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Unused Airsickness bags of Thai Airways and Lufthansa. Note the metal clips to close bags after usage.

An airsickness bag (also known as a barf bag, airsick bag, sick bag, or motion sickness bag) is a small bag commonly provided to passengers onboard airplanes and boats to collect and contain vomit in the event of motion sickness. Hovercraft-ferry operators and even train companies have also been known to supply bags. Pregnant women with morning sickness and travelers who know they are prone to motion sickness will sometimes bring their own bags.

The plastic-lined airsickness bag was created by inventor Gilmore Schjeldahl for Northwest Orient Airlines in 1949. [1] Previously bags had been made from waxed paper or card. Modern bags are still mainly made from plastic-lined paper but a significant proportion (mainly from Latin America) are made completely out of plastic.



Amongst the collectors of aeronautical memorabilia there is a sub-culture of sickness-bag aficionados. The Guinness Book Of Records recognises Dutchman Niek Vermeulen as the world record holder for the number of different bags (5468 as of 26 March 2008).

In 2004, Virgin Atlantic issued a limited edition set of half a million bags in collaboration with designer Oz Dean of 'forcefeed:swede'. Oz had conceived and run an online gallery of sick bags since 2000 under the project name "Design for Chunks". It challenged designers to illustrate the usually dull medium of the sick bag, as opposed to t shirts or splash pages which were the standard challenges at the time.

Although the project achieved cult status in a short time amongst the design community, Dean felt that it had run its course and closed it down in 2003. With the offer of doing the project for real (from Virgin Atlantic) "DFC" was opened up again, in 2004, with the strapline "This time it's real !" The printed bags were intended to be on the global fleet of planes for 6 months but only lasted 3, with people walking through the aisles collecting the sets. The project divided opinion and this came as no surprise to Virgin Atlantic which is intentionally the more offbeat airline company in comparison to their traditional rivals, British Airways. The whole set of 20 finalists designs as a framed piece can be found in the Virgin Atlantic first class lounge in Heathrow, UK or online at the archived website.

Virgin Atlantic released another 4 bags promoting the Star Wars movie Episode III: Revenge of the Sith shortly after the "Design for Chunks" project. As with a lot of sick bags, these crop up on Ebay from time to time.

Alternative uses

The development of larger aircraft and advances in design have reduced the occurrence of air sickness. This has led to bags being given a secondary use as general purpose waterproof waste containers which is often reflected in the labelling of the bag and instructional diagrams. Another common use is that of photographic mailing envelope (especially Australia). Airlines have also printed bags to serve as card game scoresheets and Continental Airlines once suggested that they be used as doggy bags for airline food. An airsick bag featuring a flat bottom may be decorated with a facial expression and fashioned into a hand puppet; such a puppet may then be used as a ventriloquist's dummy for, e.g., placement of an in-flight beverage order. Airsick bags are sometimes used as "seat occupied" cards to indicate that a passenger in a seat prior to a layover will return for the next leg of the plane's flight plan.

Some airlines have exhibited a certain sense of humor in designing their airsickness bags. For a brief time, for example, the German carrier Hapag-Lloyd Express (now TUIfly) had bags that had stated "Thank you for your criticism!". The defunct ATA Airlines used airsickness bags that had "Occupied" on them. Delta Air Lines has "Feel Better" printed on the bag.

See also

External links



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