As I was packing for our first family international flight (to London UK), I wanted to make sure that we had everything we needed to make our overnight journey the most comfortable. As you know, those flights can be a little chilly - so I wanted to bring blankets for all of us. Naturally, I wondered...
Can I bring a blanket onto a plane?
In short: YES! According to the TSA you are allowed to both check a blanket in your luggage and to bring a blanket on a plane within a carry-on (and this also includes electric blankets). You can even bring your own blanket in your arms as you would a jacket or hat, without it counting towards your carry-on or personal item limits or paying any extra fees.
Is a blanket considered a personal item or carry-on?
Is a blanket going to just take up valuable space I need for other items on my travel? As you know, airlines are trying to decrease the number of items and the size of the carry on bag which a passenger can take on the plane without paying extra fees. Nobody wants to pay more for luggage, so is carrying a blanket onto the plane going to add to this stress?
The best news is: a blanket is considered neither a personal item or a carry-on. Let me explain.
Airlines allow a person to usually carry on one personal item. A personal item is usually defined as a laptop, briefcase, purse. However, a blanket is not classified with these items.
In addition to a personal item, the passenger is allowed to take a jacket, a newspaper, a hat, a book, a blanket - a blanket! That’s right, a blanket is not considered a personal item, like a purse. So if you have room in your bag, put it there. If not, simply put it under your arm and the airline will see it as nothing different than you carrying your jacket.
There is really nothing stopping you from bringing your own blanket onto the plane. If you want to, you will never have to use (or buy) an airplane blanket again!
Why Would You Want to Bring Your Own Blanket?
The best place to start to answer this question is to look at the supply & policies of the airlines regarding in-flight blankets:
- Low Cost, No Frills Airlines = No Blankets
- The first reason is that with the invention of the low-cost, no frills airlines, many airlines have simply stopped supplying a blanket for the flights. As you know, you have to pay for your meals, but with some airlines there is not even the option to pay — you simply cannot get a blanket.
- It seems odd that a carrier would not give you a blanket in it’s chilly air-conditioned flights, but that is what we have come to. Are you excited to wear shorts on the plane to your hot and sunny destination? Well, you better bring along a parka or blanket so you don’t freeze before you get there!
- Want A Blanket? Where's Your Credit Card?
- If you can access a blanket on your flight, more and more airlines are starting to charge for these. Again, the airline industry is extremely competitive and predicated on low cost. They are looking to save costs or increase fees wherever they can, and this includes amenities like blankets, pillows, or other supplies like a face mask & ear plugs (sometimes all of these are sold together as an overnight package).
- Some airlines have charged upwards of $12 for a blanket. I won’t publish a list of which ones do and do not, however more airlines have been jumping on board with charging each year. And, as far as I’m aware, none have stopped charging for blankets once they have begun!!
- Level of Quality of Airline Blankets (Spoiler: "Better than Nothing")
- If you are on an airline that does give you a blanket, what quality of blanket is it? For the few who are fortunate enough to fly in business class, the blankets can actually be very nice, although you are (obviously) not allowed to take this blanket with you. Airlines are actually devising strategies to make sure that these blankets are not stolen!
- The typical airline blanket is, in my experience, what you might call, "better than nothing". It’s not to say that they do not provide any warmth, because they will do in a pinch. However, most of the blankets are quite thin and generally not that big. I am not a big person — 5’5" — and I find often that they do not provide enough coverage. They can range from as little as 30” by 48” to a more normal 50” by 72”.
- Washing & Cleanliness
- An airline policy is to wash a blanket after it is supposed to be used. With the millions of travellers each day — and even if only a percentage of them use a blanket — that is a huge amount of washing to be done. The environmental cost of single-use-then-wash blankets is huge; compared to bringing out own, which we do not wash after every use.
- I do not want to be a conspiracy theorist... however, there have been many reports on forums from flight attendants that blankets may not be rewashed before the get used again. Even though the airlines' policies are to wash the blanket after use, often there are other factors that impact this reality. If a flight is not leaving from the originating city (ie. during a middle leg), there is a good chance that the blanket will not have been washed.
- Availability: Can I Even Get One?
- It's not unheard of on a chilly flight that all the blankets are simply gone. It is especially prevalent on an overnight flight that blankets may be claimed early on. Or what if they are tiny and you want two! With fewer blankets available on the flight than people, it is certainly possible that there are not enough for the requests, and you would need to huddle under your jacket.
The best blanket to travel with: Kantha throws
You may have never heard of a kantha throw, but hundreds of people have told us it's the most versatile throw blanket to take with you anywhere. Kanthas are blankets that are handstiched from repurposed saris as a means to support the livelihood of women in need (read more about kantha).
Long and narrow is the way to go
The size of a classic kantha throw is 3.3 ft X 6.6 ft (1m x 2m). These really are the perfect dimensions to fit into an airplane seat. They have the right width to them without having to worry about bunching it up or spilling over onto the person beside you. And, they are long enough to cover you from the shoulders to the toes.
Weight & bulk to consider
Kantha throws are also an optimal weight at 2 lbs. This is a perfect combination of not feeling to bulky to carry or pack, while still being able to provide the necessary warmth in the chilly cabin.
You will never have to worry about leaving the blanket on the plane because they are so beautiful and colorful they easily stand out!
If you want to blend in and not receive compliments for your beautiful blanket, you may not want to bring a kantha ;) Each kantha is a unique, one-of-a-kind creation. They are gorgeous to look at and have a beauty beyond the typical airline blanket.
Useful, practical, & versatile
Finally, kantha throws are also versatile on the other side at your destination! We have used ours in so many countless ways: on the beach, as an extra blanket in our hotel room (or instead of the huge duvet that the hotel provides), on a chilly ferry ride, and as a picnic blanket.
I wanted to share this picture of our oldest daughter when she went to spend a month in Uganda.
I purchased two of the mini kanthas, one for her and one for her brother, and snuck them into their luggage at the last minute, unbeknownst to anyone. They were going to be flying alone to Uganda and I wanted them to have a security blanket for the — very — long plane flight.
The blankets were loved and appreciated not only on the plane, but also during their time in Uganda, when they used them as a blanket, a pillow, a picnic blanket, and more. As you can see here, she even used hers as a wrap when the weather got a bit chilly due to lots of rain. How beautiful!
Now that you know that you can bring a blanket onto a plane — and that it is not even considered a personal item, but fits in the category of jacket or hat — you will need to add one onto your checklist of things to bring! Happy travels!