It was a day of a lot of “firsts” for Japan and its largest airline (by fleet size) All Nippon Airways. On December 13, 2018, ANA announced that its first A380 has rolled out of the Airbus paint shop in Hamburg, Germany. It is not only the first such model for the carrier, but also makes it the first superjumbo customer in the Japanese airline industry. To boost the fanfare, the new plane was unveiled sporting quite a “unique livery”, following in the footsteps of other carriers’ before. Seems like the plane itself is becoming a support animal these days.

“Inspiration of Japan”: ANA may as well live up to its motto, as its new double-decker is Japan’s first Airbus A380. As for the livery of the new airliner, it seems that ANA wants to inspire us to travel to Hawaii. The distinct paint job on the new A380 displays a Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle, known as “Honu” in the Hawaiian (HA) language, and is meant to bring good luck and prosperity, the carrier states.

According to Airbus, the Japanese airline has firm orders for three A380s and will take delivery of the first plane, dubbed “Flying Honu”, in March 2019. The inaugural flight is scheduled to take off from Tokyo Narita Airport (NRT) and arrive at the Daniel K. Inouye International Airport (HNL) in Honolulu on May 24, 2019. ANA will operate all three aircraft on the Tokyo-Honolulu route, which is popular for leisure travel.

“We are excited to showcase the largest passenger aircraft and even more excited about the experience it will offer travelers on the Narita-Honolulu route,” said Yutaka Ito, Executive VP of ANA, in the official statement.

Image: Airbus

The first, fresh out of the oven, A380 ordered by ANA features blue-colored sea turtle (native to Hawaii), matching the airline’s corporate color scheme, whilst the following two superjumbos will feature different colors and designs. The second jetliner, planned to start operation in July 2019, will wear emerald green livery, and the third will be orange.

Airbus says ANA’s A380 livery is one of the most elaborate paint job ever done by the manufacturer. The jetliner spent 21 days at the Hamburg facility and was painted using 16 different shades of color. The plane will now undergo cabin completion, followed by ground and flight tests in Germany, says Airbus.

Are wildlife featuring liveries now “a thing”?

ANA says its lively-colored A380s will enhance passenger experience, allowing them to travel not only in comfort but also in “style”. The airline believes the special livery adds a “personal touch”, making the flight much more memorable. We may also add that the plane will surely not go unnoticed at airport gates and in the skies. So is it a good marketing strategy and means for extra exposure?

It is not to say that wildlife-themed liveries have not adorned aircraft before. Probably the most memorable, as ANA says, recent liveries are those launched by Embraer on its E-Jet E2 family: there’s the eagle-faced 195-E2, the tiger and shark-themed E190-E2, and most recently, a snow leopard-featuring 190-E2, delivered for Air Astana. These liveries are being used to promote the Brazilian plane maker’s global “Profit Hunter” project (the brand new E2 jets).

Image : Air Astana 

And how about flying on the world’s largest fish? Alaska Airlines operates a Boeing 737-800 sporting “Salmon Thirty Salmon II” livery: an image of an almost 129 feet long wild Alaska king salmon. The plane features fish scales on the winglets and a salmon-pink colored "Alaska" script across the fuselage (the original “Salmon Thirty Salmon” livery was painted on the airline’s Boeing 737-400).

Image: Cubbie_n_Vegas

The paint job is a tribute to the carrier's partnership with Alaska’s seafood industry and the state’s most well-known export. Alaska Airlines’ 737 salmon plane still stands as one of the world’s most intricately painted commercial airplanes.

And then there’s Frontier Airlines, the U.S. low-cost carrier, which is known for the animal kingdom bedecked on its aircraft tails: most recognized is “Grizwald the Bear” on the carrier’s A320 jet, but there’s also foxes, wolves, deer, owls, eagles, walruses, the list goes on.

Image: Tomás Del Coro, CC BY-SA 2.0

On a little less cynical side, there have been initiatives launched by various airlines around the world with customized liveries in support of special causes and environmental protection campaigns.

The now defunct Russian carrier Transaero dedicated its Boeing 747-400 for the “Caring for Tigers Together” project. The airliner‘s livery featured the snout of the Siberian tiger painted on the aircraft fuselage‘s nose. Transaero unveiled the livery in support of the Amur Tiger Center in a project called “Striped Flight” to draw attention to the conservation of rare and endangered species, such as the Amur (Siberian) tiger.

Emirates also hopped on the wildlife protection train, when it presented two of its A380s with special liveries to support “United for Wildlife” campaign: a global collaboration of the world’s leading wildlife charities fighting against the illegal animal trade. The livery on the A380s featured six endangered species, including lions, tigers, rhinos and elephants. The designs on the two Airbus planes covered them almost from nose to tail, spreading over the wings and under-belly of the aircraft.