Are Blankets Allowed on Airplanes?

6 min read

Can you bring a blanket on an airplane view out a window of a plane wing

Can you take a personal blanket on a commercial international or local flight?

Passengers can take their blankets and sleep pillows onboard most commercial flights as long as the items comply with the airline's ruling on hand or carry-on luggage. 

Airline rules periodically change more to respond to situations than actual safety forethought. The 911 attacks are a prime example of this.

Security became a high priority measure with many restrictions placed on carry-on luggage; fortunately, blankets and pillows were not included in these restrictions.

Man sitting feet up on luggage at the airport

The onset of the Covid pandemic created a health emergency, and airlines had to amend their operations to comply with health mandates.

Airline blankets and pillows have to be individually seal packed in plastic to prevent contamination. Added security checks plus the extra lengths the airlines had to take to comply with health mandates meant higher overheads which somehow have o be recouped.

This led to several charges being introduced over and above the cost of the airfare. Sadly, many airlines have resorted to charging for the use of their blankets but most limit this fee to economy class passengers who opted for their budget airfare.

As part of your own health concerns, it is best to take your own blanket and pillow when you fly. Not only will it give you peace of mind, but it will give you a much more pleasant flying experience. We will take a more detailed look at airline blankets and what blankets you should consider as your flying companion.

leopard print throw by thultula

If your trip is taking you to Africa get into the African mood with an authentic made in Africa throw

General airline rules on blankets.

Airline companies each have their own set of rules as far as providing blankets to passengers is concerned. Most do not offer blankets on domestic flights due to the short duration of the flight, and for international flights, a limited number of blankets are stored onboard that will not cater to every passenger.

Blankets are a go-to item on flights, both international and domestic, because of the rather cold cabin temperature.

The recommended optimum cabin temperature is 70-75-degrees Fahrenheit (22-24 degrees Celsius), which by comfort standards will warrant the use of a blanket or a warm jacket at least.

Keeping all of the different areas of an aircraft at a constant temperature can be tricky for the pilot and cabin crew. Still, research indicates that cooler temperatures make for more manageable passengers.

The recommended cabin temperature is ideal for the cabin crew who are constantly working and generating body heat while tending to passenger needs. Still, you'll soon begin to feel cold sitting in a chair for a while at that temperature. 

Many budget airlines have resorted to charging a fee for the use of their blankets, among many other charges, and coach or economy class passengers are most affected by these additional charges.

It can cost in the region between $8 and $25 to "rent" an airline blanket. Add this cost to meal and other inflight expenses, and it may have been better to have booked a more upscale seat. Here are a few of the many different additional charges you can expect:

  • Blanket fee.
  • Change fee. Changing to another flight with the same airline.
  • Fuel surcharges. Also called airline surcharge or carrier-imposed fee, it compensates for increases in the oil price.
  • Charges for seat assignments.
  • Printed boarding pass fee.
  • Carry-on bag fees.
  • Wi-Fi access fee.
  • Inflight entertainment fee.
  • Agriculture fee. This fee is obligatory for all international flights landing in the United States.

As you can see from this condensed list of additional charges, it is best to do your homework and purchase the best value for money ticket, which is not necessarily economy class.

Airline blankets should be clean and fresh, ready for single-use before they get washed and repackaged for further use, but this is not always the case. International airlines mostly wash and repack their blankets at their home base, where they have a laundry contract for the service.

Blankets are usually in short supply on most aircraft and are reused on the different legs of their round trip back to their base.

Cabin crews are famous for the phrase, "chicken or beef?" but when it comes to their blankets, they should ask, "fresh or used?" Jokes aside, fresh airline blankets have been and remain a concern for many passengers, especially the ongoing Covid pandemic.

Airline blankets vary between the different classes. Coach or economy class passengers can expect a thin polyester fleece blanket that is too small to provide enough body coverage.

These blankets are treated with chemicals to be flame retardant, but there is no industry standard for blankets. Business and first-class passengers can expect more upmarket blankets with a high thread count that are much warmer and more comfortable. 

The best blankets to use on an airplane.

Doing a little research on the airline you plan to fly with will help clarify some issues, but no airline will admit handing out dirty blankets. Thankfully there is no restriction on passengers boarding with their blankets.

Most airlines consider blankets a personal item, and passengers can have them draped over their arms when checking in, saving on packing space in your carry-on bag.

If you prefer packing your blanket in your hand luggage, you will want to make sure that you pack a lightweight blanket or throw that doesn't take up too much volume. 

Natural fiber throws like cotton, or a cotton-wool blend will be perfect. Besides the fact that your blanket is clean and fresh smelling, you will be able to wrap yourself from head to toe in your throw and stay warm and comfy throughout the whole flight because your blanket is big enough and warm enough for the trip.

Another great benefit of using your blanket when you fly is that you can immediately wrap yourself up and not have to wait for one of the cabin crew to pass by so you can ask for a blanket.

This helps a great deal when you have to take off or transfer at an on-route airport during the cold winter months. It is also 100% better than the small economy class airline blankets that do very little to keep you warm.

Taking your blanket along with you shouldn't be seen as a burden, as one extra item that will weigh you down, but it should instead be viewed as a necessity to comfortable air travel.

You can't exactly take your queen-size duvet or blanket along because either one of these items will be too bulky, and they will certainly slow you up.

So, you will be looking at a blanket or poncho-styled blanket that can be rolled up tightly into a small bundle and either carried under your arm or packed at the top of your carry-on bag.

Material or fabric choice must be considered because you want to stay warm on your flight without getting too cold or overheating. 

Natural fiber blankets tend to be more expensive than synthetic fiber blankets, and purchasing a blanket specifically for air travel could turn out to be not such a wise decision unless you have a purpose for it afterward.

With a long-haul international flight, you may not be able to find your ideal sleep posture, but with the right blanket, you can still create your optimum sleep microclimate that will result in less wakefulness during the flight.

If you compare your home sleep temperature to the estimated cabin temperature of a commercial aircraft, and you will find that your comfortable travel clothes plus your blanket throw that you usually use on your couch will be enough to keep you warm and snug on the plane.

Try and avoid taking a blanket with you that blends in with the airline's corporate colors or resembles their blankets' color. This should be considered to avoid confusion when disembarking from the plane.

You may still feel sleepy and forget your blanket on board, especially if it blends in with the surrounding color scheme. African-inspired blanket throws are lightweight and, when packed, do not take up too much space.

The colors and designs will undoubtedly be unique to the airplane environment, and it's not likely that you walk off the plane without your trusty throw.

Using a throw from your home will save you buying a special travel blanket that might be a bit smaller and weigh a bit less than your favorite couch throw, but you should never the less measure and weigh your throw. 

Also, fold it up or roll it up to check how much space it will take if you pack it in your carry-on bag. 

With the specs on hand, call the airline you intend to book with and enquire about bringing your blanket along; also, find out if it will be considered as a personal item or not.

You see, everything about air travel revolves around knowing the rules and weighing the benefits against costs but don't forget about the hidden fees; enquire about them too. 

A final thought.

When you fly, dress comfortably, and be sure to take your neck pillow and blanket along. If you must cut down on the weight of your bags, don't look at your blanket as an unnecessary item that can be scratched off your essentials list. If you do, you may regret it sooner than you think. Happy flying.

Steve Watts
Steve Watts


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