Airlines that have been around for a long time are extremely proud of their heritage. There has been an increasing trend in recent years towards celebrating this by introducing special retro liveries (or heritage liveries) on aircraft. This is usually one of the airlines former corporate liveries applied to a modern day aircraft and there are many examples of this. In the United States it is also common to commemorate the airlines that were absorbed by the modern day carrier. The aircraft are painted with the original carriers livery with the name of the current airline instead. It is a little bit like a family tree in some respects.

One aim of the popular mobile game Pokémon Go is to catch an example of each type of Pokémon. It struck me that there is a link between this and flying. Frequent flyers of an airline are very well versed in the aircraft variations of their main carrier and they are well aware when they are on a special one. I have witnessed discussion on forums such as FlyerTalk and airliners.net where people will list the retro/heritage aircraft they have been on and the ones they have not. It’s almost a competition to fly on one before others! Let’s have a look at a selection of these liveries.

Aer Lingus

Aer Lingus have one of their Airbus 320 aircraft painted in the 1960s colours.

Image courtesy of Humphrey Manusiwa via Wikimedia Commons

Image courtesy of Humphrey Manusiwa via Wikimedia Commons

It is very pleasing when you arrive at the gate and have this waiting for you. The interior is the usual Aer Lingus interior as is the interior of most retro jets, but that doesn’t detract from the fun!

Qantas

Qantas have two of their Boeing 737-838 aircraft in retro liveries down under. One is an excellent reproduction of the airline’s first jet livery from 1959. The other is the livery originally introduced with the Boeing 747 in 1971.


I have been on the 1959 one and I photographed the 1971 one so I still need to fly one of them. You will agree that both are superb!

Air Canada

Air Canada have one of their Airbus 319 aircraft in the 1950s livery of their predecessor airline Trans-Canada Airlines.

Image courtesy of RAF-YYC via Wikimedia Commons

Image courtesy of RAF-YYC via Wikimedia Commons

I like how the current airline name is under the door and does not spoil the original.

Lufthansa

Lufthansa have one of their new Boeing 747-8 aircraft in the original Boeing 747 livery from the 1970s.

Image courtesy of Masahiro Takagi via Wikimedia Commons

Image courtesy of Masahiro Takagi via Wikimedia Commons

I think this one is cheating a little as the livery was on virtually the same aircraft back in the day. It’s not that pretty but it’s a nice homage to the past.

Finnair

Finnair had an Airbus 319 in the 1950s Convair livery from 2008-2012 and it looked like this.

Finnair-Aero Icarus

It’s a shame this one isn’t in service any longer as I think it has a certain panache that today’s Finnair livery doesn’t. It’s pretty cool, right?

SAS

Continuing with the Scandinavian theme, SAS had one of their Airbus 319 aircraft in retro colours too.

Image courtesy of RHL Images via Wikimedia Commons

Image courtesy of RHL Images via Wikimedia Commons

I think it looks excellent!

American Airlines

American Airlines have a Boeing 737-800 in their original jet livery. It looks amazing!

Image courtesy of aeroprints.com via Wikimedia Commons

Image courtesy of aeroprints.com via Wikimedia Commons

American Airlines inherited some glorious retro aircraft from US Airways. These are in the colours of airlines such as PSA and Piedmont and recently they went on to create others such as the TWA at the top of this post. Finding decent free images of these for this post was virtually impossible so you’ll need to search for those yourself. The PSA aircraft with its smile is my favourite!

United Airlines

Last but not least, United Airlines have a Boeing 737-800 in the Continental “Blue Skyway” livery.

Image courtesy of Adam Moreira via Wikimedia Commons

Image courtesy of Adam Moreira via Wikimedia Commons

I really like how they didn’t change the Continental Airlines titles to United Airlines on this. Faithful is always best in my book.

Overall Thoughts

A retro or heritage livery creates a feeling of nostalgia for the past. It will evoke warm memories (hopefully!) within people who remember the livery fondly. Perhaps it will bring back memories of a first trip. I think they’re just plain cool! It’s so nice to see something different at the airport when travelling.

What are your favourite retro or heritage liveries? Are you one of those people who, like in Pokémon Go, aspires to “catch them all” at your airline?