Is It Crazy To Bring Your Own Portable Fan On A Plane?

Filed Under: Travel Technology

While airlines go great lengths to try and differentiate their premium products, sometimes they miss the boat in very simple ways. For example, one of the things I always comment on, and which has a big impact on my comfort on a flight, is individual air nozzles. Being able to sleep at a comfortable temperature with proper airflow probably impacts my comfort on a flight more than good bedding.

Yet somehow a lot of airlines choose not to install these, which I find to be frustrating. It’s especially problematic on airlines that have a tendency to keep their cabins especially warm, as I frequently wake up on some airlines drenched in sweat.

This brings me to the concept of bringing a portable USB fan onto a flight. It’s something people have recommended to me before, but that I’ve never seriously looked at, for whatever reason. A Twitter user just mentioned this once again, and I figured it makes sense for me to finally test one of these out, and report back.

So before I go on a portable USB fan shopping spree so I can do a side-by-side comparison, I figured I’d get some feedback from you guys. Does anyone have a favorite portable fan? I’m trying to think of the traits that would be important for one of these on a plane, and I figure the ideal portable fan needs to:

  • Be compact, so I can easily fit it in my carry-on
  • Needs to have some sort of a clip (or something) so I can place it somewhere that it will stay, and so that it’s actually pointed at me
  • Either have the ability to charge, so I can use it without plugging it in, or have a long cord (though I guess I could always buy one separately)
  • Be fairly quiet, because otherwise I could see this being a problem
  • Ideally not look totally ridiculous, since I figure I’ll get enough looks for having a portable fan

Based on looking at Amazon, it seems like this fan might fit the bill. It can clip onto something, has adjustable speeds, is compact, and doesn’t look too offensive. But that’s just based on browsing the first couple of pages of fans.

Anyway, I’m curious if any of you use a portable fan when flying, and have any thoughts. I’ll be curious to test this out.

Assuming this does work, I still won’t be giving airlines without air nozzles free passes. Why? Because you shouldn’t have to “bring your own ______” in a premium cabin, and realistically most people won’t be traveling with this. Similarly, I suppose I could also bring my own bedding, bring my own restaurant-quality food, and bring my own pajamas, amenity kits, and entertainment, but at that point I think I’d be giving the airline too much of a pass.

Does anyone have a favorite portable fan? If so, which one? Anyone else considering getting one, or is this just ridiculous?

  1. Maybe a post summarizing which airlines/aircraft have individual nozzles would be helpful for those who make this a priority!

  2. Not a bad idea, but unlike the air nozzles it will not lower the air temperature, only the felt temperature for the part of your body it is blowing on. But I’d be interested in a review!

  3. I carry one that plugs directly into usb port and has flexible stem to direct where I need it. Ive only pulled it out a few times but was thankful I had it when I did. Not too loud or distracting either. On amazon its called ARCTIC Breeze Mobile- mini usb fan. But in general I wont fly an airplane I know to not have individual nozzles.

  4. There are a lot of cheap handheld battery operated, usb-chargable ones. I carry one around when traveling in the summer time . Have yet to encounter a hot cabin in winter …

  5. Fully agree with Mero! Individual air nozzles are also a huge deal for me, so a summary of what premium products have and don’t have it would be tremendously helpful. If you could also throw in which airlines tend to keep the cabins warm it would be even better! Thanks 😉

  6. Add this to your requirement please:
    Person next to you is not bothered with the air.
    It applies for a very small portion of your travels where there is 2-2-2 biz config but still a courteous consideration.

  7. You might want to bear in mind the fact that some airlines will not allow pax to have devices plugged into in-seat power outlets whilst asleep. Portable fans may not pose a fire safety hazard in the way that PEDs powered by lithium batteries do, but I can think of one major airline that instructs its crew to unplug passengers’ electronic devices, if their owners are asleep.

    Hopefully this won’t be a problem for you because it looks like a good idea.

  8. “as I frequently wake up on some airlines drenched in sweat”

    Yuck…I dont want this mental image.

    Just buy a cheap usb mini fan on ebay. You’ll easily get a good one with a metal flexible cord so ot can be positioned near your face.

  9. I may be off base here, but airlines don’t like lithium ion batteries. I travel domestically for work, and my job involves bringing a drone, and Li battery packs. They have to be stored in a fire proof container and labeled for the airlines not to give me a hard time.

    The one in the picture looks like an 18650 battery and they can be dangerous if mishandled. I myself got a minor burn from one when my titanium wedding ring touched the top and was instantly heated.

    You may just want one that plugs directly into the USB, but this may be a problem if the outlet is not in a convenient spot. I doubt they would let you use one that plugs into the Empower

  10. Word of warning – I was using one of these directly plugged into the USB port on Cathay and was informed by the flight attendant that I was forbidden from plugging it in because it wasn’t a ‘sanctioned’ USB device. Obviously this was complete rubbish, but since FAs can make one’s life wonderful or terrible on a whim, I took it out.

    Later I just plugged it into my laptop’s USB port, but having a battery powered option will probably be helpful…

  11. There are many size/power for USB portable fans.
    Power should be supplied by to a USB port in your seat or USB/AC adaptors would work.
    Some fans have a magnet in its base so that you might place wherever you want.

    Off topic but it might be good to bring a fan on a trip for wahings:p

  12. I always take a portable fan on longhaul trips. It’s typically not necessary for domestic carriers, but it helps a lot on warmer carriers like Cathay and JAL. FAs have asked me what’s going on, and I typically just say that I’m an American that runs hot and while I’d appreciate a cooler cabin, I take matters in my own hands.

    Current model is an O2 fan, with D batteries. I’m not wedded to that model, but it works.

  13. This will lead to more complexity in cabin operations as we could soon see tens of passengers on every flight with whirring fans that are noisy and/or blow air on fellow passengers who don’t care for it. With a cabin full of USB fans on a plane taxiing from the gate out for takeoff, I could see flight attendants wanting to switch off all USB power so passengers can pay attention to the safety announcements.

    Another Pandora’s box that is being opened.

  14. Just stick with US3 carriers, since they cater well to Americans’ love affairs with blasting AC! Serious note, I usually just bring t-shirt and basketball short if I’m flying with Asian carriers since I know it’s a good chance that it’s gonna feel like sauna ride. I don’t know how those people cope with higher cabin temperatures…

  15. I have already requested information from Lucky or his staff regarding the listing of airlines with no nozzles but to no avail. That said, avoid any Boeing 777’s to start with. I know the Airbus 3 Series still have individual nozzles except for the new A350’s.

  16. Why would it be crazy? It’s a convenient option. Once I was sitting in a delayed plane in Paris that for some reason was sweltering and took out my little fan. Folks sitting next to me were jealous.

    Mine is the O2Cool USB fan from Walmart. It folds flat for travel. I use it for camping, white noise when sleeping at hotels, etc. and plug it into wall, laptop, or mini power pack.

  17. Ben,

    Whilst I do enjoy many of your insights to airline products, even I roll my eyes at the direction of this “experiment”. Wine not cold enough? Portable fridge! Toilet paper not soft enough? Bring my own!

    Maybe, a better thread should be … the top 5 things I need to bring with me onboard because the airline’s product offered is lacking and why….

    A FAN, Ben! A FAN!!!!!!!!!

  18. I think the ones that directly plug into the USB port are better — I imagine FAs would have less issue with them than those with a battery.
    If there is no convenient USB port, you can always use it with a power bank.

  19. I’ve used this one for 3 years now and it works great. I use it on flights frequently. And, even more often, in hotel rooms. Both because I tend to sleep better with air circulating. The white noise also helps in a quiet hotel room. Runs for hours on a charge.

  20. To add on to what other people said, it would be great to have a list of airlines and aircrafts that do have air nozzles in premium cabins.

  21. Thanks for making this an integral part of your reviews Ben. I just got off a long-haul flight on Turkish Airlines and won’t be flying with them again unless and until they either lower the cabin temperature (it was 79 degrees on an overnight flight) or start putting air nozzles in.

  22. Who are the worst abusers for keeping the cabin warm? I have my thoughts but would appreciate your insight since youve flown a lot more airlines than I have.

  23. @Angry380
    It’s not only Asian carriers pumping up the temperature ; most airlines err a few degrees too high. I like the air nozzle but the lack of it does not stop me sleeping , as I often nod off while still parked at the gate.
    Hotels are a different matter: European hotels with central Aircon control keep the temp FAR TOO HIGH in winter ( Germans are the worst offenders); it’s not healthy to be inside at sub-tropical and then go out into the snow. Never changes though.
    Yes, Lucky should buy a USB fan rather than one with an 18650 battery.

  24. I’ve got a little one (popular in asia it seems) that has a handle that rotates almost 270 degrees so you can prop it up. You can power it over USB too. The speed is infinitely adjustable too.

    I’ve flown with it on the Etihad apartments and Singapore Suites and both times it’s gotten amused reactions from the crew (but both have said “that’s a great idea.”)

    Personally I tend to get a bit motion sick without some air on me, so it makes a huge difference.

  25. Speaking from the perspective of an IATA DGR licensed person, you should not attempt to charge/recharge a fan containing a Li-ion battery while on an aircraft due to the risk of thermal runaway. A fan whose motor powers directly from the USB source or else one that is battery powered by not charged on board should be fine. IATA DG regulations are ok with these being used as part of the PED limits, although individual airlines/jurisdictions may have stricter limits.

    I’ve just dealt with a thermal runaway event on an aircraft (thankfully occurred on ground and was caught by a safeguard switch) but it just served as a reminder that you want to avoid that kind of thing happening in flight. These cheap devices are often made without any (or with very poor quality) thermal runaway safeguards.

    Personally, I have traveled with a Honeywell HTF090B portable fan. It is available from Amazon or from Honeywell directly. This is either USB/battery powered but uses standard AA batteries rather than a rechargable Li-ion cell which avoids the thermal runaway risk. I don’t use it on airplanes, but it should be acceptable for inflight use if you want.

  26. Yes, it is crazy to bring your own fan on a plane. I don’t like to check in luggage, so there is no extra room in my carry on for useless devices. It is the airline’s responsibility to keep the temperature at a comfortable level for the majority of the travelers. It should never be too hot if you wear a t-shirt only. And if it feels too cold with. T-shirt, you can always put a hoodie on.

  27. It’s not uncommon. The Arctic breeze one is pretty popular, both in flyertalk and in Amazon. Just ordered mine yesterday after reading about it.

  28. Wife has always found the Safety Card in the setback to be perfectly adequate to fan herself. Traditional ways are usually the best.

  29. I think the fan you show is really quite bulky. I take this fan to hot places, like the ballpark: O2COOL Deluxe Necklace Fan (found on Amazon). Also, a runner’s neck gaiter, essentially a piece of fabric you soak in water, would probably be good to have along in case you need to cool down before you go to sleep.

  30. I just got the breeze mobile usb fan in planning for my upcoming Asiana business class flight ( and reading reviews on no air jets there) Now reading here that they may object to fans plugging in to the usb port, or using its own lith battery, I tried it with my Anker power pack, works fine. using that option may be ok with airline regs ?

    we’ll see if they let me use it that way

  31. All LH flight from the US to FRA are too freaking hot! It’s a Germanic thing that they don’t like AC or blowing air. Surprisingly I was just on and LX flight from JFK to ZRH and the first half of the flight was actually a little cold.

  32. Lucky as suggested in multiple other comments it would be great to see a post of hot, cold and fanless carriers.

  33. I also bring a fan on board, especially with the Asian carriers. The one I have is a usb only and I haven’t had too many problems with it. Some flight attendants have asked me to unplug the device during take off and landing which is fine. But they allow me to sleep with it on, which I really appreciate.

  34. My understanding is that some carriers believe warm cabin temperature help passengers fall asleep, hoping to reduce workload for flight attendants. I think that is mis-guided, as my personal experience is just the opposite. I’m sure a number of us commenting here have experienced discomfort / poor sleep in flight as a result of high cabin temperature.

    This article is worth a read if you are interested. (I hope the link comes through correctly). Note that this was from 1993…..

  35. If it’s ridiculous, I’m ridiculous too. Any flight over 8 hours (where I expect / try to get 4+ hours of sleep) I bring one. Mine actually plugs into a traditional power port. I have gotten questions from the flight attendants previously, but it has never been an issue – they’re usually asking out of concern that I’m not comfortable, not any other reason.

  36. I think you should bring those xiaomi usb fan… Which is compact and you can put it on any usb port…

  37. @ Ric V

    “ I know the Airbus 3 Series still have individual nozzles except for the new A350’s.”

    I’ve only flown on Qatar’s A350s (both 359 and 35k), and I’m pretty sure they both had air nozzles – the 35k definitely did because it was Qsuites.

    Another vote for cool cabins here. And no, I don’t mean Hello Kitty themed.

  38. It’s not a complaint, it’s a legitimate comfort issue. Bringing your own fan might give airlines the idea we can look after ventilation ourselves and increasingly move away from adjustable overhead vents, plus the additional noise and extra “things” (overhead cabin bag size anyone?). i.e. another step away from what flying is supposed to be. Soon we will have to bring our own seats.

  39. A little heat and you whine?

    You had no issue screwing up the environment and causing global warming?

  40. @Dennis I like the idea of bringing my own seat, it will definitely be more comfortable than the seats on AA’s 737 MAX. Maybe airlines should also consider asking passengers to fuel to the airport, so they no longer have to spend money on that.

  41. I think it’s worth an experiment since the investment is small, however I think you may be disappointed. I’ve used a similar fan at hotels in Europe in October (the time of year when most of the centrally controlled air conditioned hotels turn off their A/C for the winter) and it didn’t help but maybe my model wasn’t powerful enough.

  42. To all
    Just ask the flight attendant to cool off the cabin. They are in the galley areas where there is less airflow than in the passenger part of the cabin, so these areas are always cold. This is especially so on long hall flights. The F.A.s keep the cabin temperature warm to try and keep the galleys tolerable but if people start to complain then they will usually cool down the cabin.

  43. Lucky what I do is have “the talk” with the purser before every long haul flight.
    I can elaborate on it, but the gist is “keep the cabin at a reasonable temp for sleeping please”.
    90% of the time I get the right ambient temp – even on Asian airlines.
    Also note that the reasons for the “too warm” are complex.
    1. The galleys often get cold and are included in the zone. So FAs sitting by the doors turn up the heat to compensate. This appears fixed in the A350 fwiw.
    2. Some people think that warm temps make it easier to sleep – though the science says precisely the opposite.

  44. I travel with the Arctic Breeze. It runs just fine off a 10k mAh power bank for longer than I’ve ever needed it on a longhaul flight. I find that pulling it out also gives the FAs a nudge that it might be a bit too warm.

  45. wow, this is a hot topic. I can only hope the guys back in the dyson labs are hard at work on something groundbreaking.

  46. @Luke Vader: if airlines want to prevent such a thing from happening, what’s stopping them from offering the option of cooler air to their passengers? You can dress against cold, but there’s a limit to what you can take off on an aircraft.

    Personally I feel it’s ridiculous that adding a small piece of plastic that greatly increases the comfort for a number of passengers it such a big deal. The cool air is there anyway, why not make it available to those aboard?

  47. Please let us know which you buy! Flying to Asia this fall and now worried about sweating the whole time. Any review on CX Biz temps?

  48. I actually have had some really bad experiences not having a nozzle for my girlfriend flying DL. Its been really uncomfortable and she actually ended up being sick. The 767 doesn’t have them sometimes (Think its a 764 vs 763, the former not having it) on the JFK-SFO route. She has no problem if air circulates but if it doesn’t, her inner ear stuff catches up and we end up using the airsickness bags. Never had a problem on the 752 as it has nozzles and stays cool enough.
    Also, before we get on about American’s love of AC, some people need cooler air to be able to fly.

  49. My husband brings the Arctic Breeze (several other commentors linked above) everywhere. Plugs directly into USB and has a bendy “stem” so you can aim it. Cathay Pacific FAs did not allow it to be used but no problems other that that airline.

  50. @Whitney – Hot. I’ve flown Cathay First and Business, and both have been hot enough to cause problems sleeping. On one flight, my wife and I were the only passengers in First Class, so there wasn’t even any other passenger to inconvenience by making it cool in the cabin. The crew just said that it was as cool as it gets. I wish I had more cheerful news. I’m still on a quest to find a great airline with air nozzles for flights to Asia. Obviously, domestic airlines are out.

  51. I’d definitely prefer having air vents. I’d also prefer having planes not quite so warm, but at the end of the day, I’ve brought fans on board when on airlines that do not have air vents. Iberia and BA do not have vents. Iberia tends to keep the planes warmer than BA does, so I’ll for sure bring a fan with me and easily use the USB power port to keep it on. Flight attendants are often amused/amazed by it for some reason.

  52. I carry this one with me everywhere:

    Apologies in advance for TMI, I was shot into menopause at 45 when I had an emergency full hysterectomy after being diagnosed with late stage ovarian cancer. When in NYC last spring on vacation, I had so many women of a certain age approach me without any introduction other than, “where did you get that?!” This doesn’t have a clip but a lanyard, which I hang around my neck when I fly, walk around a city, or I set it on a chair beside me at work meetings. Love it!

  53. Was in the back on Singapore airlines jfk to sin and it was nice and cold even with my air nozzle closed. My morning flight to sgn was nice and comfortable not hot nor cold

  54. Have you thought about getting a Embr Wave? It’s a wearable that gives you the sensation or warming or cooling on your wrist to control your overall comfort. I’ve thought about trying one since I’m often warm on international overnight flights.

  55. @Paulo love comment about Europe hotel rooms too hot, especially in winter, agree 100%. I travel in Germany/Europe often and choose hotels (5*) that I know the windows can be opened. I love to sleep in a cold room.
    Funny story – about 7 years ago I stayed in 5* hotel in Germany, room was so hot I opened two large windows before I went to bed. Woke up and there was a foot of snow inside the room just below the windows, heavy snow all Night! I shoveled the snow out the window with the waste basket (worried the hotel might charge me for damaging the carpet).

  56. Meanwhile, people such as myself love a warm cabin, and find all too often that the cabin (especially on short haul and domestic flights) is way too cold, even with lots of clothing layers on. Brrrr!!! I would definitely not want any increased air flow blowing in my direction. So, while I don’t think it’s ridiculous for an individual to bring a fan if one is desired, I also wouldn’t want the costs (i.e. a cool breeze) externalized onto me.

  57. I have been thinking of bringing one of these as well! I’ve had several recent long flights on planes without individual air vents. I don’t need it to be that much colder but I’d like to have some fresh air. So frustrating that this is being removed – lets just force the whole plane to have stale air and be hot and smelly!

    For those people who say that the plane can get too cold: its easier to add layers than to take them off. I can only take so much off on a plane and be comfortable but I always have layers I can add between my sweater and blankets..

  58. I’ve always had a bigger problem managing heat than cold so many flights are a royal PITA if I do not have individual nozzles so I’ve been packing my own fan for a few years.

    You should probably get one with about 4″ blade diameter to get proper flow without ending up with hi-rev whines.

    I’m using mine with a powerbank and stick the powerbank on the fan stand as counterweight.
    Either I prop it up on the table or place it on the floor pointing upwards just to get some circulation.

    As I’m mostly flying BA LongHaul this is a lifesaver and so far, I’ve got nothing but amused comments from the cabin crew,

  59. Ctrl+F “hot flashes” = nothing? Okay, I’ll go there.

    As a lady of a certain age, I get some *nasty* hot flashes. Hot flashes are no joke – it feels like you’re standing in front of an oven from the inside out! This isn’t ‘take off your airline blanket’ stuff, this is ‘fly Emirates and book a cold shower’ stuff!

    So MORE POWER TO PEOPLE WHO USE FANS! “Annoyed” by a fan beats suffering from a medical condition any day of the week.

  60. @katy i’ve been having hot flashes since i was 27. i know i’m not *supposed* to yet. but there it is.
    I’ll echo another commenter’s sentiment that you can dress for cool weather (layers, blanket, etc) but can do nothing to guard against a cabin that’s too warm.

    THANK YOU BEN for this post!

  61. I bring this one in my carry-on:

    …because I know I won’t be the only one who feels too warm.

    In all seriousness, there are many times when I’ve been miserable because of the lack of air nozzles, and I regretted not bringing a fan. Then I forget all about it until the next time.

  62. What if I tell you that I carried a portable humidifier on board and every time a strange cabin crew pass by me he/she will ask me where did I get it and they want to buy one…

    Temp is not the biggest problem for me since I’m from tropical area… But if it’s too dry, my nose will keep bleeding…

  63. i need to fly these hot planes because i’m always freezing in J and F – so much so that i bring a pullover fleece and cashmere scarf to wear under the 1 or 2 blankets.
    if you need a fan, bring a fan for personal comfort. i bring my own food in addition to the layers. each to our own comfort.
    whatever makes you happy on the long haul is key.

  64. There’s no better option. This fan is either plugged into my laptop, the USB port on the plane or a powerblock next to my bed. It pretty much goes with me everywhere and runs 24/7.

    Arctic ABACO-BZG00-010000 ARCTIC Breeze Mobile – Mini USB Desktop Fan with Flexible Neck and Adjustable Fan Speed

    Arctic ABACO-BZG00-010000 ARCTIC Breeze Mobile – Mini USB Desktop Fan with Flexible Neck and Adjustable Fan Speed

  65. I carried a portable humidifier on board and every time a strange cabin crew pass by me he/she will ask me where did I get it and they want to buy one.

  66. I travel with three fans. I keep the Arctic in my backpack, with my laptop and external batteries, and it would probably be enough for a short flight. However…

    This clip on fan will take up less space than the one you’ve got, and still provides plenty of air. There are all kinds of different versions that are available at different times, but my favorite had a touch power button right on the clip. Of course, it didn’t last very long. I think they’re all very cheaply made in China, so I bought a couple of them last time, and keep one in my carry on bag.

    I’m not wild about fans with covered blades, bc they collect dust and are hard to clean. But I do keep this one in my larger suitcase for the most desperate times. It has a reservoir to add water, so that you actually get a misting spray for the first hour or so that you use it. Long enough to fall asleep, and it will keep blowing fan only as long as it has power. I set it on its side on a bedside table, but idk how you would keep it steadily upright on a plane.

    The worst time I have ever had on a plane being too hot was an 8 hour redeye from London to Nairobi and back on Kenya Airways. I also carry a small spray bottle that I fill with water after going through security. If I’d had one of those on that flight, I would have kept myself drenched with a fan blowing the entire flight.

  67. What I would have given to have had one on my Delta flight from DTW to Seoul. Those middle Delta One boxes with doors are roasting and NO nozzles. The window seats get 2 each and middle seats get zero. I was miserable. The FA gave me an ice pack, and mentioned that it was a known design flaw… whomp.

  68. I’ve carried a small fan with me since I got stuck on the tarmac with no power for 2 1/2 hour in the summer in Atlanta

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