Painting the skies
To receive their first livery, all A380s are flown to a dedicated Airbus painting hangar in Hamburg, which is like a vast industrial art studio.
The painting process itself happens after a two-week preparation phase, with professional teams using giant cutouts to mark out the airplane’s colors and design.
All airlines carry their distinctive brands on their airplanes but some A380 operators go further than others when it comes to transforming their livery into works of art.
Hi Fly – one of the latest airlines to introduce an A380 – has used its new livery to make a statement in support of the environment.
The airline has painted an A380 in support of the Mirpuri Foundation’s ‘Save the Coral Reefs’ campaign. It’s hoped the livery will highlight the urgent need to protect and preserve the oceans.
Hi Fly is being followed by All Nippon Airways (ANA), which also recently unveiled its first A380. The new airplane – painted with a special sea turtle livery – will fly the Tokyo-Honolulu route from Spring 2019.
The stunning ‘Flying Honu’ design is the work of Tokyo resident Chihiro Masuoka, who won a design competition that generated 2,197 entries.
The green sea turtle – called ‘Honu’ in the local Hawaiian language – is considered sacred. ANA says it hopes the ‘Flying Honu’ livery will pass on “happiness and luck” to passengers flying to Honolulu.
Wildlife was also the theme across at Emirates, which has its own Aircraft Appearance Centre in Dubai where their aircraft are painted. The centre also recently completed work on repainting the Qantas A380 fleet.
Two of the most famous designs to come out of the Emirates Aircraft Appearance Centre were unveiled in late 2015 to raise awareness of the illegal trade in animals.
The popular ‘United for Wildlife’ livery featured two designs: one with six protected species and a second with rhinos and elephants.
Both designs stretched from nose to tip and spread across the giant wings, covering 40% of the fuselage. The designs took a team of 28 people almost three days to complete.
More recently, Emirates announced it would paint 40 airplanes – including A380s – ahead of Expo 2020 in Dubai.
Emirates, Airbus A380-861 A6-EEW seen with green EXPO 2020 livery - ZRH 07/06/2018 https://t.co/RchyYVOL3Q https://t.co/M59fL2P3Vz #ZRHmovements #ZRHplanepictures #A380 #avgeeks @emirates pic.twitter.com/gTfpauXTSc— ZRH-Spotter (@Zurichspotter) June 7, 2018
The airline has a strong sporting tradition, with the Real Madrid football team also appearing on the side of an A380, in addition to livery celebrating the FA Cup, cricket and other sporting events.
Down Under, livery are not about football but it’s rugby, the iconic Australian sport that inspired this special A380 livery in 2015. Qantas used its A380s to support the Wallabies, the country's national rugby team.
Other tributes are more subtle. For example, Qantas added a hat and a special ‘G’Day’ for Texas when it opened its popular Sydney-Dallas route in 2014.
Qantas A380 Sydney-Dallas flight celebrated with a few touches to the standard livery. pic.twitter.com/p2upftkukm— PJ de Jong (PJ) (@jong_pj) October 24, 2014
Here, meanwhile, Malaysia Airlines added a magic number – 100 – to its sixth A380 to celebrate owning the 100th A380 ever built.
As part of its 80th anniversary celebration, Air France has a special livery on one of its A380s.
A plane’s livery also help passengers to identify airlines at airports worldwide. But when it comes to the A380, airlines often have much more to say through their iconic aircraft, be it supporting a team, a great cause or celebrating a milestone.
Why not take a closer look at the livery on your next A380 flight to see if you’re taking a special message with you?