The kitty has landed, Sanrio's Hello Kitty, that is. Taiwan's airline Eva Air flew its newest "Hello Kitty Hand-in-Hand" jet, a Boeing 777-300ER, from Taipei to LAX -- marking the U.S. as its first international flight on Wednesday.
The flight, piloted by Eva chairman K.W. Chang, included Sanrio executive vp Kunihiko Tsuji, Japanese pop star Yoshiki Hayashi, head Hello Kitty designer Yuko Yamaguchi, roughly 70 fans and nine life-size Sanrio characters, who were all welcomed with a festive ceremony upon landing. To help celebrate the special occasion, invited guests and several media outlets were welcomed to Flight Path Museum to tour the cabin, get nail designs done by a Tokyo-based nail artist, meet Sanrio characters, and indulge in hors d'oeuvres offered with Hello Kitty napkins.
In explaining its decision to expand beyond the Asian region, Eva Air released a statement that read, "Eva chose Los Angeles as its first long-range Hello Kitty jet route to not only attract more passengers from the United States, but also to demonstrate the importance of the route." With LAX as the world's fourth-busiest passenger airport, it's no wonder Hello Kitty made its international debut in the entertainment capital of the world.
While the exterior is designed with images of the iconic feline with friends like Dear Daniel, Badtz-Maru, Keroppi and My Melody (19 Sanrio characters total), the interior also doesn't disappoint when it comes to details of the 39-year-old, red-bow-wearing cat. Inside the long-range aircraft, details of Hello Kitty are highlighted in nearly all in-flight items -- headrest covers, pillows, playing cards, drinking cups, snack wrappers, soap bottles, and yes, even the toilet paper. Most memorable though, may have been the meals on display, which included details from Hello Kitty impressions on dessert cakes to carrots carved out in the shape of the famous feline.
One visitor who found the food element rather impressive was former America's Next Top Model runway coach J. Alexander, who told The Hollywood Reporter, "I'm fascinated by the plane because of its attention to detail, down to the food. I'd like to know who is designing all of it."
"It's all done so chicly that even if you flew coach, you'd have no idea you were flying on that because you're getting that same kind of service in the detail of the food," the model added, while rocking a Hello Kitty necklace that was a gift from Kimora Lee Simmons and a Hello Kitty diamond pinky ring.
Eva Air first partnered with Sanrio to launch the first generation of Hello Kitty jets in 2005, followed by second-generation planes in 2011. Eva Air currently operates the shorter-range versions of the Hello Kitty aircraft with regional flights from Taiwan to Japan, Korea, Hong Kong, Mainland China and Guam.
Each of these smaller jets, which feature only Hello Kitty images, is painted with its own unique theme. Helping to bring these designs to life was Yamaguchi, who has been designing the famed Sanrio character since 1980. While she has been a Hello Kitty artist for more 30 years, Yamaguchi told THR through a translator that she was actually a pianist as a child, and it wasn't until middle school that her teacher encouraged her to go into art and design.
Thanks to that instructor and Yamaguchi's designs, U.S. passengers can now enjoy flying with Hello Kitty in the blue skies. More information for flights on Eva's "Hello Kitty Hand-in-Hand" jet, which will travel between Taipei and L.A., can be found at evakitty.evaair.com.
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