If there’s one thing to be learned about the Air New Zealand livery, it’s that all of them are an evolution of the same primary purpose: to celebrate the rich culture of New Zealand.

Air New Zealand is a relatively conservative airline – at least from a design perspective. That’s a good thing IMHO, as it has helped them to create some of the most iconic liveries in the history of the airline industry.

Every livery of Air New Zealand (1965-present)

Tasman Empire Airways (TEAL) was officially renamed to Air New Zealand on April 1, 1965. This livery analysis covers Air New Zealand liveries only. Someday I may go back and add in Tasman Empire Airways to this, but for now, it’s all about how the Air New Zealand brand has evolved throughout the years.

1965-1973: Transition from TEAL to Air New Zealand

The 1965 livery was the very first one to feature Air New Zealand Titles. Although the name of the airline had changed, this particular livery was a minor evolution of the one that preceded it. It was the same type of subtle evolution happening with the Qantas livery of the time as well.

Air New Zealand Douglas DC-8-52 side view (1965 Livery)
How much do you want to bet that they had to put “TEAL” on the vertical stabilizer of the 1965 livery to appease the grumpy old folks who thought that “Air New Zealand” was a stupid name? It’s essentially a hybrid livery combining the old with the new.
  • Teal and dark blue were kept the primary colors, as they were a representation of the natural beauty of New Zealand.
  • White was used as the base color for the top of the fuselage, while the bottom of the fuselage was exposed aluminum.
  • This livery was very typical of the time. Horizontal stripes (known to AvGeeks as “cheatlines”) were the primary design elements on both the fuselage and the vertical stabilizer.

1973-1981: Introduction of the Koru

Air New Zealand unveiled in all new livery in 1973, which (at first glance) looked nearly identical to the one that preceded it. However, there were some important differences.

Air New Zealand Douglas DC-8-52 side view (1973 Livery)
After all the grumpy old folks had passed on, it was time to go all-in on the Air New Zealand brand. The 1973 livery (as seen here on my DC-8 template) was a nice evolutionary design solution.
  • The stripes on the vertical stabilizer were redesigned to be vertical instead of horizontal. This allowed them to be blended into the horizontal stripes on the fuselage.
  • The horizontal stripes on the fuselage were modified. Instead of a thicker teal stripe sandwiched between two thinner dark blue pinstripes, the teal stripe was placed above a single (thicker) dark blue stripe. The vertical space (negative space) between the stripes was increased.
  • The typeface for the Air New Zealand titles was changed.
  • An all new Air New Zealand logo was added to the vertical stabilizer. If it wasn’t obvious, it’s an abstract representation of a silver fern frond (Māori Koru).

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1981-1996: Simplification

Air New Zealand introduced a new livery in 1981 that had the same evolutionary style to it that the previous one did. All of the familiar design elements remained, with a handful of minor changes.

Air New Zealand Boeing 747-200 side view
The 1981 livery looked best on the 747-200 IMHO. Keep scrolling to see my presentation of the evidence to support that statement…
  • The vertical (negative) space between the teal and dark blue stripes on the fuselage was eliminated.
  • The stripes on the vertical stabilizer were detached from the stripes on the fuselage. They now ended at a point (with negative space between them and the stripes below).
  • The colors were brighter. More specifically, the teal was tweaked a bit to appear more green.
  • A graphic of the flag New Zealand was placed next to the Air New Zealand titles.
  • The black nose cone was eliminated. The stripes now wrapped around the cone as a single element to the other side of the aircraft.
Air New Zealand Boeing 737-200 side view
See? It’s a nice livery, but I think that it looks a little busy on smaller aircraft (as seen here on my Boeing 737-200 side view template).

1996-2012 Pacific Wave

The 1996 Air New Zealand livery was a bold new direction for the brand. Created by Zambezi, it featured all of the same colors of the previous livery, with all new design elements.

Air New Zealand Boeing 747-400 pacific wave livery side view
Now that’s what I’m talkin’ about. The 1996 livery is one of my all time favorites, and it looks just as good today as it did back then.
  • The horizontal stripes of the fuselage were replaced by stylized “wave” graphics (in both teal and blue). These parallel stripes intersected the Air New Zealand titles.
  • The Air New Zealand titles were switched to a lighter (and much larger) serif typeface.
  • The engines (and the very bottom of the fuselage) was painted in light gray. For for the first time in the history of Air New Zealand, exposed aluminum was no longer part of the livery.
  • The vertical stabilizer featured the same koru logo as before, but it was placed over top of a teal-to-blue gradient.

Modified version in 2009

There was a slightly modified version of the Pacific Wave livery which started rolling out in 2009. Much like how the Sun Country Airlines livery went from awesome to “blah” in 2016, I consider this 2009 livery revision to be just as disappointing. It was essentially was same livery as before, but with the elimination of the most interesting elements (the wave graphics intersecting the titles).

Air New Zealand Boeing 747-400 pacific wave livery (2009 revised version) side view
By 2009, they had pretty much given up on the “wave” graphics. I’m not exactly sure what the reasoning was for this, but it’s hard not to imagine the painters telling upper management to “get f****d” for making them paint complex curves and gradients on every airplane. If the painters ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy!

2012-present: Black and white ferns

Air New Zealand introduced another all new livery in 2012 with the help of Designworks. Again, this was a completely new design direction for the brand, and a bold one at that. For the first time in the history of Air New Zealand, teal and blue were not used anywhere in livery.

Air New Zealand Boeing 777-300ER side view
The 2012 livery was very unexpected considering how easily they gave up on the simple wave graphics back in 2009. Just when you thought they didn’t care anymore, the hit us over the head with this. It was (and still is) awesome.
  • Black became the primary color – which wasn’t all that controversial of a decision considering how important black is to New Zealand culture.
  • Influencing the decision to replace the teal and blue was the positive response to their special All Blacks livery in 2011. That special livery promoted their sponsorship of the All Blacks rugby team, and it was a huge success.
  • Tourism New Zealand granted Air New Zealand permission to use the New Zealand Fern Mark, a logo used by them and NZ Trade and Enterprise. This became the primary element of the livery, and I have to say that it helped to create one of the most unique airline livery designs ever.
  • The Air New Zealand titles were displayed in an all new typeface. Kris Sowersby (of Klim Type Foundry) is the designer credited for the redesign.

One of the most interesting things about the 2012 livery is that there are two versions of it. The white version (as seen above) is painted on the majority of the fleet. The second version (which is predominantly black) was unveiled in 2013 on the Boeing 787-9. Only a select handful of aircraft wear this version of the livery.

Air New Zealand 787-9 black livery side view
I’ve never had the opportunity to describe an airline livery as “murdered out” before, but here you go. I like it. A lot.

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    1. Interesting, thanks for the info! For some reason or another I always consider those to be special liveries – I had no idea that is actually the precursor to the current version. I’ll make a note of it the next time I update this post.

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