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10 of the Best Special Airline Liveries of 2021

10 of the Best Special Airline Liveries of 2021

a colorful airplane on a runway

Qatar Airways – FIFA World Cup 2022
a large airplane on a runway

Qatar Airways actually unveiled its special FIFA World Cup livery on one of its Boeing 777-300 aircraft in November 2020 – so why does this special livery make the list for 2021 as well?

Well, an A350-1000 aircraft was sent to the paint workshop earlier this year to have the same livery applied and it was then that engineers discovered a paint degradation issue that has since resulted in 21 of Qatar’s A350 fleet being grounded.

The issue recently took a new turn when Qatar Airways initiated legal proceedings against aircraft manufacturer Airbus in London’s High Court. Airbus says it plans to “vigorously” defend itself against the lawsuit.

Saudia – 75th Anniversary Retro Livery
a large airplane on the tarmac

Earlier this year, Saudi Arabian Airlines unveiled a livery retrojet to celebrate the carrier’s 75th anniversary. The livery stands out because Saudi Arabia is embarking on a charm offensive with the West, reopening the country to foreign tourists.

The only problem is whether Saudia will be the airline that actually welcomes the huge influx of tourists expected over the coming years. Rumours abound that Saudi’s leaders might create a new liberal airline similar to Emirates or Etihad, while Saudia will retain its no-alcohol policy, onboard prayer areas, and ban on ‘revealing’ clothing so as to continue serving religious conservatives.

ITA Airways – Born in 2021
a white airplane on a runway

When the Italian flag carrier Alitalia finally folded earlier this year, it did so only because another government-owned airline was waiting in the wings. ITA Airways (Italia Transport Aereo) took on some of Alitalia’s fleet and decided to quickly repaint one of the old airline’s Airbus A320’s.

The first flight was operated by an A320 with a special ‘Born in 2021’ livery.

The entire fleet will eventually be repainted in a bright blue livery which is a striking nod to the colours worn by Italian athletes and sports teams when playing abroad. The colour harks back to Italy’s pre-republic era when blue was the official colour of the Italian Royal family, the House of Savoy.

a blue airplane on a runway
Air Canada – Trans-Canada Air Lines Retrojet
a plane parked in front of a building

Air Canada continues to pay tribute to its predecessor airline with this special Trans-Canada Air Lines retrojet. The Montreal-based airline previously had an Airbus A319 sporting this retro livery but that aircraft was retired in January 2020.

TCA was permanently rebranded as Air Canada in 1964 as part of the airline’s efforts to better serve its French-speaking passengers.

Alaska Airlines – Oneworld
a white airplane on a runway

Airlines that form part of the Oneworld alliance are required to paint some of their aircraft in special liveries to promote the alliance. So when Alaska Airlines officially joined Oneworld in March, it was fitting that it did so by unveiling its special Oneworld alliance livery.

Alaska Airlines is now the 14th member of Oneworld and membership has already helped strengthen its business relationships with American Airlines, British Airways and Qatar Airways.

Alaska is no stranger from a special livery and in the last year has unveiled a whole host of special liveries including a Starbucks Holiday-themed decal and a new Russell Wilson livery.

Envoy – American Eagle Heritage Livery
an airplane on the runway

Envoy Air is a wholly-owned subsidiary of American Airlines which operates American Eagle branded regional flights. In August, it unveiled a heritage retrojet livery on an Embraer E170.

American Airlines has a number of retrojet liveries that hark back to days gone by and remember some of the other airlines that were merged into AA through the years.

Southwest Airlines – Freedom One
a plane with a flag painted on it

Southwest Airlines marked its 50th anniversary in June by unveiling a Boeing 737-800 emblazoned with a stylized flag of the United States of America. The plane has been called ‘Freedom One’.

The carrier has a number of special liveries in its fleet, including 12 liveries that commemorate various U.S. states including Arizona One and Nevada One.

Freedom One features 50 stars and 13 stripes and s described by Southwest as a “symbol of unwavering pride for our Nation and its heroes”.

Delta Air Lines – Team USA
a large airplane on a runway

Delta Air Lines has taken over the job of being Team USA’s official airline after United decided not to renew its sponsorship deal. Delta commemorated the occasion by unveiling a special Team USA livery on one of its A330-900 aircraft during an event held earlier this month.

Delta will be Team USA’s official airline for the next eight years and will help transport athletes to Beijing 2022, Paris 2024, Milano Cortina 2026 and LA28.

British Airways – Better World
a blue airplane in a hangar

British Airways unveiled its ‘BA Better World’ livery in September as part of a new sustainability programme. The new livery was painted on one of BA’s newer and more fuel-efficient A320neo aircraft. The aircraft was used to transport delegates of the COP26 climate summit to Glasgow.

The airline says it is aiming to achieve net carbon emissions by 2050.

Emirates – Dubai EXPO
a colorful airplane on a runway

The boldest livery of 2021 was unveiled by Emirates in September as part of the airline’s effort to promote the Dubai EXPO. The process of painting and applying decals to the aircraft took 16 days and 4,379 man-hours to complete.

Emirates has applied special EXPO liveries to 40 aircraft within its fleet but this one is by far the boldest. The aircraft used for the livery had to be completely stripped before the eye-batching new paintwork was applied.

After all that effort, however, the livery will only be around for six months. Once the EXPO finishes in March 2022, the aircraft will be transformed back to Emirates’ classic livery.

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