Soccer and airplanes: Our favorite English Premier League aircraft liveries
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While being grounded for the past three months has been hard enough, the lack of pro sports has been an added pain for many. If you are a soccer fan, though, your future is looking brighter: just as travel begins to ramp back up, the most viewed football league in the world has also returned. As of Wednesday, the English Premier League has resumed holding matches. It won’t be the same football / soccer we’re used to — matches will be played behind closed doors, players and staff will be tested for the coronavirus twice a week, stadiums will be divided into three zones, there will be no handshakes before the match and more. But it’s real, live, world-class sports, packing 92 games into 40 days and concluding on July 26.
And there’s a strong link between the English Premier League and commercial aviation. Several major airlines have sponsorship deals with teams, and have decked out some of their jets in beautiful,soccer-themed special colors dedicated to Premier League teams and players that you have a chance of seeing at airports around the world, including in the U.S.
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Let’s have a look at some of those stunning special-colors aircraft.
Emirates A380 and Boeing 777 with Arsenal liveries
Emirates‘ relationship with Arsenal is deep-rooted. Arsenal’s home stadium is dubbed “The Emirates”, while the club’s jerseys have long been branded with the “Fly Emirates” logo. And that relationship is reflected on Emirates’ metal.
In July 2015, Emirates unveiled a new Arsenal-themed livery on one of its Boeing 777-200LR aircraft. With the registration A6-EWJ, this 777 is just more than 11 years old, and is currently grounded in Dubai, awaiting the return of demand for air travel.
While the aircraft was outfitted in this Arsenal livery until 2016, it was then repainted the following year in an “Arsenal Tour 2017” livery.
One of Emirates’ Airbus A380 superjumbo aircraft was also painted to reflect the Arsenal relationship. A6-EES, a nearly seven-year-old A380. While it remained in the Arsenal livery for just a few months in 2016 — four months, according to PlaneSpotters — it was then repainted in “The Emirates FA Cup” special livery, celebrating the yearly competition that’s separate from the Premier League.
Between December 2016 and June 2017, Emirates painted its A380 registered as A6-EUA in special Arsenal colors. In December 2017, the airline repainted the aircraft in the “Year of Zayed 2018” special colors.
In 2019, Emirates painted the most recent Arsenal livery on one of its A380 aircraft. The superjumbo, which is registered as A6-EEB, features a montage of Arsenal players, such as Lucas Torreira, Mesut Ozil, Alexandre Lacazette and more.
In 2018, Emirates and Arsenal announced a new sponsorship deal, which will see Emirates on the Arsenal jersey until at least the end of the 2023-2024 season. As part of the deal, Emirates Stadium as we know it today will remain as such until 2028.
AirAsia A320 with Leicester City livery
Thai AirAsia, co-owned by AirAsia, the Malaysia-based low-cost carrier, also has a relationship with the Premier League, although it doesn’t fly to the U.K.
Thai AirAsia is co-owned by Thai-based King Power Group, which also owns Leicester City, a Premier League team — a relationship reflected in the color scheme applied in 2017 to one of the airline’s Airbus A320s.
The eight-year-old aircraft, carrying the Thai registration HS-ABV, had been grounded in March because of the coronavirus crisis and has just resumed flying. Typically, it flies to and from Bangkok’s Don Muang airport (DMK), according to FlightRadar24, on trips around the region as far as India and the Maldives.
Aeroflot A321 with Manchester United livery
Aeroflot is the official carrier of Manchester United. The team’s website says that the Russian carrier “provides strategic advice to the club on travel arrangements for the team and officials”. Additionally, Aeroflot provides the club with charter services.
In 2014, Aeroflot unveiled a new livery on one of its A321 aircraft, featuring the colors of Manchester United. The traditional Aeroflot livery largely remained unchanged, but the rear of the aircraft took on the red and yellow of the Manchester United crest.
The A321, which is registered as VP-BTL, is nearly seven years old, having been delivered to Aeroflot in 2014. Typically, the aircraft is used for Aeroflot’s short- and medium-haul flights.
Currently, because of the coronavirus crisis and its upending of the aviation industry, the aircraft is stored. According to FlightRadar24, the aircraft last flew on May 31, between Sochi (AER) and Moscow (SVO). It had only operated three flights before that one since the end of March.
Because Aeroflot’s route network doesn’t include Manchester (MAN), you won’t regularly find this aircraft flying to the airport for scheduled services — though it may happen if Man United were to use the aircraft for charter purposes. Instead, you’re more likely to see this A321 flying to and from London Heathrow (LHR), which Aeroflot does serve.
Etihad 787 with Manchester City livery
Since 2009, Etihad and Manchester City have been partners. Manchester City’s home is now called “Etihad Stadium”, having picked up the name in 2011. Prior to the Etihad relationship, the stadium was known as the City of Manchester Stadium.
In October 2019, Etihad unveiled its newest Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner, which was painted in a very identifiable Manchester City-themed livery.
The aircraft, which is registered as A6-BND, is not quite one year old, having been delivered from Boeing to Etihad in October 2019. Because of the coronavirus crisis and the subsequent downturn in aviation demand, this Dreamliner has largely been stored. Since the end of April, the aircraft has operated five flights — between the airline’s base in Abu Dhabi (AUH) and Bengaluru (BLR), Manila (MNL) and Dhaka (DAC).
While Etihad does fly nonstop between Manchester (MAN) and Abu Dhabi (AUH), itts schedules list a larger Boeing 787-10. However, on a few flights last year and early in 2020, Etihad used the Man City Dreamliner on its route to MAN. The last time that happened was on January 11.
AirAsia A320 with Manchester United livery
In 2006, Asian low-cost carrier AirAsia became the official low-fare carrier of Manchester United. Though the carrier doesn’t fly to Manchester, or even the U.K. for that matter, Man United does have a large following in Asia. And as such, between January 2006 and April 2009, one of the carrier’s aircraft was painted in Manchester United colors.
The aircraft, which is registered as 9M-AFC, is a 14-year-old Airbus A320-200 aircraft. It was delivered to AirAsia in 2006. In April 2009, it was repainted in the carrier’s “World’s Best Low Cost Airline,” according to PlaneSpotters.
Garuda Indonesia with Liverpool sticker
While this one doesn’t fall into the actual special-livery category, it gets a mention because of the Liverpool sticker. Between July 2013 and February 2014, the aircraft featured a Liverpool FC sticker.
The aircraft, which is registered as PK-GPA, is a nearly 24 years oldt, having been delivered to Garuda Indonesia in 1996. Today, it operates primarily between Jakarta (CGK) and Hong Kong (HKG), Singapore (SIN) and other Asian destinations.
Featured photo by Arnold O. A. Pinto/Shutterstock.
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