"ANA, we're home."

Home as in the Millennium Falcon or the 787? 

Home as in the Millennium Falcon or the 787? 

I thought that the new Star Wars trailer was the most exciting bit of news this week. I was clearly wrong: here comes the unbelievable R2-D2 787!

R2-Dreamliner (image credit: ANA)

R2-Dreamliner (image credit: ANA)

I've never flown the 787 (a shame), but coming this fall, I'll clearly be checking its routes to try and catch this bird.

ANA is the largest customer for the 787. It was the launch carrier for the first version in 2011 and has just finalized the order for three 787-10 on top of the almost 50 it's poised to receive. The aircraft is partially built by the Japanese industry.

The strategy? Expanding its international footprint and this Star Wars tie-in will undoubtedly help raise it global awareness (it's already one of the most fantastic passenger experience I've ever personally witnessed).

Says Takashi Shiki, ANA Executive Vice President of Sales & Marketing:

Although it's a lofty goal, we hope that like Star Wars, ANA will become well known and loved across all borders and generations. Through the introduction of the new Star Wars livery we hope to welcome more passengers from around the world to experience ANA as the Inspiration of Japan.

ANA is also the launch operator for the 787-9 and this particular one shall be flying international routes. The aircraft is described on a quite majestic website (be sure to have the sound on).

It is the first time a Star Wars character will appear on a livery of a commercial aircraft. R2-D2's personality traits, reliability, loyalty and resilience, are clearly ones an airline would love to co-opt. 
All Nippon Airways doesn't say if the plane will emit those legendary tonal sounds however.

Warp speed! Wrong movie, I know (image credit: ANA)

Warp speed! Wrong movie, I know (image credit: ANA)

But that's not all. ANA is betting it all on Star Wars as this is only a glimpse of a full 5 year plan with the franchise—up to the release of the third and final chapter in this new trilogy in 2020. 

ANA has launched a 5-year ANA 『Star Wars Project』 leading up to 2020 that will connect Japan to the global market.
With the launch of the project,  ANA has announced the design of an R2-D2 Jet*—Star Wars livery, with the iconic R2-D2, on its newest aircraft 787-9 Dreamliner.
*The jet is scheduled to fly on international routes this autumn.
With the skies as our stage, we are embarking on a range of novel initiatives as we head into the future.
Expect a new world full of surprises!

Will we see other Star Wars-inspired liveries over that time-span? Time will tell, but with the amount of co-branding potential here, we'll certainly have years of fun.

A second (!) Star Wars website, ANA Planet, tells us that some more information should be announced on June 12 when the airline launches its Tokyo-Houston route. In the meantime, press on the icons to hear more iconic Star Wars sounds.

To the travelers of this planet

To soar the skies is to free your mind to wander afar,
With new encounters awaiting you beyond the blue horizon.
It is the desire that drives us to embark on a journey.
The reach of an aircraft is nothing when compared to a person's power to dream.
Our hope is to transport you and your dreams to destinations far and wide.

We are your wings to 37 cities on this planet
Experience Us. We're ANA.

Alex and I will talk about this on the upcoming episode of our podcast, with a guest who has done some work in Star Wars. Be sure to tune in!

The Star Wars jet animation (it's clearly rendered) can be seen on ANA's official YouTube channel (no sound, so just play the Imperial March at the same time on your speakers):

Star Wars: The Force Awakens opens on December 18. 

Had they decided to release the 2 minute trailer as a movie, I'm sure it would have been a huge box-office hit on its own. Its release just sent Twitter and Facebook into emotional lightspeed.

Find me crying on that plane.