While I would not have been impressed if I was one of the people on the plane that day I can’t help but laugh every time I tell people the story of how a Qantas flight from LA to Melbourne was once delayed over the size of some airline pyjamas.
It all happened because some first class passengers had boarded, discovered that Qantas didn’t have their XL sized pyjamas and so refused to fly long haul to Australia. Their leaving the plane in a jimjam huff meant that the other passengers had to sit on the tarmac for half an hour while they waited for their luggage to be unloaded.
We know this because the captain shared what was going on, and I can only imagine the reaction throughout the plane and in economy in particular when restless passengers heard the news.
Some may not even have realised that people were getting changed into pyjamas, or sleep suits as they are so often called, up in first and business, and may have been wondering why they weren’t doing the same back in the cheap seats.
I’ll admit it hadn’t occurred to me until I was upgraded for the first time on a Virgin Atlantic flight and discovered what goes on behind the curtain. Even before we had taken off one glamorous lady in Upper Class had nipped to the loos, gotten changed into her Virgin Atlantic sleep suit and then sat sipping champagne in comfort as we waited for the rest of the passengers to get on the plane.
With it being my first time I waited to get more of a feel for the airline pyjama etiquette but I soon realised when you’re in the pointy end of the plane you can get comfy pretty much anytime you like, and so I quickly followed (sleep) suit.
These days I always pack a pair of PJs in my carry on for a long haul flight, even when I’m back in economy. Sure, I’m one of very few who do and I rarely see anyone else getting changed but I don’t care. Why should the people in the most comfortable seats on the plane be the only ones in the most comfortable clothes?
That said, when I do get changed it’s not into a little nighty or a pair of colourful PJs that I may wear at home.
If you want to bring your own pyjamas on a flight it’s best to go for something unisex and nice and simple.
As for me, I take a pair of my old airline PJs for another spin in the sky. But which ones deserve an extra trip or two?
Features Found in the Best Airline Pyjamas and Sleep Suits
Thanks to my friend and airline guru Mark I have more airline pyjamas than I have first class flights under my belt, as he has often shared his second set from a London – Sydney flight with me.
When we got into a chat about what makes a great set of airline PJs we shared some of the same thoughts, but he also had a gentleman’s perspective that had never occurred to me before.
We both agreed that comfort is king, and that they should feel great and look good (obviously). And we are also both big fans of pockets.
But it never occurred to me that dark colours are important. As Mark explained, some men have a tendency to experience a little, shall we say, splash-back in the toilet late at night, which is rather obvious on light coloured PJs. (At this point I should also point out that Mark is not one of those men, but he has seen it happen. Right, moving on now.)
Designer Airline Pyjamas and Sleep Suits
When it comes to fashion designers and airline sleepwear, it’s interesting to see how some airlines embrace the designer label concept while others prefer to keep it label free. And sometimes they decide to do both.
Take Qantas for example. Peter Morrissey used to design the ones that found in business class and with the flying kangaroo on the front but when it came to first class Qantas didn’t have a designer name attached.
That changed in September 2016 when Qantas unveiled their new first class pyjamas and slippers designed by the Australian born, Paris based designer Martin Grant, and Qantas designers themselves created the new business class pyjamas with the flying kangaroo and the new Qantas logo.
While I’ve yet to try the Martin Grant ones my personal favourite Qantas sleep suits were done by Akira Isogawa for first class. They were soft cotton with textured flecks through them and I felt quite fancy in them even if I didn’t get to fly first at the time and was only wearing them in my own bed and on the couch at home.
Meanwhile Virgin Australia has featured another Aussie designer, Juli Grbac. Business Class passengers on long haul to Los Angeles and Abu Dhabi receive a set of the v-necklined sleep suits in ribbed cotton, which was chosen as it’s both warm and breathable. The Virgin Australia pyjamas are also amongst those that come in a handy drawstring bag which can then be used as a shoe bag or laundry bag on your trip.
So far the poshest airline pyjamas I have come across are those found on Singapore Airlines. When I flew in their suites (and yes, it was amazing, you can check out my Singapore Airlines suites review here) I’ll admit I loved that their pyjamas were Givenchy.
The Givenchy sleep suits are like a lovely tracksuit (and yes that’s the first time I’ve put those two words together!). They’re super comfy with a little zip up the front with the Singapore Airlines logo attached and a piece of fabric beneath so that you can undo the zip and keep your modesty. Passengers in both Suites and First Class get a pair of these special PJs to snuggle into. Under a Givenchy blankie while sipping Dom or Krug of course.
As for Cathay Pacific, after years of pyjamas by Shanghai Tang in 2012 the airline mixed things up by going with Dee Poon’s popular Hong Kong brand PYE. Their organic cotton PJs come with a double sided collar, inspired by the Zhongshan Zhuang mandarin collar worn by the republic of China’s first president Sun Yat-sen. You can wear the double sided collar up if you want to rock a traditional look, or down for a more Western jim jam style.
As I mentioned earlier, some airlines prefer not to work with a particular designer for their pyjamas.
Etihad uses an anonymous designer for their sleep suits which are a nice chocolately brown with satin trim. I just took my first Etihad flight from Sydney to Turkey and while I was in the very last row right up the back of the plane I did manage to get my hands on a pair before I left and of course wore them. Not only was I on brand on the plane, but they were my PJs throughout my Turkey trip and now have good memories attached.
After my Givenchy on Singapore experience I was interested to see who British Airways worked with when I flew first class with them. It turns out their PJs are unbranded, but I loved the way they were presented on a silver platter with a white ribbon around them.
When Orlando Bloom was preparing to fly out of Sydney after Comic Con I was amongst those invited to join him on a British Airways jet for some bubbles and nibbles and a little chat.
After Orlando talked about some of his travel tips he moved about the plane and I asked whether he was one of those people who embraces airline PJs or stays in the clothes he wore on the plane.
Turns out Orlando shares my love. “I do, I’m a fan of pyjamas anyway,” he said with a smile. “It’s all about being comfortable. If you’re lucky enough to have pyjamas, that is.”
When I reminded him that BA gives them to first class passengers he laughed.
“They do, they do! I’m just not always assuming that I’m traveling first but yeah, it’s kind of true.”
Take Your Airline Pyjamas Home
For those who are always traveling in first like Orlando, a set of airline PJs may not be the most exciting souvenir. But if you are like me and still get excited when you get to turn left don’t feel bad about wanting to keep your PJs.
Once they’ve been worn, they’re yours. The airlines don’t launder and reuse them so they’ll only be disposed of afterwards. It’s much better to give them a good home.
That said, there are some airlines that don’t provide sleep suits at all, even if you are flying long haul in first class. Personally I think that’s a shame.
They may not be for everyone but they’re such a nice touch, and it’s fun to have a slumber party in the sky. And to remember the fun of flying high just when you’re back at home having a lazy day box set marathon on the couch. Or is that just me?
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