Warning: Taking Your Own Pillow On A Plane May Inspire Irrational Hatred

Warning: Taking Your Own Pillow On A Plane May Inspire Irrational Hatred

So here’s a travel tip I picked up while travelling overseas recently — if you’re planning to take your own pillow aboard an aeroplane, be prepared to cop an inordinate amount of abuse from complete strangers. Especially if it’s a big’un.

Aeroplane pillow picture from Shutterstock

Last week, I travelled to San Jose, California to attend Nvidia’s GPU Technology Conference. Like most economy passengers, I wasn’t particularly relishing the 14+ hour flight in cramped, uncomfortable conditions. It’s one of the most painful first world problems in existence.

In a bid to make the trip more tolerable, I decided to bring a pillow as part of my carry-on luggage. As I’m sure most of you will agree, airline pillows are farcically small and essentially useless; much like airline blankets and headphones. To get a proper amount of sleep, something bigger is needed.

Now admittedly, I did overdo it a little. My pillow is one of those enormous boomerang-shaped jobbies that two people can use simultaneously. My reasoning was that I’d be able to fold it over and push it into the gap between the chair and window. In the meantime, I had to carry it slung over my shoulder like a comatose, stumpy toddler.

On reflection, I suppose it was a teensy bit precious and/or obnoxious for a grown man to be walking around with an over-sized pillow. Nevertheless, the open hostility this item attracted was not anticipated.

The trouble started almost immediately after entering the airport. The attendant who checked in my luggage wanted to know why I was bringing a pillow. “You know pillows are supplied on your flight, right?” she asked. She gave me the distinct impression that my BYO pillow antics were something she was barely willing to tolerate.

While walking through the terminal, I could feel unfriendly eyes on me. On more than one occasion I overheard people talking about me. I’m pretty sure someone said “check out that dickhead with the pillow.” Yep. I was the airport dickhead. For daring to take a pillow on a plane.

Things came to a head while going through immigration. The officer I dealt with seemed downright angry in the presence of my pillow. He literally asked me if I wanted the airline to tuck me in and read me a bedtime story during my flight. No really. This is a thing that actually happened. In an attempt to diffuse the weirdness, I asked if he could throw in a warm milk too. He didn’t laugh. HE DIDN’T LAUGH.

This was definitely the low-point, but the whispering, pointing and sniggering didn’t stop. Me and my pillow were bad juju. In conclusion, you need to have a pretty thick skin to take your own pillow on an international flight. Everyone else should try some of these sleep hacks for long-distance flights instead.

Incidentally, I still took the pillow on my return flight home. Who cares what stuck-up airline passengers think?

What’s the weirdest item you’ve ever attempted to take on a plane with you? Share your stories in the comments section below.


  • You could get a travel pillow? They’re pretty good and versatile, used mine on planes, buses, and in a pinch when sleeping arrangements are less than stellar on tour

  • So long as you didn’t get your pillow in the space of other passengers, or take up excessive room in the overhead compartments, you’re in the clear.

    In regards to the attitude you copped form the staff at the airport, it’s basically what we’ve come to expect now. Passengers are the lowest of the low scum on earth in the eyes of security and check-in staff. That’s what happens when you give poorly trained people far too much power, it goes to their head.

    I look forward to the time when things get corrected, when we don’t let terrorists dictate what’s appropriate on flights. Just let common sense take hold again. Of course this will never happen.

  • While I don’t generally because I’d rather not carry it around, I’ve taken a pillow onto a plane before after having read it was a music artists top tip for travelling on planes so much.

    My pillow of choice is feather and while it’s normally a decent size, it can be rolled extremely tight. Add some cellotape to keep it in place and people were none the wiser. I then took it with me when I was staging in hostels around Australia – the little things really matter, and a pillow from home really makes a difference.

  • You skipped the most important part: Was your 14 hour trip with a giant pillow to sleep on better?

  • I have taken a regular size pillow on an international flight before, put it i my carry on bag though, didn’t help enough (just cant sleep for very long on a plane, even with 4 seats to myself).

    It would have taken every fibre of of my being to summon the will power to not tell the immigration wanker to “shut up and do your job” (because he can make what happens next very painful and the following flight, should he let you continue, quite uncomfortable and may need that pillow to sit on).

  • Good on you for taking it on the flight back. It’s a real shame such morons wield a certain power in airports these days. Travel pillows are worse than useless, rust me I’ve tried many different varieties and they’re all crap.

    Its the lugging a pillow about bit that astonishes me. I get annoyed at having to weild a small travel pillow and feel cluttered and frustrated with every single item that I take onboard, I cant even imagine lugging a large pillow.

  • Seriously though a grown man walking around the airport with a big banana pillow. I’m sure people were making comment’s and it wasn’t all just paranoia

    When it comes to getting on and off the plane, in and out of aisles and generally keeping people to their personal allocated space you have to wonder why the airlines don’t give everyone one of those enormous pillows.

  • I used to be a fitness fanatic, and recall strapping ankle weights onto my body! I couldn’t put them in my check-in luggage because that would have exceeded the allowance on economy flight. Ah the good old days pre-9/11! Joana

  • Dude, I probably wouldn’t felt the same way towards you because such a big pillow is an eyesore. It’s like walking around with a pool floaty, cumbersome and hard to get around quickly.

  • I see many people bringing full size pillows to their flights…although it’s teenagers so far. In that case, they are the smart ones here..plus you too.
    I can tolerate flights <5 hrs long with a rolled up shirt but on long layovers, that’s when I need my full sz pillow.
    Some jist don’t know what they’re missing.

  • I wanted to know if i could bring a pillow on my flight and happened upon this blog. I just laughed so hard! But, Im definitely brining my pillow AND blanket now.

  • I’m flying to Ireland next month and plan to take a full size pillow. The flight will be 11 hours, so I want as much comfort as possible. On my last long flight, my rear was in such agony from a hard uncomfortable seat. Don’t want that experience again. I saw other people in the airport carrying pillows, and thought, that’s smart!

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