A detailed look back at every Air New Zealand livery (1965-present)

By Norebbo •  7 min read

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.

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.

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…

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.

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.

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.


My name is Scott, and I started in the design industry over 20 years ago with a bachelors degree in Industrial Design from the College for Creative Studies in Detroit, MI. I have an extensive background in both 2D and 3D illustration, and these days, I spend a majority of my time creating aircraft templates and airliner art. I’m basically an airplane dork.

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