On March 11, 2023, airBaltic received its 40th Airbus A220 during a ceremony in Montréal. This aircraft came out of the factory painted in the red and white colors of the Latvian flag.
This aircraft, with registration YL-ABN, will be the second in airBaltic’s fleet sporting the national flag of Latvia, airBaltic’s home country. The first, also an A220, was received in 2018.
Historically there has been a strong association between airline brands and their country of origin. For many decades, airlines were regarded as a national symbol of their respective countries as well as an instrument of diplomacy. It is not for nothing that it is still common for the largest airline in each country to be called the ‘flag carrier’.
What’s more, many airlines have made their national flags a central element of brand identity and display it on the tails of their aircraft. For example, British Airways, Air France, SWISS and American Airlines, to name just a few of the most iconic ones.
But some airlines have gone one step further and wrapped, quite literally, some of their aircraft in special designs celebrating their national flags.
AeroTime has compiled a list of some of the most eye-catching special flag liveries.
For clarity, we have considered only special designs in which the flag envelops most of the airframe. We have not included those airlines in which the flag is part of the regular logo or livery, or those that display it only in the tail or some minor part of the fuselage.
AirBaltic (Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania)
When it comes to flag-waving, airBaltic is prominent. True to its self-assumed role of national airline of all three Baltic republics, airBaltic does not only have two A220s decorated with the Latvian flag, but two other flag-liveried A220s sporting the Estonian and Lithuanian flags, respectively.
Southwest Airlines (USA & several US states)
The American low-cost carrier is also strong in the flag department.
“Freedom One”, a Boeing 737-8 MAX, is covered with the star spangled banner, but this is not the only flagged aircraft in its fleet. Southwest has also a whole series of flag-liveried aircraft featuring different US states.
Southwest sticks to the same naming convention for all of them: Arizona One, California One, Colorado One, Florida One, Illinois One, Lone Star One (Texas), Louisiana One, Maryland One, Missouri One, Nevada One, New Mexico One, and Tennessee One.
The Brazilian airline proudly displayed the flag of its home country on up to four different aircraft, one for each of the main aircraft types it operates: the Embraer E190, the Airbus A330-200 and A321neo, and the ATR 72-600.
Although technically a football-themed livery, the 2014 World Cup was an opportunity for Brazilian low-cost airline GOL, the official carrier of that country’s national football team, to fly the colors of the Brazilian flag on one of its Boeing 737-800s.
The Negaraku livery has been a feature of Malaysian Airlines’ fleet for a number of years, with several aircraft of different types sporting the national flag of the Southeastern Asian nation.
In 2015, Singapore Airlines marked the Golden Jubilee of the Asian city state by decorating two of its Airbus A3380s with the national flag.
As far as flag liveries are concerned, this is possibly one of the largest in the world by area, with a total each of about 720m2, or, as Singapore Airlines’ puts it, equivalent to nearly nine badminton courts, requiring enough decal material to cover 56 double-decker buses.
Independence Day celebrations are a favorite excuse to decorate aircraft in patriotic liveries. This was the case for Polish flag carrier, LOT, which painted a Boeing 737-8 MAX and a Boeing 787 with the national flag colors in 2018 to mark 100 years of Poland regaining independence.
In order to market the occasion, the aircraft were escorted by Polish Air Force F-16s which approached Warsaw airport (WAW) sporting their new livery for the first time.
In the same year, and also to mark a national centenary, in this case Icelandic sovereignty, Icelandair’s Þingvellir (Thingvellir), a Boeing 757-200, was painted in the national colors of the Nordic island nation. The livery is still in place, since Icelandair has preserved its B757 special liveries after undergoing a major rebranding in 2022. Its name derives from the place where the first Icelandic parliament met in 930 AD.
It is not only national days that are celebrated with special liveries, in 2002 Air Canada marked its 65th anniversary by painting the maple leaf flag on one of its aircraft.