The world's best-looking aircraft liveries

By David Flynn, May 14 2013
The world's best-looking aircraft liveries

You don't need to be a planespotter to appreciate a great-looking airline livery – a stylish paintjob that turns heads at even the most crowded airport.

An airline's livery is cornerstone to its brand image, and fresh liveries are part of rebrandings – such as Virgin Blue relaunching as Virgin Australia, or Air Pacific morphing into Fiji Airways – or even a refresh, such as a more streamlined kangaroo on the tail of Qantas jets.

TheDesignAir website (one of our favourite sites where aviation geek meets design chic) has put together a list of this year's Top 10 airline liveries.

There's a bit of a lean towards the 'long white fuselage' look, which is not to everyone's liking, but it's undeniably on-trend for airline designers.

Here are the first five liveries on TheDesignAir list, along with the website's explanation for each one's place on the ladder.

1. Fiji Airways

To crown the amazing six airlines of the Pacific Rim that have made it into our Top 10 liveries this year, is the stunning Fiji Airways livery.

What we applaud the most here is the dramatic change from their current image, and a purposeful return to its roots.

Read: Air Pacific's first Airbus A330 in new 'Fiji Airways' livery (with new seats, too) 

This wonderful ‘heritage-bound’ national design using pacific tribal patterns and emblems show a proud cultural image that will stand out at its international destination airports of Sydney, Auckland, Hong Kong and Los Angeles.

It appears as something still exotic, and whilst on a ‘Eurowhite fuselage’ it could have had the fate of many new liveries, and appear bland and simplistic – but it’s actually got a strong logotype, bold tailfin and interesting nacelles, that draw the eye all over the well balanced airframe.

Airlines like Fiji Airways shows that we still are producing wonderful, inspiring liveries even today.

2. Hawaiian Airlines

Still one of the most elegant and beautiful airlines around.

The addition of Pualani (roughly translated, Heavenly Flower) on the tail has really given it a historic and culturally connected image. However the use of the leaf motif and the bright purple and pink colours make it feel exotic and modern.

I’m glad they’ve used a custom typeface that mimics something a little more ‘Pacific’ compared to it’s North American counterparts and it’s clean white frame on which the designs are placed really lifts the whole look of the aircraft.

There really isn’t anything like seeing the fleet from your plane’s window in Honolulu to make you feel like you’ve arrived somewhere really special. 

3. O’hana by Hawaiian

We fell in love with this livery when we first saw it this year. The airline has invested into its cultural heritage to create a truly inspirational and complete design.

It was an artwork crafted with heart and spirit by Hawaiian Sig Zane, rather than by a branding agency, and the backstory to the livery is awe-inspiring for any designer to watch.

The brand is synonymous with Hawaiian Airlines, yet has it’s own unique story and message to impart. We can’t wait to see these planes take to the air soon. 

4. Asiana

Still a truly wonderful design, (and seems imitation is the highest form of flattery, as Avianca recently showed off their new colours, with what appears to be a hint of the Asiana scheme there).

The height of modernity and its use of grey-taupe and brighter red yellow and blues shows a unique look and feel and also gives a real sense of the airline being a luxury business player.

The tail fin design resembles the petals of a flower and the overlay of colours gives the design a more delicate touch.

The one thing that really shows up on this concept is the simple red arrow on the fuselage and this really counters what would otherwise feel an unbalanced and over simplified design. 

5. Starflyer

Starflyer is one of the slickest and sharp liveries out there. It’s a paint-job that makes the airline look more 'private jet' than low-cost carrier.

The monochromatic look is elegant, and for a Japanese Airline is very refined. This killer-livery might resemble a killer whale, but the effect in our eyes is brilliant.

The clever elements here are within the subtlety of the branding, especially for a low cost carrier. A clean modern typeface is under-played on the fuselage, and the SF logo on both nacelles and tailfin, are clean, elegant and refined.

Whilst some carriers have historically shied away from black paintwork due to the heat effect it has on the fuselage, heating up the cabin, this airline has happily made the choice to make an impact instead.

Click through to TheDesignAir website for the rest of their Top 10 list.

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David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

23 Aug 2012

Total posts 130

Have to agree that Fiji Airways have a really nice livery, it's so refreshing and looks way better than the Air Pacific livery that was previously used.The QF planes painted with aboriginal art is pretty unique in its own way as well.

10 Mar 2011

Total posts 526

Can't say that I think Starflyer's livery is really all that but the others in the list are certainly some of the best. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

04 Oct 2012

Total posts 149

I personally am suprised Emirates isn't in there!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

30 Dec 2012

Total posts 66

I too am surprised no EK planes. But also why there is no TG (theirs is similar to Hawaiian)...

I am a little bias, but PIA also has some good livery...


29 Apr 2013

Total posts 4

Stop promoting extremism and terrorism. Australia is not a place for extremists! PIA is like some flying banner for terrorists!

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

23 May 2012

Total posts 268

AusFlyer and Amjid, I feel the Emirates livery is quite plain. Although it has a lot of meaning, it might make it to the top 10 but the top 5 (with the exclusion of Asiana) are pretty well-selected.

What about the all black Air NZ 777? Love seeing those at LAX. 


Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 May 2011

Total posts 732

I think the article focusses on "permanent" liveries and not "one offs" as the NZ all black or QF dream liveries. Have to agree, NZ All Black is pretty stunning. Personally i also find EY quite nice in with their pearl fuselage.


04 Nov 2010

Total posts 670

Quite a bit of bias towards planes with white bellies, and that's what many seem to have these days. Virgin Australia is also in that vein, quite 'minimalistic'. But everyone seems to be in love with the Fiji Airways livery and I agree, it is very stunning!

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

15 Aug 2012

Total posts 171

Some nice looking planes, like what Fiji had done by shaking the 80's look.

But I think what's inside counts for more, however the look of the plane is a statement more than anything.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

05 Jan 2012

Total posts 335

Hey Ausbt, you can't go past Kulula Airways can you? :) 

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

23 May 2012

Total posts 268

Wow, very impressed with Ohana. The Ohana website has a detailed description and video on the design. The Fiji Airways livery is really nice but I do feel it's a little plain, and the Asiana livery doesn't impress me at all. 

I think there should be awards when it comes to the look and feel of the cabin which is what most airlines invest into. The Boeing Sky Interior is very good in setting the mood for guests. If there were awards for the best cabin, you really can't go pass Virgin Australia's economy class. The mixed colours in the headrests, combined with Boeing's amazing Sky Interior and bright mood lighting really is a winner.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

20 Nov 2012

Total posts 68

I think the ANA livery is pretty nice too.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

20 Nov 2012

Total posts 41

Aeroflot has a very nice livery too.

26 May 2011

Total posts 62

Gulf Air is pretty stunning. On the outside at least :-)


Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

20 Jul 2011

Total posts 16

Check out Air India Express. The livery reflects the Indian culture & each plane in the fleet is unique. Got to see one of them at KUL recently & it looked stunning. Air India Express is the budget arm of Air India.  

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

03 Aug 2013

Total posts 8

I don't mind Thai Airways' Livery. Not that bad

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