Image via Qantas

APEX Insight: After a review of more than 40,000 crowdsourced names for its new Dreamliner fleet, Qantas has published a shortlist of 20 options, including Vegemite, Skippy and True Blue. Lighthearted approaches to airline branding, like Norwegian’s Tail Fin Heroes and Vueling’s fun aircraft names, can be successful in garnering media attention and making brands more approachable to their customers.

Qantas has opened up the naming of its newest aircraft to popular vote, gathering more than 40,000 suggestions from customers, with each customer contributing an average of four names.

For decades, Qantas has maintained firm standards for naming its aircraft by type and theme:

  • Boeing 707 and 747 – Australian capital cities and major centers
  • Boeing 737-400 – Australian birds
  • Boeing 737-800 – Australian towns
  • Airbus A330 – Australian valleys
  • Airbus A380 – Australian aviation pioneers

But Qantas has temporarily set aside its historic aircraft naming conventions for the new Dreamliner fleet, as part of an effort to foster customer ownership of the brand.

After a review of crowdsourced suggestions, the airline has now published a short list, which will be opened up for a final vote. The final eight names will be announced next week.

The names that made it to the short list for Qantas’ new fleet of Boeing 787 Dreamliners include an opera singer, native animals, references to Indigenous culture and some of Australia’s best known landmarks.

Qantas has narrowed down thousands of entries to a short list of 20 names, and is asking the public to vote to decide the final eight. Image via Qantas

Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce describes the enthusiasm of Qantas’ brand fans for the naming initiative. “There were so many great entries that truly reflected the spirit of Australia, and we’re thrilled with the response,” said Joyce. “It was obvious that people really put some thought into different themes we could use to name our fleet of eight new Dreamliners, including famous explorers to some of their favorite Aussie sayings.”

Of course, there’s always a clown in the crowd. Boaty McBoatface should be a lesson to brand managers everywhere. “It’s fair to say there were a few suggestions which we found very funny but probably not suitable for an aircraft that will be flying around the globe,” Joyce added. Some of the names which didn’t make the final cut on Qantas’ list include “yeah, nah,” “chiko roll” (an Australian spring roll), and, of course, “Planey McPlaneFace.” But Aer Lingus’ social media team has already laid claim to that name, if management would ever allow it.

Distinctive and comical aircraft names have proven successful brand strategies for some, including Norwegian and Vueling. Norwegian has established a Tail Fin Heroes nomenclature for its planes, which includes the painting of individuals who have made important cultural and societal contributions on the tails of its 737 and 787 aircraft. Often, the iconic figures selected have direct ties to the markets those aircraft will serve. This past year, Norwegian honored beloved author Roald Dahl with his own Tail Fin Hero livery on what would have been his 100th birthday. Dahl, of Nordic descent, was the first prominent figure from the UK to receive the honors.

Vueling has shown a flair for language with its aircraft names, having fun with puns. Some of the names include “Vueling on haven’s door,” “I want to Vueling,” and “La vita e Vueling.” The IAG low-cost airline has also been clever about crowdsourcing plane names in the past, with short-listed popular suggestions including “Ready, Steady Vueling” and “My name is Ling. Vue Ling.”

These lighthearted approaches to airline branding can be successful in garnering media attention and making brands more approachable to their customers. Qantas is opening up its shortlist for a final popular vote on a dedicated microsite, with winning names to be announced in the next week.