Is wearing pajamas on airplanes weird?

Reader Curt asked the following question on the “Ask Lucky” page of the blog:

I’ve only ever traveled domestic (US) coach, so I’m completely unfamiliar with the ways of international First Class. One of the most surprising things to me, reading your accounts, is not only that airlines distribute pajamas in first class, but how important they seem to be to your enjoyment of it. I’m curious how this love affair began. Did you know about the PJ’s before you ever flew first class, and were they one of the features you looked forward to? Or did you only learn of this the first time you were offered PJ’s in first class, and did you take to them immediately, or did you need some time to warm up to the idea? Were you self-conscious about wearing them at first? I know these must seem silly questions, but of all the perks of first class you’ve revealed, this is the one that struck me as most “exotic.” Thanks for a great blog, and thanks for taking the time to consider my question!

It’s funny, because I usually way over-think things, but pajamas on airplanes is something I’ve never given any thought to. I’ve never felt self conscious about wearing pajamas (well, except that one time), and perhaps that’s because I spend so much time in the air. I have no qualms putting on pajamas when flying business class on an airline that doesn’t distribute them, and even occasionally change into them on domestic redeyes if they’re long enough. Heck, I also wear my airplane pajamas at home all day, so if I’m just making a quick trip to Starbucks you can guess what I wear.

I always change as soon as I board, but not always into the pajamas of the airline I’m flying. If it’s an airline that typically keeps their cabin hot I just put on basketball shorts and a t-shirt, while if it’s an airline with scratchy pajamas (like Singapore) I’ll bring my own pajamas (here are my five favorites), usually American or British Airways ones. You wouldn’t think American’s would be high quality, but they’re actually incredibly light and soft, not to mention they wash extremely well (the same can’t be said for British Airways’).

American Airlines pajamas

But to get to the core of Curt’s question, I had read a bunch of first class trip reports before ever flying first class, so I knew exactly what to expect. And I guess there’s some level of social pressure (or perhaps more social “acceptance”), since I find especially on foreign carriers almost everyone changes into pajamas.

Some people will claim that it’s laughable that adults are changing into pajamas on airplanes, but when you think about it, first class on airlines over the past 15 years has evolved from recliner seats that are hardly comfortable for a nap, to suites with amazing bedding and doors. It’s now possible to get actual, “real” sleep on a plane, and not just “airplane” sleep. And just as you wouldn’t wear your business clothes to sleep at home, I don’t think it should be any different on a plane.

So where do you all stand on wearing pajamas on airplanes? Never wear them, only wear them when they’re offered, bring your own even when they’re not offered, or change into something completely different?

Filed Under: Advice
  1. Nothing beats a ‘hot’ shower in a club lounge (whenever available) before boarding, slipping into my ‘PJs” and enjoying that lay-flat.

  2. I have been unusually lucky about operational upgrades. Contrary to conventional wisdom that suits and ties get you upgrades, each time I have had an upgrade (without status, dollars, or miles), I have been wearing nice clothes that are as close to possible as PJs but sort of possible to wear on the street. (Ralph Lauren lounge suits).

  3. I change into my own Hugo Boss lounge pants and zip top on longhauls and redeyes. I give the airline PJs away as gifts. And I don’t change until the flight is underway just in case we have to de-plane for some reason.

  4. If they offer the PJ’s, I’ll wear them — but only after the meal or right before sleeping.
    @Miro, I think EK F pajamas are quite plain/boring (light camel long-sleeve V-neck top and a dark brown bottom). No logos. They’re quite comfortable to wear though.

  5. One of our first trips in first class was on an early afternoon ANA flight from IAD to Tokyo. As soon as the seat belt sign was off all the Japanese men rushed to the lavatory to change into their PJ’s. My wife was the only woman in the front cabin and she said she felt like she was attending a guys’ pajama party.

  6. Definitely wear them in F/J and bring my own if not provided (since I read so many trip reports before taking my first trip in international J). I’ve worn my own PJs on KE, MH, and AF J. Since flying VA J and QF F, I now have actual airline PJs that I’ve worn in J on DL and KL. I guess the one time I wouldn’t necessarily change into non-provided PJs on a daytime flight, but that’s about it.

  7. I only change into pj’s after takeoff and the seat belt light is off. My thinking is: planes can turn around and return to the gate before then, and it’d be awkward to be in pj’s re-entering the gate. I’m also a bit self-conscious about coach pax streaming into the cabin if they can see FC pax in pyjamas.

  8. In my opinion, one of the huge perks of flying business or first on an international flight is that the airline makes it socially acceptable to wear pajamas. Of course you can wear pajamas on a long domestic flight, and I’d much rather wear them than my street clothes, but it’s not socially acceptable to do that — or at least the discomfort I’d feel from feeling self-conscious would outweigh the physical comfort of the pajamas!

  9. I never put them on until airborne. “In the unlikely event of an emergency,” I want my street clothes and sneakers on, not PJs and slippers!

  10. I put them on after seat belt is off at cruising altitude.
    The best bottoms are the Shanghai Tangs I do not like the tops as much;
    I think the LH striped shirts with collar are the best
    The van Laacks are very comfortable to sleep in and when I wake up a bit late, at times I just stay in the tops and change only my pants.
    They are perfectly acceptable outerwear!

  11. @ James — I find them to be a bit scratchy/rough. Definitely not uncomfortable, just not as comfortable as others. If you have room in your carry-on can’t hurt to bring your own.

  12. i suspect you’ve landed on a ‘hot’ topic – i LOVE changing into PJ’s on a long flight (altho for some reason i don’t on daytime flights – maybe i’ll start!) – i use the BA ones, because they’re dark (so they actually can be worn off the aircraft without looking weird) and non-scratchy (the SQ ones i got in 2009 were so unbearably warm, i wound up leaving them behind – surprising for a tropics-based carrier) – maybe airlines should provide a small changing area for pax to do a quick change in order to free up their lavs – i read about an episode where the NZ All Blacks flew on Virgin, and changed in the cabin, much to the delight of the female cabin crew (and as the comments said, probably to the delight of many of the male crew as well….)

  13. Its the first thing i do. Board (or even ore board if the airline allows) and I’m into that bathroom and changed into my sleeper suit (i just can’t refer to them as Pajamas, sorry) before the coach passengers have even boarded. Its something of a ritual and along with the stresses of will the cabin be full/oversold, will my seat have been forcibly changed etc, the moment i sit down, fasten my seatbelt, and pick up my first drink, is the first moment i relax on board.

    I can’t understand the notion of it being weird. You’re on that aircraft for upwards of 8 hours, why would ANYONE want to sit in their clothes getting them all creased, when you can sit in soft comfort then change back into clothes that have been hung up in a closet.

    The only time I felt slightly embarassed was wearing a BA First Class sleeper suit when travelling in business class. There were a few “who does he think he is” glances from other pax

  14. How do you guys change in the small crammed lavatories of business class? I would like to change but then I give up after I see those small spaces. Since I have never traveled in first class so that might be a different story.

  15. @ caveman — It’s not always pleasant since I don’t trust the floor to be clean, so what I usually do is take off my shoes, then put my feet (in socks) on top of my shoes so they don’t touch the lavatory floor, and then change. Have never had trouble with it.

  16. The main problem to me is changing clothes in the lavatories. It´s a bit awkward as you really can´t hang everything well and the floor, before landing, is usually dirty. As the ratio pax/lavatory is low on first class, I do change to pjs, but I wouldn’t do that on business.
    I think that changing to pjs does really work on Singapore Suites, as you can do next to your seat and lugagge, but I haven’t flown them yet.

  17. Given how hot LH, BA and most others keep their cabins overnight- I’ve taken to wearing North Face Convertible pants and a tee shirt with a pullover on board. After takeoff I convert the pants to shorts and loose the pullover and I’m ready for sleep. On short East Coast – Europe redeye flights that yields a good 15 additional minutes of sleeping time.

  18. I am with @Joey – when they are offered, I usually wear them, but only when it’s time to sleep. To each his own, but wearing PJs during the phases of flight when the cabin lights are on, meals are being served, etc. just seems tacky to me. (P.S. At home – different story. I wear the BA PJs all the time.)

  19. Though I’m able to sleep for long stretches in Intl. first class on today’s long, flat beds, I still consider it airplane sleep due to the low humidity. I’m wondering if that will change with airplanes like the 787 and higher humidity coming online.

  20. I flew LH First JFK-MUC last week (for the first time…thanks Lucky!!) and the flight attendant, bless his heart, gave me women’s M bottoms. That was never going to work, but I appreciated the thought. What I didn’t appreciate is that they were stiff scrub type pants and I usually like silk-satin or flannel against me if I am going to wear anything. Oh well.

  21. Maybe it’s the NYC attitude in me, but would say “Who Cares?” as long as you’re comfortable. It is highly unlikely that you would ever see those pax again so do what makes yourself comfy!

  22. Guess my first post didn’t actually post: Does anyone know if United ever issues PJ’s? I almost always fly the on international and have never been issued them on business class.

  23. Love wearing pajamas on long-haul business or first ….comfortable and all part of the experience! I also agree that Americans are least likely to change into PJ’s on a plane, and I will bring (usually my Qantas) pajamas to change into on any long flight that doesn’t provide them (like UA to Australia!)

  24. I’d never heard of PJs in the air until I traveled international first class on an award ticket w/ my family of 4. It’s really weird–but really awesome! Comfy, and somehow I felt sanctioned–so less conspicuous! The only reason to ever fly domestic now–is to earn those first class trips!!!!

  25. Everytime they are offered, I will wear though.. However, I will not bring pajamas to wear on flights that they are not offered… One of the most awkward experiences of my life was responding to a medical emergency wearing my Asiana pajamas.. man can it get hot wearing them in action…


  26. I always wear PJs, and have started bringing my AA PJs just in case (they’re my favorites).

    I was on EK 201 F last week and went to check out the bar. During a lengthy chat with a guy from J, I noticed that everyone was giving me double takes. It finally dawned on me that I was the only person with PJs on- how gauche!

    I can’t imagine a 13 hour flight without PJs, although maybe next time I’ll bring a silk robe to dress up a bit for the bar.

  27. Thanks for turning my question into a post, Lucky, and thanks for all the great responses! To be clear, I didn’t find it “weird,” but a) it’s something I’ve never seen in any pop-cultural depictions of first class flight, and b) you really can’t extrapolate to it from any part of the coach experience (i.e. coach food not so good, FC food much better, etc.), so it was novel to me and something I wouldn’t have expected. Seeing it discussed, as on this thread, it makes a lot of sense. I wonder which airline started the practice, and when?

  28. I love the PJs, and I’ll change into them even if I’m in J (and maybe if I’m ever back in Y again). Next Monday I have a daytime EZE-MIA flight in F and even though I don’t plan on sleeping, I’ll get into the PJs as soon as the seatbelt light is off. I, too, wait for the plane to be on its way, as I did once change prior to take off and then the plane went MX and I was stuck in the PJs walking to the club. THAT felt dumb.

  29. I use miles for first frequently on the BA SEA-LON route. Always change into the sleeper suit whether daytime or night-time. They make great gifts at the holidays as well. The wife makes me get the first class amenities bag for all the lotions and potions.

  30. Can’t say I’ve ever worn them – normally shorts and tshirt if returning from somewhere hot anyway. Does it change your mind re bare feet if in PJs? 😉 Lots of blog posts about that but PJs plus socks +/- shoes seems a weird combo to me!

  31. I think the biggest issue with PJs is a tiny space you are in when you are changing. It sucks when you are a tall guy. FWIW, I’d recommend changing into socks & slippers before going to a lavatory so you can stand on slipers while changing.

    Speaking of slippers, can we get a separate post on them? I don’t have giant feet but during my recent trip I was using SQ F slippers in all 3 hotels and was tempted to wear them in LX F — all other slippers were too short and they didn’t have any larger sizes. Weird!

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