While unknown at the time, Disney’s acquisition of Lucasfilm back in 2012 was about to benefit plane spotters down the road. That’s because the company decided to produce a new Star Wars trilogy and it chose to market it – among other ways – by forming partnerships with airlines.
Those partnerships resulted in four airlines – ANA All Nippon Airways, Virgin Atlantic, LATAM, and United – putting aircraft in Star Wars-themed liveries into service.
Below, I take a look at all of the aircraft.
ANA Star Wars Project
By far the biggest collaboration between Star Wars and an airline is the ANA Star Wars Project.
The project was launched in mid-2015 to build up excitement for the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the first of the movies in the new trilogy.
As part of it, the Japanese airline put four aircraft in special liveries into service (one of those is back in the standard livery now), made a Star Wars-themed kids’ section in one of its lounges, and it even added the Millennium Falcon starship as part of its fleet on the fleet page of its in-flight magazine. It’s also worth noting that onboard service on the logojets – including the cups, flight attendants’ aprons, and so on – is Star Wars-themed as well.
The contract is set to expire in March 2020 and it remains a question whether the aircraft will be repainted back into the standard livery immediately or not.
R2-D2 ANA Jet
The first in the series of ANA logojets promoting Star Wars that saw the light of the day was the R2D2 ANA Jet. Unlike the three that followed, the R2D2 ANA Jet was a brand new aircraft delivered in the special livery themed after one of the two best-known droids in the series from Seattle on October 2, 2015.
The Boeing 787-9, registered JA873A, entered into commercial service on October 18, 2015, operating flight NH116 from Tokyo Haneda to Vancouver. The aircraft also operated the airline’s inaugural flight to Vienna on February 17, 2019.
While ANA doesn’t release schedules for the Star Wars logojets, you can track the R2D2 ANA Jet on Flightradar24. Currently, it is based at Narita airport, however, and operates flights to Singapore, Mumbai, Dusseldorf, and other international destinations. Every now and then, the aircraft’s base switches to Tokyo Haneda.
Star Wars ANA Jet
The second of the logojets, Star Wars ANA Jet, is the one that doesn’t exist anymore. The livery featuring R2D2 on one side and BB-8 on the other was worn by a Boeing 767-300ER registered JA604A.
Star Wars ANA Jet’s first commercial flight was NH14 from Osaka Itami to Tokyo Haneda on November 22, 2015, and was used exclusively on domestic flights. The aircraft operated in the special colors until March 2019 after which it was painted back into the regular ANA livery.
BB-8 ANA Jet
Going back to ANA Star Wars Jets that are still in operation, there’s the BB-8 ANA Jet based on the droid that first appeared in the new trilogy, BB-8. The aircraft, a Boeing 777-300ER registered JA789A, was painted into the livery at Osaka Itami airport by MRO Japan.
It was rolled out on March 27, 2016, and made its first revenue flight – from Osaka to Tokyo Haneda – the following day. Staying true to the theme of the aircraft, the captain’s announcement on the inaugural flight was as follows: There is two of us in the flight deck today – Han Solo and Chewbacca – that will be flying you to Tokyo. Apologies for departing the Osaka airport Resistance Base with a delay. Our expected flight time today is 47 minutes. As such, our arrival at Haneda airport where Luke Skywalker is waiting will be about 10 minutes late. To make up for the delay, we will fly at the speed of light.
I wrote a full report about the flight here.
After the inaugural domestic hop, the aircraft was put on international flights. Currently, it can be seen on flights between Tokyo Narita and destinations in the United States among others. You can track the aircraft on FlightRadar 24.
C3PO ANA Jet
The last of the four ANA Star Wars aircraft to see the light of the day was the bright yellow C3PO ANA Jet. The 777-200ER registered JA743A made its first commercial flight in the special livery on March 21, 2017.
The aircraft’s inaugural flight took its passengers from Tokyo Haneda to Kagoshima. Anthony Daniels, the actor who played C3PO in the series made an appearance at the ceremony that took place before boarding of the flight begun.
Currently, the aircraft can be seen on domestic flights around Japan and can be tracked on FlightRadar24. Among other routes, it is often seen on flights between Tokyo Haneda and Fukuoka.
Virgin Atlantic “The Falcon”
The next airline after ANA to unveil a Star Wars-themed jet was Virgin Atlantic. Rather than promoting the movies themselves, the aircraft is promoting Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, a new land at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida.
“The Falcon,” as Virgin Atlantic calls the livery, is a Boeing 747-400 registered G-VLIP. The aircraft was unveiled in September 2019 and can mainly be seen on Virgin Atlantic’s flights to Orlando, both from London Gatwick and Manchester. You can track “The Falcon” on FlightRadar24.
LATAM “Stormtrooper Plane”
Just a few weeks after Virgin Atlantic unveiled “The Falcon,” to the surprise of many, LATAM unveiled its version of the Star Wars jet. The “Stormtrooper Plane” was painted into its current livery by the Etihad Maintenance Center in Abu Dhabi and, just like the Virgin Atlantic’s aircraft, promotes the Galaxy’s Edge rather than the franchise’s movies.
The aircraft entered into service in October 2019 and is expected to stay in the livery for about four years. The Boeing 777-300ER registered PT-MUA can be seen on flights between Sao Paolo and Miami, New York, and London among other destinations. You can track its movements on FlightRadar24.
United Airlines “Star Wars Plane”
The last airline (so far) to jump on the Star Wars was United. It teamed up with the franchise to paint one of its Boeing 737-800s, registered N36272, in a livery promoting Star Wars’ latest – and last – movie, The Rise of Skywalker.
Similarly to ANA, the partnership goes beyond just the livery. Onboard the Star Wars aircraft, the headrests are Star Wars-themed. The theme continues even on other aircraft through United’s new safety video and even amenity kits.
United’s “Star Wars Plane” can be seen on the airline’s routes within the United States, as well as to Canada, Central America, and the Caribbean. You can track the plane on FlightRadar24. When tracked on FlightAware, the aircraft shows up on the map as an X-Wing starship.
With ANA’s contract with Star Wars expiring in March 2020, the future of the ANA Star Wars aircraft is uncertain. However, chances are that they will operate in the special liveries for a bit longer – just without the special onboard service – like when the Pokemon Peace Jet was taken out of service a couple of years ago.
As for the other airlines’ Star Wars-themed aircraft, those will likely remain in service for at least a couple more years since they promote the franchise’s newer products.