No two aircraft are alike, and while every carrier can showcase this fact by slapping a registration number on the aircraft and recording the airplane’s manufacturing number, some take it a tad bit further. In this series we will look into the airlines that take individualizing each airplane to the next level. Individual aircraft and special liveries like British Airways’ “London 2012 Doves” and TUI Airlines Netherlands’ “#dreamcatcher” jet will not be counted since they are one-off aircraft. From animals to World Heritage Sites, this is how aircraft earn their names.


Naming You Explorers and Kings – TAP Air Portugal

Being part of the Iberian peninsula and a part of European history, TAP Air Portugal follows the idea of other carriers like Aeroflot and Norwegian and names their aircraft after famous Portuguese people. Of the fleet of Airbus A320 family, A330, and A340 aircraft, the A330s bear the most commonly known names of the Portuguese population with history makers such as João XXI, João Vaz Corte-Real, and Vasco da Gama on the A330s of CS-TON, CS-TOS, and CS-TON.



Prior to the current fleet, the TAP Air Portugal fleet was not all named after Portuguese historical figures, the now retired fleet of Boeing 737s were named after the regions of Portugal, with areas like Madeira and Setúbal being added to aircraft. As for the historical figures, the series was previously on the Airbus A310 fleet before names were transferred to the A330s and added on with the arrival of the Airbus A320 family of aircraft. In the past, TAP’s regional carrier Portugalia named their fleet of ERJ-145s and Fokker 100s after birds, with names like Chapim, Gavião, and Condor. Upon rebranding Portugalia into TAP Express and the arrival of newer airplanes, the naming of the regional jets was dropped. Names of TAP Air Portugal aircraft are found under the cockpit and are written in Portuguese on both sides.


A Peninsula of Success – Iberia

As well as sharing the Iberian Peninsula, Iberia also shares the way they name their aircraft with TAP Air Portugal. Iberia’s fleet of Airbus aircraft are named after famous Spaniards such as Juan Carlos I, Julio Romero de Torres, and Salvador Dalí. However, the airline takes it a step farther than TAP, also naming their aircraft after destinations, countries, animals, and Spanish cities and areas. Aircraft size does matter in what the airplane is named, Airbus A320 family aircraft are named after Spanish areas, cities, and animals, the A330s are named after international destinations and cities of which most are in South America and the A340s are named after famous Spanish people. However, there are some exceptions to this, with aircraft such as EC-LFS (Airbus A340-600) being named Ciudad de Mexico.



Prior to the all Airbus fleet that Iberia currently operates, the airline’s fleet of McDonnell-Douglas and Boeing aircraft followed similar rules to that of today’s fleet. Famous Spaniards had previously been on Douglas DC-8s, international cities were on Boeing 757s and 767s and Spanish cities and areas were on McDonnell-Douglas MD-80s and Douglas DC-9s. Regional aircraft have never had names for Iberia. Furthermore, the main carrier’s low-cost arm Iberia Express also lack names, leaving main Iberia aircraft to bear names. Iberia aircraft in both old and new livery have their names written under the cockpit in Spanish on both sides.


The Lady’s Jet – Virgin Atlantic

When it comes to generically naming aircraft nobody does it like Virgin Group, as previously mentioned Virgin Atlantic’s sister company Virgin America name aircraft as a joke or as a play on words. The older English long haul carrier names their aircraft after women. Aircraft like Champagne Belle and Ruby Tuesday fly around the world on the Airbus A330, A340, Boeing 747, and 787 aircraft. Some aircraft are specifically named, like Queen of the Skies (A340-600) being named for Queen Elizabeth II and Emmeline Heaney (A340-600) whose name was offered on auction to the highest bidder, which was won by the Heaney family and named after the family’s daughter, Emmeline.