By Justin Wastnage in London
Brazilian national carrier Varig has been parading the aircraft it used to transport its national football team to Switzerland last month around its long haul network ahead of the global soccer championship this week.
The FIFA World Cup 2006 starts in Munich this Friday with a game between Germany and Costa Rica, but current world champions and five times winners Brazil are receiving much of the attention.
Members of the Brazilian team based in the country, along with 22 staff, took a civilian flight on a Boeing MD-11 operated by Varig (as flight number RG8772) on 21 May, from São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro to Munich. The aircraft made an additional stop over in Zurich, to drop the players off. Team Brazil was based in the Swiss town of Weggis until Monday, when it moved to its German base at Konigstein near Frankfurt ahead of its first match against Croatia next Tuesday in Berlin.
Previously the Brazilian team met in Brazil for an official send-off before leaving on a chartered aircraft for the tournament. This year the Brazilian football federation took the cheaper option of purchasing commercial tickets on Varig and European carriers for players in Italy, the UK and Spain.
The aircraft (PP-VTI, pictured above) carrying the South Americans to Switzerland was repainted in a special livery featuring soccer player silhouettes and five stars representing each of their world titles in 1958, 1962, 1970, 1994 and 2002.
The aircraft will be used on Varig's European and Japanese routes during the tournament to promote the carrier by association with the team.
Other airlines have also decked out their fleets in celebration of the championship. Two Japan Airlines (JAL) Boeing 777s and a 747-400 have been painted with a special Samurai Blue 2006 livery to mark the tournament.
Also, a Qantas 767-300 (VH-ZXB) has received a special scheme for Australia's national side, dubbed the Socceroos, which are making only their second appearance in the World Cup. A British Airways Airbus A320 (understood to be G-EUUI) has received the Three Lions emblem of the England football team and renamed "Pride of the Nation". Eurofly, as the official airline for the Italian Azzuris team and have a themed A330-200 (I-EEZA) and Tunis Air has a special livery A320 (TS-IME).
Meanwhile, several Emirates aircraft sport "official airline FIFA World cup" decals. However, flightglobal.com would love to receive further intelligence and pictures of other football-related aircraft liveries. Email us your leads.
Frankfurt Airport is the only airport in Germany to offer a dedicated passenger terminal for national teams and extra fans during the upcoming World Cup.
The airport operator Fraport re-commissioned the passenger terminal of the former US Rhine-Main air base at the southern side of the airfield, named the "World Cup Terminal. Germany is expecting around 450,000 additional passengers during the four week tournament and more than 560 extra flights have been registered.