Flight Plan

A toast to the past: Taking anniversary celebrations to new heights

Ashwini Phadnis | Updated on October 02, 2018

AirAsia India unveiled its all new rebranded aircraft, with a livery dedicated to the Rajinikanth-starrer, “Kabali”   -  supplied pic

Brussels Airlines dedicated one of its Airbus A-319 aircraft to Tintin to show the airline’s ambassadorship for Belgium

The next time you fly, take a close look at your plane’s livery — it could feature Tintin or some Star Wars action

Last month, Vistara retro-painted one of its aircraft to pay homage to the 150th anniversary of its founder, the Tata Group. On October 15, it will use the retrojet on its flight from Delhi to Mumbai via Ahmedabad.

The flight will mark the 86th anniversary of the launch of Tata Air Services and recreate the same magic, with the cabin crew wearing uniforms from the 1950s and 1960s and serving JRD’s favourite dishes on the flight.

Everyone’s on it

What Vistara is doing sounds interesting and an apt way of reminding everyone of its long history but it is not something new as airlines across the globe have been going retro to pay homage to their promoters or their brand.

For instance, as part of its 70th anniversary celebrations in 2017 and to pay tribute to its long history, Portugese airline TAP painted a new Airbus A330-300 aircraft, dubbed Portugal, in an image that it had used earlier.

It also invited passengers for a “trip back to the glamorous 1970s aviation, re-creating an identical atmosphere through various elements.”

The retro flights flew throughout 2017, from Lisbon to Toronto, Sao Paulo, Miami, Rio de Janeiro, Luanda, Maputo, New York and Recife, as well as a flight from Oporto to São Paulo.

Earlier this year, El AL too painted the sixth Dreamliner that it got in the colours of the Boeing 707 from the 1960s.

And for Scandinavian Airlines, the delivery of one of its new aircraft in 2005 in “old colours” was a perfect way to connect with the past.

The airline used a modified version of the Dragon Head painting as “many still remember the red dragon head and a blue line along the plane that led the mind to a Viking ship that ‘sailed’ on the white ocean.” From the late 1940s to early 1970s, the airline’s aircraft were painted in this fashion.

What do airlines hope to achieve by organising such events?

Harish Bijoor, Brand Expert and Founder, Harish Bijoor Consults Inc, says that an anniversary is a special occasion and a time for an airline to thank and bond with external and internal customers.

“Newer airlines such as Vistara leverage vestiges of heritage from the hoary past of their promoters. Therefore, the special flight and event. This helps build the soul of an airline, something which is very difficult to build without history,” he adds.

Why it’s a hit

However, paying homage or connecting with history is not the only reason why airlines go retro.

Some do so for other, more easy to identify purposes as well. An AirAsia India spokesperson told BusinessLine that the Group has been doing liveries for many years now. The first was in 2015 as a dedication to the aviation stalwart JRD Tata. The aircraft was also registered as VT-JRT.

But the airline did not stop there. In 2016, it launched a campaign in association with superstar Rajnikanth for his movie Kabali. Incidentally, both the aircraft continue to fly across the airline’s network of 21 destinations.

All for Belgitude

Brussels Airlines dedicated one of its Airbus A-319 aircraft to Tintin, the famous Belgian comic book character to show the airline’s ambassadorship for Belgium or, as it likes to call it, “our Belgitude (Belgian attitude),” Kim Daenen, Media Relations Manager – Spokesperson, Brussels Airlines, told BusinessLine. The airline has done six such dedications. It started with Rackham in 2015 and after its success decided to add another Belgian icon every year to show the best of Belgium to the world.

Says Daenen, “We are currently working on a 6th (still a secret what the theme will be). It will be unveiled in 2019.” Incidentally, all the five aircraft in special livery continue to operate on regular flights.

In 2015, Japanese airline ANA decorated a Boeing 777-300 Extended Range aircraft and a Boeing 767-300 aircraft with Star Wars characters as part of an agreement with The Walt Disney Company (Japan) Ltd. These two joined one more aircraft in the fleet, which, too, had Star Wars characters painted on it.

So, the next time you are flying, just look out — you might see some history being recreated or you just might have fun flying in a Star Wars aircraft!

Published on October 02, 2018

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