Welcome aboard Hobbit Airways

Characters from JRR Tolkien's epic fantasy the Hobbit cover the full length of Air New Zealand's 73-metre-long aircraft

Air New Zealand's 777-300 will take off from London Heathrow airport today. Its destination? Middle Earth. The aircraft is a 'flying billboard' for new movie The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey – the first film in the Hobbit trilogy, set 60 years before the Lord Of The Rings.

The plane, emblazoned with characters from the film, will fly the cast from London to the global premiere of the film in Wellington, New Zealand, the home of director Peter Jackson, which has been renamed 'the Middle of Middle Earth.'

The airline of Middle-earth

“It’s wonderful to see such a stunning image to celebrate The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey on one of Air New Zealand’s largest international aircraft," Jackson said.

"It’s a unique representation of the innovation and creativity of New Zealanders and a great opportunity to show off the incomparably beautiful landscape of this country.”

The airline of Middle-earth

Images from the film cover the full length of the 73-metre-long aircraft and beyond, including airbridges and baggage carousels.

The airline of Middle-earth

“Air New Zealand has already proven their creativity and innovation with their delightful Middle Earth-inspired safety video, and now this extraordinary aircraft wrap," said Sue Kroll from Warner Bros.

The airline of Middle-earth

The movie – which stars Martin Freeman, Andy Serkis, Cate Blanchett and Elijah Wood – is released on Thursday 13 December in the UK, and has broken new ground in being the first filmed at 48 frames per second, compared with the industry standard 24 frames. The aim is to reduce motion blur and flicker to give you an even more realistic movie-going experience.