Why are all aircraft painted white? What’s behind the so-called “eurowhite” style

The Guru Blog - Things you didn't know

They have called it ‘Eurowhite’, because it spread quickly across the Old Continent, but soon reached almost any corner of the globe. In a year dominated by the Covid pandemic, it is important to say that we are not talking of a virus or another pathogen agent. Yet, ‘Eurowhite’ has had a rather depressing effect on the many aviation enthusiasts around the world, as it transformed airport aprons into places inhabited by white phantoms where, just a few years ago, colours prevailed.

A Lufthansa A350-900 at Munich (Wikimedia / Juke Schweizer)

No matter the airline, no matter the type of aircraft, today almost all commercial airplanes are completely white, with just the tail fins painted with the logos of airlines to distinguish one from the other. The ‘Eurowhite’ style is completed by titles in the forward part of the fuselage or, in some cases, all along the fuselage.

Those airlines not following this trend are very rare exceptions: notably KLM (KLM) and Wizz (W6) in Europe, Royal Jordanian (RJ) in the Middle East, Air New Zealand (NZ) in Oceania, Korean Air (KE) in Asia, Air Tahiti Nui (TN) in the Pacific, Southwest (WN) in North America. Even such an iconic livery like Aer Lingus (EI)‘s “total green” has been converted to white, recently.

Aer Lingus said goodbye to its iconic all-green livery (Wikimedia / N509FZ)

So… one may wonder why. Style, if we consider liveries as aircraft’s suits, is a relevant factor: for example, in the 1970s and 1980s cheatlines along the fuselage were a must for every airline. Today, not a single major carrier would dare to wear one.

But there are some less frivolous reasons behind that, too. Keeping costs down is one (and probably the most important), because adding layers of colours or decals costs a lot (the prices for painting an aircraft vary from 50,000 to 200,000 USD depending on the size of the airplane and on the complexity of the livery), takes time (in which the aircraft cannot fly) and adds to the weight of the plane (the paint on a 737 weighs in at 180kg, and on a 747 can be as much as 500kg) and the heavier an aircraft is, the more fuel it burns.

AF has been the model for the ‘Eurowhite’ style (Wikimedia / leaderofthewave)

Add that colours fade more rapidly than white because of the atmospheric agent airplanes are exposed to, as in the air as on the ground (although dirt is easier to spot on white – ask Air France about that).

In point of safety, having an all-white plane makes it far easier to quickly spot issues, as a dark spot of oil or a small dark crack will be far more obvious to see. White planes are also easier to see in the dark, and will be much easier to locate in the event of a crash if they land in a densely forested area or in a large body of water. For similar reasons, some say that the white fuselage would help preventing from bird strikes being more detectable by birds, although this may be questionable, as US Airways’ Airbus A320 N106US was in an almost totally white livery as it was hit by several birds after departing New York La Guardia airport (LGA) on January 15, 2009.

‘Eurowhite’ conquered other continents (Wikimedia / Adam Moreira)

Finally, fans of white fuselages (i.e airlines’ executives) cite passengers’ comfort, as white reflects more efficiently the rays of the sun, keeping cabins cooler during turnarounds at airports. That helps in reducing the need for air conditioning, which means cutting another cost for airlines. (Photo header Wikimedia Commons / Masakatsu Ukon)

For all these reasons, white fuselages are here to stay for a long time. Aviation enthusiasts and airplanes spotters cannot but accept that…


Do you like the so-called ‘Eurowhite’ style or rather you prefer more colourful liveries? Tell the Guru!

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