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Do Airlines Allow Pillows on a Plane?

Updated May 12, 2020

With increasingly small seats to accommodate a larger amount of people on a flight, your comfort on a plane may have become increasingly compromised. It used to be fairly standard to accommodate passengers with a pillow and blanket, especially for longer, or overnight flights. But to cut costs, even these may no longer be available, except when especially requested (or paid extra for).

Because of this, more people bring along their own sleep products. And depending on the airline, you may be restricted in even this small comfort. Generally, travel pillows are barely even glanced at, but the question still remains, are pillows allowed on airlines?

Are Pillow Allowed on Airlines?

For travel pillows, almost always. Standard sized, bed pillows, most likely- but there may be circumstances surrounding your in-flight item allowance. Unfortunately, this is not an entirely easy question to answer, and what it all comes down to is what the airline you are flying defines a personal item as. Most (but not all) allows a carry on bag, plus a personal item such as a purse or backpack.

Coats, travel pillows, books, etc. are all generally accepted as part of your attire (i.e. they aren’t going to count your coat as a separate personal item on top of what you already have and deny your having it). But due to the size of a pillow, if it cannot fit within your backpack or personal bag, it may be considered your one allotted personal item.

Carry On and Personal Item Rules

Although many airlines have a pretty standard measurement for carry-on bags, and what they consider a carry-on, how these are perceived may vary from one airline to the next. Some airlines require you to place your bag in a premeasured container to see if it fits, others may eyeball it for size, while still others may ignore it altogether- assuming that their passengers have read the rules in advance.

The problems that arise with a standard size pillow surrounds their size. These pillows are obviously much larger than a travel pillow, and consequently, it takes up more room. Even though many may be easily rolled and compressed, especially if they have a feather-like fill, if they don’t fit within your carry on or personal item, they may actually end up being defined as your personal item. In order to prepare in advance, it is suggested that you call and speak with the airlines prior to your flight so you are not faced with an extra baggage fee or being forced to check one of your items.

Problems You May Experience

The worse you would face from the airline itself, as mentioned above, is an added baggage fee and/or having to check the extra item- but there may be some unexpected kickback from fellow passengers or even airline staff. Even when considering it as your personal item, everybody from airline attendants to your seatmate may feel the need to comment on it.

Size

A standard sized pillow is also bulky and may be awkward when trying to lug it through security and the airport. It also is going to take up room in your seat until you get settled, and if you do not have a window seat, you will need to take care so it is not infringing upon your neighbors or the aisle way. When not in use, the only place you may be able to place it is on your lap if there is not enough overhead storage space.

Germs

Other people may comment on the hygiene of it all; either that you are bringing your own issues into the space of others on a plane or that you are picking up the germs of the plane on a personal item. Honestly, this is pretty much none of their business.

Types of Pillows to Consider

Most people who would seriously like an answer to this question do so because they are not a big fan of travel sized pillows, despite their many varied designs and comforts. If pillow comfort is a concern, especially on longer flights, there are a few designs you may want to consider in order to best meet your personal needs.

Alternate Travel Pillows

When the term travel is used in relation to pillows, most people think of a traditional horseshoe-shaped pillow that wraps around the neck. There are actually quite a few alternative styles that pack up nice and small, and they are easy to carry. The J-Pillow Travel Pillow is an excellent example and can be used in a variety of ways to make you comfortable on a long flight. The Ostrich Pillow Light is another, and it can provide cushioning against surfaces, head and neck support, and it can serve as an eye mask as well.

Feather Pillows

Feather pillows are incredibly malleable and soft, and it can often be tightly compressed. This makes them easier to pack and also allows them to be folded or shaped as needed while on a flight. You have to take care not to overly crush these types of pillows, but feather and down fillings are popular due to their strength and long-lasting comfort.

Compressible Camping Pillows

Camping pillows are a great choice as they are made specifically to be used as a traditional pillow but with a fraction of the weight and travel size. There are many options available to choose from, such as inflatable pillows and compressible pillows that come with specialized storage pouches.

Soft Pillows

Any soft pillow will allow you to travel lighter and more compact. Soft pillows are more likely to be able to roll or compress for easier carrying, or it can be tucked away more nicely to your side without becoming big and bulky when not in use. These would most likely be amongst your best choices if you absolutely want a full-size pillow along for your trip.

Microbead Pillows

Many traditional travel pillows actually utilize microbeads as a filling. This contour well to your head without losing shape, hence their popularity. Alternative Buckwheat pillows, such as the Sobakawa Dream Pillow, use microbeads as a filling rather than their heavier buckwheat husk counterparts, making them lightweight. Since Sobakawa pillows are traditionally smaller than a standard pillow, a microbead alternative makes them a good traveling choice as well.

Adjustable Bamboo Pillows

Many bamboo pillows use a shredded memory foam blend fill within the case that can be adjusted for a more personalized comfort. This makes them an ideal travel pillow as not only are they malleable and compressible, they also can be emptied of much of their fill to be used as an even more compact travel pillow. The removed fill can be stored in a secure plastic bag in checked baggage if you want to add it back to take advantage of it once you’re back in a normal bed.

You may be interested in: Best Pillowcase for Travel

Conclusion

Air travel can become an uncomfortable experience, especially if you are trying to get some much-needed rest during your travels. With the many changes in airline comfort and fees, getting the items you need to properly rest may be somewhat of a hassle, prompting you to bring your own pillow and other sleep items.

There is no true reason why you cannot bring your own pillow of any sort, but be aware that different airlines may view it in different ways – and fees may apply. You also may get unnecessary behavior from fellow travelers, but honestly, it isn’t any of their business. If you want to travel with something other than a travel pillow, consider some of the choices that might make storing, packing, and using your pillow a bit easier.