Perhaps a bit of a controversial subject, but not every livery ever put on an aircraft has looked fantastic. There truly are some airline liveries that make you cringe or make you think to yourself ‘That’s weird!’.
So today, I’m honouring the airline liveries that made people look on in either confusion or revilement.
#10. Delta Airlines (2000 – 2007)
Often dubbed the ‘Wavy Gravy’, the Delta Airlines livery of 2000 was not met with the acclaim and love of the previous and much more uniform Widget Livery of 1962 nor the interim 1997 livery that attempted to bridge the gap between old and new.
The problem that most people seemed to have with this livery was the tail, which replaced the iconic widget with wavy lines that didn’t appear to represent anything. Is it a flag? A flowing river with food dye in it? What?!
#9. Etihad (2014 – Present)
While the previous livery was very uniform and quite stylish with its crisp waistline, this one seems very disorganised with a choice of colours that, while representative of the desert with golds and browns, doesn’t really make a good combination together with the somewhat dirty look of the fuselage.
Not the worst livery, but not very good.
#8. Flybe (2014 – Present)
The original Flybe livery, though basically just overall white, was something of a humble and subtle design. This, on the other hand, makes their planes look like things you’d find on the shelves of Ann Summers!
#7. V Australia (2008 – 2011)
The original incarnation of the new low-cost long-haul carrier, V Australia started out with a very dull and quite bland livery. While red is Virgin’s livery, for Australia you’d think they’d put blue instead to represent the Southern Cross; as it does on the nation’s flag.
Aside from that, the placement of the livery doesn’t really have much impact. Possibly just an interim livery before the full launch of Virgin Australia in 2011, but not exactly its best.
#6. NOK Air (2004 – Present)
Though very colourful, what’s with the beak?
#5. American Airlines (2013 – Present)
When I first saw this livery unveiled, I was really, really underwhelmed.
The previous AA livery was wonderfully crisp and perfectly uniform with its red, white and blue cheatline against a reflective stainless steel; truly representative of everything American.
This new livery looks just awful. It’s dull, it’s depressing, it’s unorganised, it looks like it was thought up in 30 seconds and decided on in even less time!
#4. S7 Airlines (2005 – 2015)
I really must admit, vibrant green is not the best colour for an aircraft, so S7’s choice of green and green with nothing in between is quite visually upsetting.
#3. Braniff International (1967 – 1982)
Often described as the ‘Airline that taste forgot’, Braniff certainly had a varied portfolio of liveries of which not one of them was good! From the selection you had dirty orange, flame red (with dirty orange), deep blue, two-tone green (again), sickly pale blue and custard yellow!
I sure am glad it never occurred to them to paint any of those liveries onto the Concorde’s they hired!
#2. Windrose (2003 – Present)
My god, now this is visually upsetting!
What can I say about it that isn’t blatantly obvious? Aqua-marine and vibrant red, and laid on in such a way that the red is so over-accentuated that its kinda hard to look at.
#1. British Airways Ethnic Liveries (1997 – 2002)
At #1, we have what is undoubtedly the worst livery ever applied to an airliner and one of the most infamous public relations disasters in aviation history!
Go back to 1997, and new Chairman of BA, Bob Ayling, decided that the ‘Flag Carrier’ of the United Kingdom shouldn’t carry the flag of the United Kingdom. He argued that the previous ‘Landor’ livery of 1986, certainly a contender for one of the best liveries of all time, was a tasteless stamp of Britain’s imperialistic past, and declared it to be obstinate, old-fashioned and arrogant. Basically, the entire motivation behind the ‘Ethnic’ liveries was not because the company wanted to create an interesting colour-scheme, but more out of political agenda and self-criticism of our heritage.
The result was a more generic look with a simple blue underbelly and white fuselage with a red and blue sash behind the cockpit (a modern interpretation of the legendary BOAC Speedbird). Nothing stellar, but nothing too offensive. However, the problems arose at the back where it was decided by the British Airways management that they would represent every other nation on God’s earth except their own!
South Africa, America, Germany, Nigeria, Sweden and many more all had abstract artwork that would somehow present their nation’s beauty, but instead came across as a bunch of scribbles that the average, non-art critic passenger wouldn’t be able to figure out. One looked like a cheap rug you’d find at MFI; another looked like a Snowstorm if you were viewing it through an out-of-focus lens; another was vaguely reminiscent of a big mess your 3-year-old child would make with their food; and another looked like the forest as seen by someone who’d been drinking heavily!
The controversy from this choice was astronomical. Both aviation critics and managers, as well as passengers and crew, were disgusted by this choice; a stupid idea that was rushed and not thought out as a way of ‘diversifying’ the airline. Former Prime Minister Mrs Thatcher showed her disdain by famously covering the tail of a model British Airways jet with her handkerchief. Either way, if you weren’t in the know, you’d find yourself very confused very quickly as to what these silly tails depicted or what countries they were meant to represent. The British public saw it as an insult, not only to the UK and the general intelligence of the population, but to the other countries in question!
Now, I have nothing against diversity at all, but when your airline is a national airline, therefore representative of the country in which it is based, it should represent that country. Hello, the name of the airline is British Airways, the airline of Britain!
You don’t see American Airlines putting symbols of Canada on its aircraft do you? You didn’t see South African Airways with a picture of a Polar Bear on its tail did you?
You can promote other countries aside from your own on aircraft, many airlines have done this in much more subtle and much more memorable ways, but British Airways’ attempt was just a huge mess that culminated in nothing more than confusion and some serious bad press.
Couple that with the numerous cabin crew and catering strikes of the late 1990’s, one wonders how BA survived to see this day!
Even Richard Branson got in on the action, declaring that his airline, Virgin Atlantic, was now the flag carrier of Britain when he famously unveiled the Union Flag on the winglets of his aircraft; a far superior choice of livery!
Thankfully this ridiculous gimmick was removed from the fleet by 2002, replaced instead by the three flags symbol we know today which, at the time, had only been applied to the flagships of the fleet; Concorde.