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  • Writer's pictureMr Wings

The paintings of the old

Updated: Oct 12, 2019

You're at the airport, waiting to catch your flight or walking towards baggage claim with views of the ramp next to you. Then, out of the corner of your eye you see a plane which looks nothing like any other. It looks vintage, as if it came in a time machine straight from the 60s. What you're really looking at is the livery of an airline that has been worn maybe even before you were born: a retro livery.

You may be asking yourself: Why do they exist? Firstly, they are used to pay homage to their past. Some airlines have merged together and/or rebranded, so a retro livery gives a tribute. If the airline has been "independent", then retro liveries serve as a throwback to the airline during the past. Another reason is to wow AvGeeks and plane spotters.

On that note, here are some of my favourite retro liveries out there. Enjoy!

- JetBlue A320

Now while I just said that retro liveries are meant to commemorate the airline in the past, JetBlue is an airline that had been formed in 2000, which means it was never around to experience the "golden age of aviation". Nevertheless, the airline got creative and decided to make a retro livery based on what the airline's appearance would have been if they were around back then. I really like the creative use of font taken from the 60s and it still keeps the signature JetBlue colors around, which is a nice touch! This is not in order, but this would be one of my better liked ones in this list.

- EL AL 787

This livery was designed for the Israeli carrier's 70th anniversary, and while I personally like their current livery, this retro one really catches my eye. It's really visually appealing with the blue streak on the windows that retro liveries boast to the larger Israeli flag on the tail, and to top it off it really suits the Boeing 787 too!

- Lufthansa 747-8

Lufthansa's retro livery on the 747 is one that I've seen quite a lot on the internet, and even in person (though I couldn’t get a shot of it). It had it's first flight in 2015, and it really is magnificent. I love how it keeps its signature tail logo (which is sadly now nowhere to be found) and also brings back the blue strip for the windows and the light grey belly. And those engines though...

- British Airways 747

This livery is the Negus livery, which was the first livery of British Airways as a whole after the merge of BOAC (British Overseas Airways Corporation) and BEA (British European Airways). It may be an unpopular opinion, but this is my favourite retro livery of British Airways. What I like more about this livery is the originality, being the "first" British Airways livery and the all-lowercase "airways" near the front of the plane and overall it looks really neat!

- American Airlines 737 (and former MD-80s)

This livery had been an eye-catcher around the world for 40 years, and it's easy to see why! American was the first ever airline to implement a polished aluminium body and even though other airlines experimented with such a thing, it was American who kept turning heads with their livery. Unfortunately, there's only one aircraft with these colors in the sky, a Boeing 737, and at the time of writing this their MD-80s that also kept the livery have been retired. I did say I have not ranked these liveries, but this would be my favorite!


While the airlines here have considered making very eye-catching retro liveries for us to see, there are some airlines out there which have really nice liveries of the past, but haven't brought them back in this century. So as a bonus, here are a few airlines which I hope could release a retro livery soon (or possibly can't release one):

Jet Airways

Jet Airways' old livery was around until 2008. It has been close to my heart, as I have seen it a lot when I was younger and even flown in a plane with it. Like with the most of the other retro liveries on this post, I love the blue and yellow strip running along the windows as well as the gray underbelly. Unfortunately as of September 2019 Jet Airways has temporarily shut down and ceased operations, but if they make a comeback I hope they have a retro livery like this soon after.

Qatar Airways

This photo was taken in 1996, and much like the current livery this also keeps it's signature brown and oryx on the tail. As you may have noticed, I'm a sucker for colored strips running along the windows, and on this livery it's no exception. I really hope Qatar Airways can rebirth this livery on one of their current aircraft in the future as the airline is currently still operating.

Air Canada

This photo was taken in the 70s, when this livery was at it's prime. I love the red window strip (of course) as well as the red tail with the maple leaf and the black patch just below the cockpit. Air Canada has one retro livery, but that one didn't appeal to me so much and instead I hope that they put this livery on one of their new aircraft. I think it'll go well with their 787!

Retro-painted aircraft are definitely easier to spot because of their different, vintage characteristics. If you're lucky enough to fly on one then make sure you snap a lot of photos, because these planes are hard to spot, let alone fly on. And don't worry about the interiors, they will assure you that you're in the 21st century!

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