Which airlines have names for their planes- and why?

For centuries, sailing ships carried names, had captains, were Christened, experienced water salutes and had their left side referred to as port and right side as starboard. These traditions continued into the air but not all airlines name their planes . No one knows why some airlines in the world adopted the tradition of naming their “ships” and others did not.  When a plane is named, unlike ships, a bottle of champagne is not  broken when naming them, but when used, it is poured over the fuselage.

Here are as many major airlines that I could find that give their planes a name. Let me know where you find more:

  • Aeroflot acknowledges famous Russian composers, writers, and journalists on their aircraft
  • Air Tahiti Nui’s airplanes include the names of French Polynesian islands such as “Bora Bora” and “Mangareva”

    a group of people walking next to a large airplane

    Source: Air Tahiti Nui

  • Aer Lingus has named its planes after Irish saints (eg St. Colmán and St. Ronan) in Gaelic and English on either side of craft for eighty years.

    a close up of an airplane

    Source: Aer Lingus

  • Alitalia‘s Airbus fleet is mostly named after famous Italians with A319s being named after islands and B777s being named after mainland areas in Italy. They also have a plane named Bach and one named Mozart! In the older Alitalia livery the plane names are located behind the forward main doors under the green stripe, but in the newer livery the names are under the cockpit windows
  • Austrian airlines names their 737s after mountains and their 777s  carry names like “Sound of Music” and “Heart of Europe“. A320s and 321s are named after Austrian paintings.
  • Bangkok Airways names their craft after destinations in Thailand
  • British Airways has named its aeroplanes after cities across the United Kingdom, famous British people, and European castles.
  • Croatia Airlines  has aircraft bearing names such as Zagreb and Istra, cities in their home country
  • Jet2 name their aircraft after either their destination cities or regional areas alongside the airline name resulting in titles such as Jet2 Belfast and Jet2 Paris.
  • El Al Israeli Airlines names their long haul fleet after the cities of Israel with names written in English on the port side and Hebrew on the starboard

    the front of a plane

    Source: El Al

  • Ethiopian Airlines has only been naming their long haul fleet in recent years with some B777s and all of their 787s carrying the names of prominent Afrcian landmarks such as Mount Kilimanjaro and The Sahara. Regional planes are not named. Ethiopian places the names at the rear of the plane with some names behind the wing and others at the rear door.
  • FedEx aircraft feature the name of a FedEx Express team member’s child. This tradition started when a Falcon aircraft was named Wendy, after the daughter of FedEx Chairman and CEO, Fred Smith.

  • Fiji Airlines planes are named after Fijian islands
  • Frontier, the Denver based US airline has placed pictures of animals on the tails of its aircraft and names each one after that animal. For example, I have flown  N930FR Max and Lola, an Airbus 319 twice. Check out the list here. 
  • an airplane with a fox on the taila close up of a book
  • Hawaiian Airlines names their Airbus A330s after constellations whilst Boeing 717s and 767s are named after Hawaiian birds.
  • Iberia A320s are named after Spanish areas, cities, and animals, A330s are named after international destinations and A340s are named after famous Spanish people.
  • Icelandair, has chosen names from Iceland’s volcanoes (remember that next time yiru fight is disrupoted by ash from an Icelandic volcano). The names appear in Icelandic only on the nose of the airplane under the cockpit
  • JetBlue has found multiple ways to incorporate “blue” in its names, which has resulted in such airplanes as Hopelessly Devoted to Blue and Blue By Popular Demand.
  • Kenya Airways has named just six of their planes
  • KLM which is the world’s oldest airline started naming their planes in 1925. They are probably the first airline to do so. Their A330s are named after city squares, 737s have bird names, 777s are fater World Heritage Sites, 747s are worlkd cities and their Dreamliners are after flowers! KLM Cityhopper’s aircraft (Embraers and Fokker 70s) do not have names
  • Lufthansa has named their fleet after German cities and towns since 1960. Their rule of thumb is that the bigger the plane, the bigger the place it’s named after. Larger aircraft are named after German states with the planes of the Lufthansa Regional fleet getting the names of smaller towns with a population of less than 40,000. Their Airbus A380s broke convention being named after Lufthansa hubs  anywhere in the world. For example, one bears the name Johannesburg. This vidoe shows theur 12th A380 being named by the mayor of Hamburg using champagne: 
  • Nok air of Thailand have names in English and Thai. Some planes are named after birds and other after people.
  • Norwegian Airlines not only names their planes after famous people but has their portrait on the plane tail. So you may find yourself flying Jane Austen, Roald Dahl or Edvard Munch
  • Qantas planes have carried names since 1926 with only the Boeing 717 nameless. Most of their 737s carry the name of Australian cities and their Airbus A380 fleet are Australian Aviation Pioneers. Last year. the airline ran a competition to name their new B787s with some interesting choices (Vegemite, anyone?) being debated. a man standing next to an airplane
  • Qatar Airways names some of their planes in Arabic on one side and English on the other. There seems to be no logic as to why some planes have names and others do not.
  • Royal Jordanian Airlines short and medium-haul fleet are named after different locations in Jordan including cities, mountains, and regions. Long haul aircraft are named after Jordanian royal family members with one named after the capital Amman. The names are written in English on the port side and in Arabic on the starboard side.
  • Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) decided in 1946 that their planes would be named after the Vikings to reflect the shared Scandinavian heritage, of the airline so you will see aircraft  named after Viking kings and chiefs, explorers and conquerors, poets and rune stone carvers, and gods of Nordic mythology
  • Scoot: some of the older Scoot and all of their 787s carry fun names such as  “The Future is Yellow”, “Big Yella Fella”, “Scootalicious” and “Lickety-Split”.
  • Swiss names their palnes after cities and cantons across the country
  • TAAG Linhas Aereas de Angola Airlines are named after notable Angolan symbols and cities including 11 de novembro, the date of Angolan independence.
  • TAP Air Portugal names their aircraft after famous Portuguese people such as João Vaz Corte-Real, and Vasco da Gama. Names of TAP aircraft are found under the cockpit and are written in Portuguese on both sides.
  • Thai Airways International planes carry the names of Thai provinces on their Airbus A330s, with districts on their new 350s and 787s
  • Tunisair 737s, and A330s are named after Tunisian cities, A319s and A320s carry the names of Tunisian poets, authors and political leaders
  • Turkish Airlines names theirs after cities across Turkey with the names appearing under the cockpit windows
  • Virgin Atlantic generally have musical links for its names linking the company back to the original independent record label
  • Virgin Australia’s planes are named after Australian beaches or bodies of water a large white airplane with a flag on it
  • Vueling Airlines has a series of planes named by putting the word Vueling in a famous name or saying resulting in: “Ain’t no Vueling high enough“, “Vueling in Love” and “Luke SkyVueling” More recently, they have named a half a dozen planes after local heroes from around the world:

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  1. What an interesting custom! I wasn’t even aware that airlines were naming their planes! Thank you for sharing this – it was a fun read!

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