Ranking the Best Special and Original Liveries Around The World

Photo: G-BUSJ 1 Airbus A320-211 British Airways (Australia World Tail) MAN 21SEP98. Photo Credit: Ken Fielding via Flickr

Throughout the history of aviation airlines around the world have always delivered bold and unique liveries and designs on their aircraft. While these days we tend to globally see the “euro white” look as its sometimes dubbed, we have been treated to some incredible designs over the years.

In this article, we will be taking a dive back into history as we take a look at some of the most iconic brands and special liveries from around the world as we give our take on what the most iconic design was and how the others rank compared.

10) Southwest Airlines

While this livery isn’t the most exciting on our list is certainly iconic and has a design and look known around the world. It is not only one of the oldest airlines in the world but it is often regarded as one of the original founders of the LCC (Low-cost carriers) model that is used so regularly today.

Photo: Southwest Airlines operating out of McCarran Airport, 2013. Photo Credit: By Tomás Del Coro, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=58247014

09) Qantas’ aboriginal Livery

This is maybe more of a personal choice to be ranked so highly compared to others around the world, but for us, the aboriginal livery is an incredible artistic design. It is truly unique in its design and looks and a worthy contender for the number 9 spot on our list.

By Edward Russell – https://www.flickr.com/photos/erussell1984/12713499533/, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=31858033

08) KLM Retro Livery

This is maybe a bit of an outside choice for some aviators, however, we believe this is one of the most iconic retro liveries to have existed outside of the U.S.

The blue stopped tail and uniquely two-tone design that the aircraft was painted in could certainly turn a few heads at the airport.

While you might feel it doesn’t quite belong in the top 10 globally, we feel the number 8 slot is the perfect place for this unique design.

By Simon Boddy, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=31619555

07) United Airlines Retro and “Friend Ship”

When it comes to United Airlines this felt like an easy decision to place them at number 7 on the list. Over the years the carrier has had some truly iconic livery designs, but for us, these two are the best they did.

It would be impossible to place one livery over the other for United Airlines, so for that reason we have added both in as joint 7th on our list.

06) British Airways’ “World Tails”

These ones aren’t so iconic as they are truly unique. There has never been anything similar done by another airline since, the colourful and special designs were put onto around half of British Airways’ entire fleet, and celebrated the countries to which the carrier served through special designs made by community artists around the world.

It was introduced in 1997 and was visible until almost 2 decades later when British Airways made the decision to fully convert to the “Chattem Dockyard” livery that is so well known around the world today.

05) British Airways “Landor”

Sticking with British Airways as we enter the top 5, we think the “Landor” livery is a worthy owner of this spot.

ReIntroduced onto one of the Airlines’ Boeing 747-400s during their 100-year celebrations, many aviators got to see the UK’s flag carrier return the iconic blue-tailed design to the skies once again, with an even greater number of younger aviators enjoying the design for the first time.

Unfortunately, we would not get to enjoy the iconic design for long, as COVID-19 saw the airline make the decision to finally retire their entire 747 fleet early in favour of returning their A380s and placing a greater long-term focus on using their Dreamliners and A350-1000 aircraft as their new flagships.

Photo: British Airways “Landor” G-BNLY seen parked up at Bournemouth Airport, UK, during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Photo Credit: Thomas Saunders/ AviationSource


04) Delta Air Lines Retro

Moving away as we make out the final rundown on the top four we head stateside, with Delta Air Lines coming in on our list at spot 4 for their retro livery.

This is the most iconic retro look for us with Delta Air Lines, with their later liveries and designs not really coming close to this design.

03) Qatar Airways Retro special

This one for us is perhaps not the most iconic of retro liveries but is the perfect design to bring us into the top 3.

It is one of the most loved special retro liveries brought back onto one of the airline’s 777 aircraft and somehow hits the perfect blend of modern and retro in its design.

Photo: Qatar Airways retro Boeing 777 seen taking off from a wet Manchester Airport, UK. Photo Credit: Harrison Rowe/ AviationSource

02) TWA (Trans World Airlines)

Despite the carrier ceasing operations when it was purchased by American Airlines back on December 1, 2001.

TWA was one of the most iconic names and airlines around at the time. Founded in 1930 it served the US and global market from its hubs are Atlanta, Denver-Stapleton, New York JFK, Pittsburgh, San Juan and St. Louis.

The carrier was such an icon it eventually had the TWA hotel built and opened up in its name at New York JFK, a must-see and stop-off destination for aviation Lovers travelling to or through JFK airport.

By Steve Fitzgerald – Gallery page http://www.airliners.net/photo/Trans-World-Airlines/Boeing-747-131/2221755/LPhoto http://cdn-www.airliners.net/aviation-photos/photos/5/5/7/2221755.jpg, GFDL 1.2, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=27374093

01) American Airlines All Metal look

Coming in at our top spot is American Airlines all metal livery. It is considered by many as the most iconic look an airline ever operated.

The carrier would eventually remove it to move back to full body paint jobs as the rising costs of cleaning the aircraft in order to prolong the life of the metal became too expensive.

Despite its rather basic look compared to other liveried on this list, aviators from around the world regard it as one of the best liveries to ever exist.

By InSapphoWeTrust from Los Angeles, California, USA – American Airlines – N335AA, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=24264630
By Tomos Howells - Chief Executive Officer 9 Min Read
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