People have a habit of giving inanimate objects names, with the most obvious example being boats and ships. Hell, I know a bunch of people who name their cars, so it’s not at all unusual. You’ll probably not be surprised to learn that some airlines give their planes names.

From the early years of aviation, this has been happening. Some airlines settle on a particular theme or word to keep things common, while others just go with whatever they like. Let’s have a look at some of the more interesting ones.

Aer Lingus And The Saints

Ireland is a predominantly Catholic country, and while most of the population no longer attends religious services, Aer Lingus continues to name their aircraft after saints. It is a tradition that has gone on for many years.

You might have heard of St. Patrick, one of the patron saints of Ireland. An Airbus A330 is named after him, while an A320 is named after St. Brigid, another patron saint. There are many more as well.

Giving Planes Names At Qantas

Australia’s Qantas are celebrating 100 years in 2020 and have a long history of giving planes names. In the 1920s, it was figures from Greek mythology, such as Apollo, Diana, Atalanta and more. Short C Class flying boats in the 1930s all featured names beginning with C.

The 1950s saw the Lockheed Super Constellations given a southern theme, with names such as Southern Aurora, Southern Breeze and so on. The Airbus A380s are named after famous Australian aviators, while the Boeing 787s are named after Australiana, such as Boomerang and Great Barrier Reef. Hopefully the Project Sunrise aircraft will get names with a dash of romance!

Virgin Atlantic Shows Creative Flair

In the fine nautical tradition of giving ships female names, Virgin Atlantic carried that tradition to the sky. Recognise any of these? Dancing Queen, Uptown Girl and Ruby Tuesday? They come from famous songs, of course.

Happily the British airline has a whole blog post on their web site about how they name their aircraft. It even has a list of all the current names and ones from the past, so it’s well worth checking out.

Other Airlines and Themes

TAP Air Portugal uses Portuguese cultural figures (Pero da Covilhã, Francisco d’Ollanda), Pan American used Clipper as a throwback to sailing ships (Clipper Ocean Pearl), British Airways once used cities (City of Edinburgh) before ditching names altogether, while Lufthansa still uses German place names on their aircraft today.

An interesting one was Australian Airlines, who used birds (Kookaburra, Currawong), inspirational names (Courageous, Daring), as well as famous explorers (James Cook). KLM uses themes, with rivers, national parks and waterfalls represented. The now retired KLM McDonnell Douglas MD-11 fleet was named after famous women (Marie Curie). A memorable one for me was the Scandinavian Airlines Boeing 747 named Huge Viking!

Overall Thoughts

Whether you like it or not, I hope airlines continue to give planes names. I think it’s fun to see the aircraft at the gate, read the name and know which one you’re flying on that day.

When the name is unfamiliar, what do you do? You go online and search for what it actually means. It’s a great way of spreading knowledge and bringing attention to people, places or things that you’d like your passengers to know about.

Do any particular plane names stand out in your memory? Perhaps you know an airline that has or had an interesting theme that I’ve missed? Would love to hear about it! Thank you for reading and please leave any comments or questions below.

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Featured image by Anna Zvereva from Tallinn, Estonia via Wikimedia Commons.
Qantas and Aer Lingus via the respective airlines.
Virgin Atlantic A350 Mamma Mia via Hiveminer.
KLM Audrey Hepburn by Martin Hartmann via Wikimedia Commons.