Most of the long-standing airlines have, at some point, decided it was a good idea to mess with a good thing and completely re-vamp their branding in the form of re-painting all of their planes. This week, we'll look at some of the airlines who have been smart enough to revive their classic look for a special livery plane in their fleet. What's your favorite?

Here's a Continental 737-900ER, featuring a livery which debuted in 1947. Now it's the only plane in the United Airlines fleet that still says "Continental." Photo by GerandSar Gimbel.

United put their 1970s-era "Friendship Livery" on an Airbus A320, which I find a bit ironic considering Airbuses weren't even built until the 1980s. Also thinking about how United uses Continental's pre-merger scheme on the rest of its fleet, this is definitely the best-looking United plane out there. Photo by Bill Ward.

American Airlines' striking bare aluminum Astrojet livery was used beginning in the early 1960s on American's Boeing 707s. has an Astrojet brochure in its archive. The airline gave this 737-800 the same treatment to coincide with its 50th anniversary. American has announced they will continue to keep planes in their heritage liveries, including the recently retired scheme that was replaced in January 2013. They have also promised a TWA livery jet — definitely something to get excited about there!

US Airways has a small fleet of retro liveries, thanks to the heritage of the airlines they have acquired over the years. First, we have a Piedmont A319, shot by Alec Wilson. At the top of the post, we see another US Airways A319 with the classic Pacific Southwest Airlines (PSA) smiley face livery captured by James Willamor. James also took the photo of the Allegheny A319 seen here. I took the photo of the third plane, the blue & maroon America West livery, and the fourth one was by BriYYZ.

Southwest has three planes flying with this classic scheme, representing the first three cities the airline served — Dallas, Houston and San Antonio. Southwest calls is "Desert Gold" while others call it the Mustard Rocket. Southwest retired this scheme on its 30th birthday, in 2001 for its current Canyon Blue scheme. I took this photo in Las Vegas.


That about covers retro planes we see here in the U.S. I'll save the foreign ones for another time, because there are some great ones out there. But let's daydream for a few minutes and think about what else we'd like to see come back on U.S. planes for airlines that are still in service.

Number one on my list would be Delta's classic Widget livery. It looks great on every plane, and needs to come back as soon as possible. Photo by Aero Icarus.

United needs to bring this one back as well. Including the famous Saul Bass Tulip logo, it was used from 1974 to 1993. Seen on a 737 here, it would look great on one of the many newer 737s United still has, or maybe even one of their 787s? Photo via / Wikipedia Commons.

This one's not nearly as attractive, but would be fun to see — Continental's "Meatball" livery. It was called that for the red logo on the tail. Continental's Jet Stream logo used at this point in its history was also designed by Saul Bass. It's a cool coincidence that Continental and United are now combined into one airline. Photo posted to Flickr by contri.


Did I miss something you'd like to see? Yes, I know we all have a thing for Pan Am, TWA and Braniff, but we're focusing on airlines that are still in business here. Delta bought Pan Am, however they don't own the logo and branding rights so we may never see that one again.

I've been receiving several great plane submissions from readers, so if you'd like a photo of yours to be included in a future post, send it my way at

This weekend's air show schedule includes:

All images were obtained from Flickr and licensed for Creative Commons commercial use unless otherwise noted.