Is Disney about to start its own airline?

The history of Disney and its associate brand franchises and liveries on aircraft is a long one.

Bare with me as we look at how this has come about.

A long time ago, in a galaxy before the word ‘millennials’ would have its current meaning, Eastern Airlines and Disney had a 15 year relationship that involved the airline sponsoring a ride and theming some aircraft, though nowhere like to the standards you’d see now.

Disney is a brand with a truly vast portfolio going back 90 years – and now includes super heroes and the entire StarWars franchise, never mind Pixar.

It has so much product it’s about to launch its own subscription TV service to rival Netflix and others, withdrawing its programming from everyone else.

This level of branding is one thing, but the key word is really “experience” – and is something few corporates can manage to this degree.

One of the more elaborate Disney liveries of recent times, on this WestJet 738, it’s just the sort of thing a fully Disney owned airline would go for.

Control over their IP (intellectual property) is reserved only for the most monolithic companies who control every aspect of their appearance and product. Apple is one of the few who achieve this so obviously in our day to day lives. It’s no coincidence that Disney, Pixar and Apple are inextricably linked through the wife of the late Steve Jobs, whose shareholding’s in Pixar gave her a huge piece of Disney, as well as Apple.

With this desire to provide an all encompassing brand experience, where you’re immersed in Disney from the moment you walk through the airport door to the gate, on the aircraft, in seat, entertainment, crew uniforms and on-board announcements, Disney excel.


I’m imagining being welcomed by Goofy, taken to my seat by Minnie Mouse and then Buzz Lightyear announcing “to infinity and beyond” on take off as Ariel serves Disney branded ice creams and R2D2 in-flight trolleys walk the aisles! The possibilities are endless.

And this is no joke. Rumours about a fully branded airline flying into the key resort airports and transferring passengers to already branded buses to take you to your resort hotel, are gathering pace. I’ve heard about it twice in a week, from a contact in Burbank and another in Florida with close connections to the company.


If this happens – and its still an if, it could be one of the most extraordinary livery and branding opportunities for aircraft in years.

I heard that the thing that drove it so far was the ANA A380. Executives at Disney were impressed by how ANA took the three aircraft, branded them inside and out and are using them on one route – Tokyo-Hawaii. The Hello Kitty franchise on EVA Air is another example. People go out of their way to fly on the aircraft. Disney branded aircraft operated by other airlines over the years have been about the airline’s image far more than than Disney’s.


If this happens it’ll be a really interesting format, it has so much possibility. I’m not a Disney fan but I do appreciate how branding and experience work – I spent much of my career making such things happen. It can be a positive experience but it has to be done well. Disney tends not to do things badly.

The economics may be easy too. Why wouldn’t you fly Disney to Disney? What kid or even many adults wouldn’t? So it costs 10% more? Who cares? Who’s telling their 10 year old you’re too tight fisted to spend an extra $100 on flying with an all Disney airline?

If Disney do this I suspect it’ll be a winner. And I think they already know it.