Pajamas on planes: popular with passengers (not just politicians)

15 February, 2017

Sleep: something most long-haul passengers prioritise. Whether it’s lie-flat beds, luxury bedding, pre-flight dining or dine-on-demand: all these products are designed to help long haul travelers maximize sleep and comfort.

Pajamas have now become an essential part of this ‘comfort formula’ for the airlines. They’ve also become, like amenity kits, a useful branding exercise and tool for cross promotion between an airline and designers looking for a captive audience.


Source: Qantas

A point of differentiation in a competitive market

Here in Australia / New Zealand, Qantas and Virgin Australia have made the pajama a product they can, albeit subtly, distinguish themselves from the competition.

It all started when Qantas introduced those now famous Peter Morrissey pajamas in Business and First Class. With an oversized Qantas kangaroo on the front, the unisex pajamas quickly became collector’s item both locally and across the globe. The Morrissey pyjamas were replaced in 2015 with a new version by Martin Grant – the Paris based Australian behind Qantas’ latest uniforms and remain a talking point among passengers.

Virgin Australia hasn’t been left behind, using local Australian designer Juli Grbac to create a duel branded sleep suit for those travelling in the airline’s ‘The Business’ long haul.

A quick check of eBay shows packaged unused Qantas and Virgin Australia PJs selling for between AUD40-150 from passengers who’ve kept a souvenir pair or two.



Over the years, pajamas have become notorious among certain high profile frequent flyers. In his biography ‘Diary of a Foreign Minister’ former NSW Premier and Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr famously made reference (perhaps with tongue planted firmly in cheek) to a lack of available PJs on his trans-Atlantic flight:

“Business class. No edible food. No airline pyjamas… I lie in my tailored suit.”

Of course, had Bob Carr been flying on either Qantas or Virgin Australia across the Pacific, he wouldn’t have anything to complain about! Both offer pajamas in Business Class, although across the Tasman Air New Zealand is yet to come to the [pajama] party when it comes to sleepwear.


Source: Virgin Australia

The competitive promotional power of a pajama at 35,000 ft

The promotional power of the pajama at 35,000 feet can’t be underestimated. When Qantas and American Airlines were negotiating their trans-Pacific agreement, the American carrier – who only normally offers free PJs to First Class passengers, was forced to match Qantas’ policy of handing out a free set of PJs to its Business as well as First passengers.


Source: Delta Airlines

The same applies for Delta Airlines, who in 2015 introduced complimentary pajamas for Delta One Business Class passengers exclusively on services from Los Angeles to Sydney and Shanghai in response to competition from Australian and Chinese carriers.

Fierce competition has resulted in many of the world’s airlines linking up with famous designers to supply them with luxury PJs no other airline is offering.

As Qantas and Virgin Australia have done with local designers, Cathay Pacific has teamed up with Hong Kong based designer PYE to create a Chinese inspired design for the airline’s pajamas.

This kind of cross promotion means individual designers can gain valuable exposure among a premium customer base. The airlines save money, reducing or even eliminating the cost of supplying the product itself.


Source: Cathay Pacific

Airlines operating in Australia / New Zealand offering Pajamas

Airline Business Class First Class
Qantas Y Y
Virgin Australia Y N/A
Air New Zealand N N/A
Delta Y N/A
American Airlines Y Y
Emirates N Y
British Airways N Y
Qatar Airways Y Y
Etihad Y Y
Singapore Airlines N Y
Asiana N Y
Thai Airways N Y
Air China Y Y
China Southern Y Y
China Eastern N Y
United Airlines Y N/A
Air Canada N N/A
Air India Y Y
Source: Airline websites

Pajamas – while not popular with all airlines, they’re here to stay

While most airlines only offer pajamas to their First Class customers, Qantas, Virgin Australia, Qatar Airways, Etihad, Delta, United and several Chinese carriers offer them in Business as well as First Class.

Still, some don’t see value in the pajama. For example, Singapore Airlines, otherwise a product innovator, has held back providing PJs in business class on the basis that demand isn’t universal. Weight and storage space is also an issue. In a business class cabin of 60+ seats, many airlines aren’t willing to fill valuable storage space with PJs.

Still, it looks like pajamas are here to stay at the pointy end of many airlines. They remain a useful marketing tool which several airlines are using to enhance the premium travel experience and which passengers - whether they’re former politicians or top tier road warriors- are increasingly demanding, regardless of whether they sleep.