How Do Airplanes Get Painted? The Weeks-long Process, Explained

When we step on an airplane, we often take stock of how comfortable the seats are, how big the in-flight entertainment screens are, or how spacious the overhead bins look. We don’t often pay much attention to the outside of the plane.

a large passenger jet flying through a clear blue sky

But while we may not notice how the airplane is painted as quickly as we notice how many bathrooms are available onboard, it’s important to note how much time, care, and attention goes into the plane’s appearance.

A plane’s paint job typically needs to be retouched every 10 years or so — from the normal wear and tear that comes with zipping through the skies several times each day — Thad Beyer, the Hawaiian Airlines North America heavy maintenance manager, told Travel + Leisure. And sometimes, that paint refresh turns into a whole 16-day process when an airline decides to rebrand or create a special design.

“When someone says we’re performing maintenance on an airplane, they think you worked on the engines,” Beyer said. “No, there is so much to work on.”

The process of repainting an entire plane is complicated, precise, and takes many steps, each of which have to be done perfectly.

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