Finance The 16 coolest airline paint jobs in the world

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A great airline livery is able to give onlookers a taste of the company or its culture's ethos in an attractive and effective design.

A Virgin Atlantic Boeing 747-400. play

A Virgin Atlantic Boeing 747-400.

(Flickr/Tomás Del Coro)
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  • An airline's paint scheme offers onlookers a taste of a carrier's values or its culture's ethos.
  • Some airlines update paint schemes once every few years while others remain unchanged for decades.
  • A successful design can make an airline instantly recognizable. Think Pan Am.

As airlines and airplanes have evolved, so have their "liveries" — the exterior designs, including paint colors and logos, on the aircraft.

As planes crisscross the globe, their exterior graphics not only represent the companies that operate them but in many instances also serve as visual ambassadors for their respective homelands.

A great airline livery gives onlookers a taste of a carrier's values or its culture's ethos in an attractive and effective color scheme.

Airlines like Southwest, Spirit, and American have updated their liveries in recent years, with mixed results.

Others have hit home runs. Here's a selection of 16 airline exterior designs that look simply amazing.

16. WOW Air. Since the airline's founding in 2014, WOW has made headlines for its low prices. However, the Icelandic ultra low-cost carrier's bright fuchsia paint job has proven to be equally attention grabbing.

16. WOW Air. Since the airline's founding in 2014, WOW has made headlines for its low prices. However, the Icelandic ultra low-cost carrier's bright fuchsia paint job has proven to be equally attention grabbing. play

16. WOW Air. Since the airline's founding in 2014, WOW has made headlines for its low prices. However, the Icelandic ultra low-cost carrier's bright fuchsia paint job has proven to be equally attention grabbing.

(WOW)


15. British Airways: With a waving Union Jack adorning the tail, British Airways delivers a modern take on traditional British elegance.

15. British Airways: With a waving Union Jack adorning the tail, British Airways delivers a modern take on traditional British elegance. play

15. British Airways: With a waving Union Jack adorning the tail, British Airways delivers a modern take on traditional British elegance.

(Flickr/airwolfhound)


14. Malaysia Airlines: Even though the A380's future in the airline's fleet remains uncertain, the plane's blue and white livery is unquestionably beautiful.

14. Malaysia Airlines: Even though the A380's future in the airline's fleet remains uncertain, the plane's blue and white livery is unquestionably beautiful. play

14. Malaysia Airlines: Even though the A380's future in the airline's fleet remains uncertain, the plane's blue and white livery is unquestionably beautiful.

(Malaysia Airlines/OneWorld)


13. Etihad. Over the past decade, the Etihad has become a global aviation powerhouse and one of the Persian Gulf's trio of mega-carriers. The Abu Dhabi-based airline's sandy paint scheme features multi-colored geometric shapes representing the shifting desert dunes surround the emirate.

13. Etihad. Over the past decade, the Etihad has become a global aviation powerhouse and one of the Persian Gulf's trio of mega-carriers. The Abu Dhabi-based airline's sandy paint scheme features multi-colored geometric shapes representing the shifting desert dunes surround the emirate. play

13. Etihad. Over the past decade, the Etihad has become a global aviation powerhouse and one of the Persian Gulf's trio of mega-carriers. The Abu Dhabi-based airline's sandy paint scheme features multi-colored geometric shapes representing the shifting desert dunes surround the emirate.

(Airbus/Etihad)


12. China Southern Airlines: Based out its hub in the city of Guangzhou, China Southern is the Middle Kingdom's largest airline. Its elegant exterior design features a combination of multiple hues of blue with its tail dominated by a brilliant red kapok flower.

12. China Southern Airlines: Based out its hub in the city of Guangzhou, China Southern is the Middle Kingdom's largest airline. Its elegant exterior design features a combination of multiple hues of blue with its tail dominated by a brilliant red kapok flower. play

12. China Southern Airlines: Based out its hub in the city of Guangzhou, China Southern is the Middle Kingdom's largest airline. Its elegant exterior design features a combination of multiple hues of blue with its tail dominated by a brilliant red kapok flower.

(Flickr/byeangel)


11. Virgin Atlantic Airways: As with all Virgin Group companies, Virgin Atlantic carries Richard Branson's signature corporate logo. Even though it's been around in various iterations for a few of decades now, the design still looks as modern and stylish as it did on the day it debuted.

11. Virgin Atlantic Airways: As with all Virgin Group companies, Virgin Atlantic carries Richard Branson's signature corporate logo. Even though it's been around in various iterations for a few of decades now, the design still looks as modern and stylish as it did on the day it debuted. play

11. Virgin Atlantic Airways: As with all Virgin Group companies, Virgin Atlantic carries Richard Branson's signature corporate logo. Even though it's been around in various iterations for a few of decades now, the design still looks as modern and stylish as it did on the day it debuted.

(Wikimedia Commons/Tomás Del Coro)


10. La Compagnie: The trendy upstart airline may be all about delivering luxury on a budget, but the Parisian carrier's blue-and-black paint scheme is stylish at any price point.

10. La Compagnie: The trendy upstart airline may be all about delivering luxury on a budget, but the Parisian carrier's blue-and-black paint scheme is stylish at any price point. play

10. La Compagnie: The trendy upstart airline may be all about delivering luxury on a budget, but the Parisian carrier's blue-and-black paint scheme is stylish at any price point.

(La Compagnie)


9. Swiss International Airlines: Swiss International's white-and-red design is pure understated style.

9. Swiss International Airlines: Swiss International's white-and-red design is pure understated style. play

9. Swiss International Airlines: Swiss International's white-and-red design is pure understated style.

(Flickr/Aero Icarus)


8.Fiji Airways: The recently re-branded Air Pacific is the national airline of Fiji. Its tribal-esque exterior is evocative of the island's rich native culture.

8.Fiji Airways: The recently re-branded Air Pacific is the national airline of Fiji. Its tribal-esque exterior is evocative of the island's rich native culture. play

8.Fiji Airways: The recently re-branded Air Pacific is the national airline of Fiji. Its tribal-esque exterior is evocative of the island's rich native culture.

(Flickr/Alan Wilson)


7. All Nippon Airways (ANA): Japan's ANA painted a few of its new Boeing 787 Dreamliners with Star Wars themed liveries to coincide with the release of the latest films in the franchise. One of the most famous is a 787-9 painted to look like R2D2.

7. All Nippon Airways (ANA): Japan's ANA painted a few of its new Boeing 787 Dreamliners with Star Wars themed liveries to coincide with the release of the latest films in the franchise. One of the most famous is a 787-9 painted to look like R2D2. play

7. All Nippon Airways (ANA): Japan's ANA painted a few of its new Boeing 787 Dreamliners with Star Wars themed liveries to coincide with the release of the latest films in the franchise. One of the most famous is a 787-9 painted to look like R2D2.

(Flickr/Brussels Airport)


And this Boeing 777-300ER in BB-8 livery.

And this Boeing 777-300ER in BB-8 livery. play

And this Boeing 777-300ER in BB-8 livery.

(Flickr/Oliver Holzbauer)


6. Air Seychelles: Air Seychelles is the national airline for the eponymous small island nation situated off the coast of Africa. Its stunning livery consists of a pair of 'fairy terns' flowing amid a sea of tropical colors.

6. Air Seychelles: Air Seychelles is the national airline for the eponymous small island nation situated off the coast of Africa. Its stunning livery consists of a pair of 'fairy terns' flowing amid a sea of tropical colors. play

6. Air Seychelles: Air Seychelles is the national airline for the eponymous small island nation situated off the coast of Africa. Its stunning livery consists of a pair of 'fairy terns' flowing amid a sea of tropical colors.

(Wikimedia Commons)


5. Kulula: This South African low-cost carrier has built quite a reputation for interesting liveries, but its best effort so far is the 'Flying 101' design that doubles as a teaching tool for anyone interested in the different parts of an airliner.

5. Kulula: This South African low-cost carrier has built quite a reputation for interesting liveries, but its best effort so far is the 'Flying 101' design that doubles as a teaching tool for anyone interested in the different parts of an airliner. play

5. Kulula: This South African low-cost carrier has built quite a reputation for interesting liveries, but its best effort so far is the 'Flying 101' design that doubles as a teaching tool for anyone interested in the different parts of an airliner.

(Wikimedia Commons)


Here's the view from the other side.

Here's the view from the other side. play

Here's the view from the other side.

(Wikimedia Commons)


4. Air New Zealand: The airline's new white and black livery, dominated by New Zealand's silver fern symbol and the Maori Koru logo on the tail, is a pleasure to look at.

4. Air New Zealand: The airline's new white and black livery, dominated by New Zealand's silver fern symbol and the Maori Koru logo on the tail, is a pleasure to look at. play

4. Air New Zealand: The airline's new white and black livery, dominated by New Zealand's silver fern symbol and the Maori Koru logo on the tail, is a pleasure to look at.

(Air New Zealand)


However, Air New Zealand's specialty jobs are even better. Like its Boeing Dreamliner painted in honor of the country's all-conquering rugby squad — the 'All Blacks.'

However, Air New Zealand's specialty jobs are even better. Like its Boeing Dreamliner painted in honor of the country's all-conquering rugby squad — the 'All Blacks.' play

However, Air New Zealand's specialty jobs are even better. Like its Boeing Dreamliner painted in honor of the country's all-conquering rugby squad — the 'All Blacks.'

(AP)


Or this Hobbit-themed design that promotes the movies filmed in the country.

Or this Hobbit-themed design that promotes the movies filmed in the country. play

Or this Hobbit-themed design that promotes the movies filmed in the country.

(Flickr/Simon_sees)


And as the 'Official Airline of Middle Earth,' it's only fitting that the fearsome dragon Smaug adorns the sides of some of Air New Zealand's planes.

And as the 'Official Airline of Middle Earth,' it's only fitting that the fearsome dragon Smaug adorns the sides of some of Air New Zealand's planes. play

And as the 'Official Airline of Middle Earth,' it's only fitting that the fearsome dragon Smaug adorns the sides of some of Air New Zealand's planes.

(Flickr/Alan Wilson)


3. Hawaiian Airlines: More than four decades after its debut, Hawaiian's trademark Pualani (Flower of the Sky) logo is still one of the most beautiful and distinctive in the business.

3. Hawaiian Airlines: More than four decades after its debut, Hawaiian's trademark Pualani (Flower of the Sky) logo is still one of the most beautiful and distinctive in the business. play

3. Hawaiian Airlines: More than four decades after its debut, Hawaiian's trademark Pualani (Flower of the Sky) logo is still one of the most beautiful and distinctive in the business.

(Hawaiian Airlines)


2. Icelandair: Icelandair has long been a proponent of its homeland's natural beauty. Which is why the airline painted one of its Boeing 757s with stunning images of the Aurora Borealis or Northern Lights.

2. Icelandair: Icelandair has long been a proponent of its homeland's natural beauty. Which is why the airline painted one of its Boeing 757s with stunning images of the Aurora Borealis or Northern Lights. play

2. Icelandair: Icelandair has long been a proponent of its homeland's natural beauty. Which is why the airline painted one of its Boeing 757s with stunning images of the Aurora Borealis or Northern Lights.

(Flickr/Transport Pixels)


To celebrate its 80th anniversary, the airline decorated another 757 with a livery depicting the Vatnajokull glacier in southeast Iceland.

To celebrate its 80th anniversary, the airline decorated another 757 with a livery depicting the Vatnajokull glacier in southeast Iceland. play

To celebrate its 80th anniversary, the airline decorated another 757 with a livery depicting the Vatnajokull glacier in southeast Iceland.

(Flickr/Markus Eigenheer)


1. WestJet: The winner is WestJet! Over the past couple of years, the Canadian low-cost carrier has painted a couple of its Boeing 737-800 jets with Disney-themed liveries featuring Sorcerer Mickey and ...

1. WestJet: The winner is WestJet! Over the past couple of years, the Canadian low-cost carrier has painted a couple of its Boeing 737-800 jets with Disney-themed liveries featuring Sorcerer Mickey and ... play

1. WestJet: The winner is WestJet! Over the past couple of years, the Canadian low-cost carrier has painted a couple of its Boeing 737-800 jets with Disney-themed liveries featuring Sorcerer Mickey and ...

(Flickr/JTOcchialini)


... the characters from 'Frozen'.

... the characters from 'Frozen'. play

... the characters from 'Frozen'.

(Flickr/BriYYZ)


Bonus: No livery is quite as evocative and effective in projecting American power as the one on Air Force One. Operated by the US Air Force's 89th Airlift Wing, the pair of Boeing 747-200-based VC25As that ferry the President around will literally bring any airport in the world to a screeching halt.

Bonus: No livery is quite as evocative and effective in projecting American power as the one on Air Force One. Operated by the US Air Force's 89th Airlift Wing, the pair of Boeing 747-200-based VC25As that ferry the President around will literally bring any airport in the world to a screeching halt. play

Bonus: No livery is quite as evocative and effective in projecting American power as the one on Air Force One. Operated by the US Air Force's 89th Airlift Wing, the pair of Boeing 747-200-based VC25As that ferry the President around will literally bring any airport in the world to a screeching halt.

(AP)