Look, up in the air! It’s a Hello Kitty, R2D2 and…a flying salmon? Airline liveries are usually pretty ho-hum, but some companies know how to put the fun back in flying with colorful characters and eye-catching exterior paint schemes. Here are a few of our favorites.Star Wars -- ANA
Disney -- Alaska Air
Alaska Air’s Disney-themed planes aren’t anything new, but you can’t help but smile when you see one. The carrier has four designs -- Magic of Disneyland, featuring Tinkerbell; Spirit of Disneyland, decorated with Mickey and the gang; Spirit of Make-A-Wish, sporting the Genie from Aladdin; and Adventure of Disneyland, based on the movie Cars. If that’s not enough fun, Alaska Air also boasts aircraft with Alaska statehood, Spirit of the Islands, Portland Timbers, and salmon motifs.
All Black -- Air New Zealand
For a while now, Air New Zealand has been known as “The Official Airline of Middle Earth,” capitalizing on the locally-filmed Lord of the Ring franchise with decals of the movies’ characters. In 2014, the company added a black 787 Dreamliner with a white fern on the tail to its line-up to celebrate the success of New Zealand’s national rugby team, the All-Blacks.
Fun fact: Alaska Air also has a line of 11 university-themed airlines, including Oregon State University and the University of Alaska Anchorage
Hello Kitty -- EVA Air
Eva Air celebrated the 40th anniversary of Hello Kitty by going cat-crazy. The Taiwan-based carrier currently has seven themed airlines with names like Hello Kitty Loves Apples and Hello Kitty Happy Music. Inside, stewardesses wear pink aprons emblazoned with Hello Kitty, the headrest covers and pillows bear the character’s likeness, and even the menu was created with the bewhiskered creature in mind.
More cartoon animals: He might not be as well-known in the United States as Hello Kitty, but Tintin will appear on the exterior of Brussels Airlines flights through 2019.
Marimekko -- Finnair
For years, Finnish design company Marimekko’s bold prints have given Finnair’s interior elements, including its dinnerware, its distinctive look, but in 2012, the carrier carried the design to the exterior of an Airbus 340 when it painted it with Marimekko’s famous blue Unikko print. Recently, the company painted a second plane, this one an Airbus 330, with a previously unseen Anniversary Unikko print.
Local Culture -- Hawaiian Airlines
When Hawaiian Airlines launched a fleet of interisland turboprops, the carrier wanted to give its new subsidiary its own name and look. They decided to call it Ohana, meaning family in Hawaiian. For the look, they turned to local artist Sig Zane and his son, Kuhao. The two based the design on the shape created by the company’s flight map. Within the shape, they honored native culture with patterns depicting the traditional symbols for Piko (ancestry), Manu (a bird in flight), and Kalo (family). The overall affect is beautiful.
Similar: Fiji Airways features artwork inspired by traditional Fijian Masi art that highlights local culture.