Why Do Airlines Paint Special Liveries On Aircraft?

The paint scheme on the side of an aircraft is incredibly important. It acts as the airline’s identity, letting everybody know who operates that plane. However, sometimes airlines like to go off-road with special liveries.

ANA A380 Special Livery
ANA’s Airbus A380s are painted in a special turtle livery. Photo: Tom Boon – Simple Flying

Special liveries can be applied to aircraft for a variety of reasons. These could range from sponsorship deals to celebrating history, to recognising important milestones. In fact, the possibilities are seemingly endless. While they can be useful for the airlines, however, it is aviation enthusiasts that love special liveries the most, sometimes going out of their way to spot one in particular. Let’s take a look at some of the reasons airlines paint special liveries on aircraft.


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, Lufthansa was the first airline to operate the Airbus A320neo. As such, one of the carrier’s Airbus A320neos, D-AINC, has a special livery marking this. On the side, it says “First to fly A320neo. Less Noise. Less Fuel. Less CO2.”

Lufthansa A320neo Special Livery
Lufthansa’s “first to fly A320neo” livery. Photo: Tom Boon – Simple Flying

However, Lufthansa is not alone. In December of 2018, Boeing delivered its 787th Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft to China Southern. To mark the milestone, the aircraft was painted with a special “787th Boeing 787” livery.

Boeing 787 Dreamliner Special livery
Boeing’s 787th 787 Dreamliner has a special livery. Photo: Boeing


Additionally, airlines can choose to paint special liveries on their aircraft to mark their history. These aircraft are, in fact, known as retro jets. To see a high profile example of retro jets, we need to look no further than British Airways, who this year is celebrating its 100th birthday.

British Airways Boeing 747 Negus
A British Airways Boeing 747 repainted in the carrier’s old Negus livery. Photo: Tom Boon – Simple Flying

As part of its celebrations, the British Flag carrier repainted four aircraft in liveries from the airline’s past. This included the BOAC livery, the BEA livery, the Landor livery, and the Negus livery.

British Airways Boeing 747 BOAC
BA’s BOAC livery was a real crowd-pleaser. Photo: Tom Boon – Simple Flying


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. As a result of the partnership, the airline flies one of its aircraft in the Borussia Dortmund colour scheme.

Borussia Dortmund Eurowings
Eurowings has an aircraft in the colours of German football team Borussia Dortmund. Photo: Eurowings

However, football teams aren’t the only special liveries you will find on the side of aircraft. Films and TV series are also a popular addition to aircraft liveries. Japan’s All Nippon Airways is a great example of this. In a partnership with the Star Wars films, the airline has a few special Star Wars liveries on aircraft including this R2-D2 livery:

ANA Star Wars Livery
Meanwhile, ANA has painted some impressive Star Wars liveries on its aircraft. Photo: blackqualis via Wikimedia

Which livery is your favourite? Let us know in the comments!