We live in a world where airline liveries are based on the euro white design. A white fuselage with the airline name, plus a tail design that wraps around underneath the fuselage is pretty much part and parcel in today’s aviation world.

Delving deep into the past, airlines often had a much more creative approach to their liveries. Whether the design is simple, complex or somewhere in between, these are the ones that I feel are particularly striking.

Braniff International Liveries

The Geddis/Harper and George two tone liveries of Braniff International from around 1971 are unique. Rather than the same scheme being on every aircraft, the same design was used but the colours differed.

At the top of this article you can see the blue version and above is the red. The Flying Colors series also came in green and more, showing Braniff’s vibrant and catchy style.

Eastern Airlines

Sometimes simple is very good and I have always liked the Eastern Airlines colour scheme. The white base along with Caribbean Blue over Ionosphere Blue looks fresh and clean, especially on the Boeing 727.

Planned throughout 1964, it started appearing on aircraft in that year with the official launch in 1965. It is affectionately referred to as the hockey stick livery for obvious reasons.

Thai Airways

Introduced in 1975, the classic Thai Airways livery designed by Walter Landor Associates features a mix of purple, magenta and gold. The tail logo is called a ‘jumpee’.

Seen here on an Airbus A310, the ‘jumpee’ incorporates elements of traditional Thai imagery. When parked among other liveries, this scheme really stands out.

Air Florida

They say blue and green should never been seen, but it certainly worked well for Air Florida. These are the final colours worn on the fleet in the early 1980s.

While I have no idea who created it, the blue and green probably represents water in some way, to make you think of the Sunshine State. Whatever the reason, it stands out and is easy on the eyes.


British Overseas Airways Corporation or BOAC had a fantastically elegant livery introduced around 1966. This classy classic features a navy blue cheatline over white, with the airline name and Speedbird logo in gold.

While it looks great on just about any aircraft, it really looks superb on the Vickers Super VC10. As a reflection of the airline at the time, this really works.

Pan American

Pan Am was once the most recognised brand in the world, flying everywhere as the international flag carrier of the United States. It globe logo, affectionately referred to as “the blue meatball” is striking.

What became perhaps one of the most iconic liveries ever, was designed by Barnes and Forberg and introduced with the first Boeing 707 jets in 1958. It is the symbol of the original 1960s jet set era.

Pacific Southwest Airlines

Based in California, Pacific Southwest Airlines featured a unique smile under the cockpit windows of the aircraft. This made the front of the aeroplane look like a face.

The pink and orange looks quite fun as well, with the airline calling their aircraft the PSA grinning birds. The smile lives on as one American Airlines aircraft is in PSA retrojet colours today.

East-West Airlines

Australian regional airlines East-West had an interesting colour scheme. Australia’s national colours are green and gold, which is why they feature here.

A fun detail is on the tail logo, which features arrows pointing east and west. They have been shaped and the right one slightly split so that it looks like a map of Australia. Cute!

Overall Thoughts

Airline branding is always fascinating. From the boring to the startling, you can find it all. While these are some of the best from the past – to my eyes, at any rate – it does not mean some of today’s liveries aren’t great. A lot of them are and some even better.

What do you think of the selection? Are your favourites here or have I missed some? Thanks very much for reading and if you have any comments or questions, please leave them below.

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Featured image and Braniff via the Braniff Airways Foundation.
Eastern Airlines image by cv880m via Wikimedia Commons.
BOAC image via BAE Systems.
Pan American image by Kjell Nilsson via Airliners.net
Air Florida image by Peter Duijnmayer via Wikimedia Commons.
Thai Airways image by Perry Hoppe via Airliners.net
PSA image by Jon Proctor via Jetphotos.
East-West Airlines by Peter Lea via Flickr.