colorful flowers with the word San Francisco incorporated into the design. It took only three days, eight people and 400 meters of special film to turn this plain aircraft into a hippie plane of love. Swiss Airlines did something special to come up with this design and took it to a public vote. Three possible designs were presented to readers of the 20 Minuten newspaper, who submitted some 30,000 votes to determine the winning design. The plane flew for over a year with this design throughout the skies. This airbus also happened to be the first in the Swiss fleet to include the new business cabin that featured spacious seating and adjustable cushions.
6. The Simpsons, Western Pacific
Western Pacific Airlines was short-lived, only lasting a mere three years from 1995-1998 but its airplanes were well known with many travelers and enthusiasts for their colorful livery. This airline was the first to put their entire exterior of the plane up for rent as a flying billboard. Many companies loved this idea and the planes featured companies such as hotels, resorts and casinos. The most famous though was the beloved Simpsons livery. Although the interior remained the same, the exterior paint job featured the faces of Bart, Maggie, Homer, Lisa and Marge on the tail along with “The Simpsons” logo on the side. Fans absolutely loved this plane and although it only lasted in the air for about a month, it was perhaps the most photographed plane of this fleet.
5. Pokémon Plane, All Nippon Airways
Before Hello Kitty, there was Pokémon and All Nippon Airways were perhaps the pioneers in cartoon themed airplanes that not only feature livery on the exterior but take things to the next level inside. In 1998 this airline released four jets that featured many of the Pokémon Characters, both inside and out. Passengers were treated to themed headrests, cups, entertainment and souvenir bags. Flight attendant wear specially created Pokémon aprons and passengers can purchase specialized Pokémon paraphernalia onboard. In 2013 two of their jets were retired in a plan to retire their 747’s but the newest “peace jet” that is decked in characters from the Pokémon video games is still in service and flying through the skies.
4. Flying Art, Qantas
For more than two decades Qantas has been dedicated to producing the most striking and original looking aircraft to fly the skies. A total of six aircrafts have been painted in the themes of Wunala Dreaming, Nalanji Dreaming, Yananya Dreaming and the most recent of Mendoowoorrji. All of these themes come from inspiration from the Australian Aboriginals and feature bright colors and intricate designs. The latest one that was delivered into the fleet back in 2013 took over 950 man hours to complete over a five days period and used 500 liters and 125kg of paint. Qantas remains dedicated to this program and promises to introduce more designs as older ones get retired. An already amazing airline makes things even more enjoyable by creating true masterpieces of flying art.
3. The Explanation Plane, Kulula Air
This South African airline has taken the mystery out of planes and answered some of travelers most asked questions about the aircrafts themselves. The exterior of this airplane is covered in text, arrows and pictures explaining what each part is and where it is located. Not to be too serious, the titles of the aircraft parts are coupled with comical comments in brackets, such as the toilets which are labeled as the “mile high club initiation chambers”. The bright green background and the white writing stick with the signature colors of this airline and perhaps the only downfall to this plane is when you are actually inside, you won’t be able to read any of the amazing commentary on the exterior.
2. Hobbit Plane, Air New Zealand
Air New Zealand is no stranger to the themed airplane game and is known around the world for releasing some of the greatest safety videos and livery. With their slew of Hobbit Planes flying through the sky, Air New Zealand has gone one step further than just painting their planes in amazing themes. They have released not one but two Hobbit themed safety videos that actually play as the safety briefing. The most recent one is being called “The Most Epic Safety Video Ever Made” and features eagles, elves, dwarves, hobbits, wizards and creatures of Mordor, as well as cameos from Elijah Wood (Frodo) and director Peter Jackson. It is not just about getting to board a plane featuring a giant dragon; it is about truly feeling as you are in Middle Earth once aboard the plane. Well done Air New Zealand, well done.
1. Hello Kitty, EVA Airways
There are now a total of seven Hello Kitty themed jets and EVA Airways is certainly number one when it comes to taking this adventure to a whole new level. First up these jets actually have their own website where you can track them, cross reference them with your booking information, see what amenities they offer and even purchase your own Hello Kitty Apparel. The adventure starts at the airport where the check-in screens and boarding passes are all decked out in this theme. Once on the plane passengers are greeted by flight attendants in pink Hello Kitty Aprons and as you make your way to your seat, you will notice the Hello Kitty headrests, pillows and safety cards. Mealtime brings edible Hello Kitty food, themed cutlery and branded cups and plates. Even the bathroom is carefully decorated in Hello Kitty toilet paper and hand wash. EVA Airways has certainly outdone themselves.