Names Of Airplanes: How Do Planes Get Their Names?

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Airlines commonly give their planes unusual names placed on the front of the aircraft. Airplane naming is often used to commemorate a significant event, engage with social media followers, or create a particular impression.

Dream StartScootaliciousMiss Moneypenny, and Turmeric. Confused? These are just some of the eccentric names that airlines give their aircraft. 

Yes, that’s right, airplanes do have names and are often quite quirky!

As a frequent traveler, you may identify the aircraft you have flown on using a number, such as Airbus A380 or Boeing 737, but you might not know if you flew on Spruce Moose or Dream Start. 

Do you want to know the name of the plane you are boarding? Look no further than the nose of the aircraft!

Contrary to the saying, “What’s in a name?” Various global airline companies now spend considerable time and money selecting an appropriate name for their planes. Traditionally, planes were named after a saint, star, or city of origin. However, with the rise of social media and the ever-present digital world, it is not uncommon to see planes bearing names merely hashtags!

Let us delve deeper into the details of how airplanes are named.

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Naming That Resonates With Culture, Tradition And Nature

Naming airplanes is a practice that dates back almost a century. In the early 1920s, the Dutch airline KLM named its first airplane “Dikke Dirk” (Fat Dirk) because it had an unusually wide baseline. However, since then, KLM has given its aircraft more traditional names, such as city squares, capitals, and even local birds. The Boeing 777, which KLM uses in its fleet, bears the name of a famous heritage site.

A KLM airplane (Photo Credit: Alf van Beem/Wikimedia Commons)

According to Debbie Nakanelua-Richards, Director of Community Relations at Hawaiian Airlines, naming a person or thing is essential to Hawaiian culture. It plays a crucial role in defining its existence and spirit. Over the years, Hawaiian Airlines planes have received names based on constellations, flowers, and birds. On one occasion, a plane was named after a renowned Hawaiian sumo wrestler, Jesse Takamiyama.

Zurich Zrh Airport Boeing 737-800 El Al Aircraft
An El Al airplane (Image Credit: maxpixel)

EL AL, the national carrier of Israel, has a tradition of naming its aircraft after cities and towns in Israel—for example, Jerusalem, Rehovot, Sderot, and so on. Interestingly, whenever EL AL names its plane after a city or town, an unveiling ceremony is held in the corresponding city to accompany and bless the naming.

Also Read: What Are Ghost Planes? 3 Mysterious Airplane Disappearances From History

Lady Luck

Virgin Atlantic’s aircraft fleet is known for having primarily female names, which reflect the company’s brand values. These names include Ladybird, Hotlips, Pretty Woman, and Queen of the Skies. According to a spokesperson at Virgin Atlantic, these names are considered “classic” and have stood the test of time. To celebrate the launch of non-stop flights to India, the airline has recently introduced a new aircraft called Indian Princess.

Virgin Atlantic Ladybird (Image Credit: Flickr)

Also Read: Can Airplanes Taxi To The Runway On Their Own Power?


Several airlines in the aviation industry choose names to project their image. Therefore, Spicejet, an airline company from India, has chosen spices as name for its aircraft. The airplanes are named Coriander, Turmeric, Red Chili, Pepper, etc.

krushpawar plane
A Spicejet airplane (Image Credit: Flickr)

In Gratitude

Sometimes, a life-changing event turns into an airplane name. That’s what happened in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. As a symbol of gratitude to the people of Halifax in Canada, who took care of the airplane crew stranded there after US airspace shut down following 9/11, German airline Lufthansa named one of its Airbus 340 aircraft Gander Halifax. This was the first time Lufthansa opted for a foreign city’s name on one of its aircraft.

Connect With The ‘Digital’ Audience

Many airlines have recently started utilizing social media platforms to interact with their audience. They are also using social media to give their planes unique names. For example, Ryanair, an Irish airline, ran a competition on Facebook where a few lucky fans got the chance to have airplanes named after them. Similarly, Qantas, an Australian airline, launched an online campaign to find names for several new aircraft. The airline received over 50,000 suggestions!

Scoot, a Singaporean airline with many flights to India, uses social media crowdsourcing to connect with the younger Indian market. The airline has given its planes quirky and fun names that resonate with its brand image. Some of these names include KamaScootra, Scootalicious, Dream Start, and Big Yella Fella.

Scoot actually merged with another Singaporean airline, TigerAir, and commemorated the merger by naming one airplane, Conscious Coupling!

Last Updated By: Ashish Tiwari

References (click to expand)
  1. Aircraft Designations and Popular Names.
  2. G-VHOW do we name our aircraft? | Stories.
  3. FAA Order 5300.7, Standard Naming Convention for ....
About the Author

Hussain Kanchwala is an Electronic Engineer from University of Mumbai. He is a tech aficionado who loves to explicate on wide range of subjects from applied and interdisciplinary sciences like Engineering, Technology, FinTech, Pharmacy, Psychology and Economics.

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