The A380 – Painting the Skies of the World

ANA A380 Flying Honu green sea turtle blue livery skies © ANA

Painting the skies

To receive their first paint jobs, many A380s are flown to a dedicated Airbus painting hangar in Hamburg, which is like a vast industrial art studio.

A 0.2mm layer of paint covering the entire 3100m2 exterior of an A380 can use 3600 litres of paint and add 650 kg to the weight of the plane – remarkably little weight for such a large airplane.

The painting process itself can take just over an hour after a two-week preparation phase, with professional teams using giant cutouts to shape the airplane’s colors and design.

Here’s an Asiana Airlines A380 receiving its livery, its colors and corporate branding.

All airlines carry their distinctive brands on their airplane tails and sides, but some A380 airlines go further than others when it comes to transforming their livery into works of art.

Hi Fly – the latest airline to introduce A380s – has used its new livery to make a statement in support of the natural world.


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 of the world.

Hi Fly is following in the footsteps of All Nippon Airways (ANA), which also recently unveiled its first A380. The new airplane – complete with a special edition sea turtle livery – will fly the airline’s new Tokyo-Honolulu Route from spring 2019.

ANA A380 Flying Honu green sea turtle blue livery © ANA

The stunning ‘Flying Honu’ design is the work of Chihiro Masuoka of Tokyo, who won a design competition that attracted 2197 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 responsible for livery. 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.

Emirates A380 United for Wildlife livery © Emirates

The popular ‘United for Wildlife’ livery featured two designs: one with six endangered 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 airplanes. The designs took a team of 28 people almost three days to complete. 

Emirates A380 United for Wildlife livery Aircraft Appearance Centre Team © Emirates

More recently, Emirates announced it would paint 40 airplanes – including A380s – ahead of Expo 2020 in Dubai.

The airline has a strong sporting tradition, with Real Madrid footballers also appearing on the side of an A380, in addition to livery celebrating the FA Cup, cricket and other sporting events.

Emirates A380 Real Madrid football players livery © Emirates

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 send a message of support to the country’s rugby team.

Other livery tributes are more subtle. For example, Qantas added a hat and a special ‘G’Day’ for Texas when it opened its popular Dallas Route in 2014.


Here, meanwhile, Malaysia Airlines added a magic number – 100 – to its sixth A380 to celebrate owning the 100th A380 to take to the skies.

Amongst its fleet of approximately 350 aircraft, Air France chose the A380 to celebrate its 80th anniversary.

A plane’s livery help us 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?


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