Home Airlines The World’s Largest Commercial Airline Barf Bag Collections

The World’s Largest Commercial Airline Barf Bag Collections

by SharonKurheg

Aviation geeks are a special breed.

I always knew they were out there and that they could be geeky; I mean, for 30ish years we’ve had a friend who could tell you exactly what kind of a plane was flying overhead (I know how to tell a Boeing from an Airbus, but that’s about as far as my talents lie) . But when Joe and I first started Your Mileage May Vary, that’s when I discovered just how deeply geeky some airline enthusiasts could be.

You’ve got people who go to aviation boneyards (these are the ones open to the public). The geek who used his plane to help propose to his girlfriend. There are geeks who are all about liveries. The ones who go airplane watching just for the fun of it. Hell, you’ve even got the ones who write travel blogs… 😉

And then you’ve got the collectors.

Sam Chui, who write a blog here on BoardingArea, made a video to show off his collection.

Of course, there are AvGeeks whose collections are much more specialized…maybe they only collect airline coffee stirrers. Or napkins from airlines. The guy who runs the Pan Am Experience is a HUGE aviation geek who specializes in all things Pan Am.

But do you know what else is out there? Barf bag collections.

Their history

Eventually officially known as airsickness bags, barf bags have been around as long as commercial aviation (roughly the 1920s) because there was fear of getting sick on the plane from the very beginning. Reasoning included:

  • Air ventilation wasn’t the greatest back then and there was a good chance of the smells of oil and gas wafting into the cabin, which could make some people blow chunks.
  • Because the planes weren’t pressurized yet, they flew at lower altitudes (about 5,000 feet). That made for more lurching and bumps…which, in turn, made for some people upchucking.
  • The psychological stress of flying back then (new technology, no seat belts, no parachute, etc.) made some people nervous enough to urp.

The first patent for an air sickness bag (then called a Thermoplastic Bag) came about in 1949. It was invented by one Gilmore T. Schjeldahl. From Google Patents:

The puke bag was invented at the same time it became possible to make a simple bag out of plastic that could hold liquids for a long period of time. Meanwhile, the increase of commercial flights was happening at the exact same time. Yay for serendipity!

The first airline to offer air sickness bags like these was Northwest Airlines. From there, other companies started making their own versions of puke bags, and they were differentiated from airline to airline with different designs, styles, etc.

And, of course, as time went on and more people flew on a regular basis, the collections started. Those who collect call themselves “baggists.” And thanks to the internet, you can see a lot of their collections.

The collectors

SFO Museum

We may as well start with an “official” collection. San Francisco International Airport has its own museum that’s accredited by the American Alliance of Museums. If you’ve been to SFO, you may have even see their museum inside the airport.

The SFO Museum has lots of different types of aviation memorabilia, as well as a library and archives. However if you specifically search for “airsickness,” you’ll be able to see their collection of nearly 600 barf bags. They range in age and airline, and many have more than one photo (for example, to see different sides of the airsickness bag in question).

It’s an interesting collection to peruse – some are very plain (the one from Virgin Atlantic, from 2014, is just red), some have drawings on them (such as this circa 1970s bag from TWA), or advertising. Some doubled as “Seat Occupied” signs.

Air Sickness Bag Virtual Museum

While the SFO Museum’s airsickness bag collection is presented as seriously as can be (considering the topic), the Air Sickness Bag Museum, curated by Steve Silberberg, is definitely more tongue-in-cheek. The URL for his site is barfbags.com, and even his introduction to the site is cheeky:

What is this?

I collect barf bags. My collection currently contains 3378 bags. Most are from airlines. But they are also from boats, trains, movies (mostly horror), video games, political campaigns and even a few banks.

While this website and hobby is an enormous waste of time, I like to think that it’s a higher quality waste of time than many other places on the web.

Wow, this guy knows how to get to this travel blogger’s quirky-loving heart ;-).

Silberberg reportedly started collection barf bags when he was in college, back in 1982. His very first bag was from United airlines and he got it on a flight from Boston to San Francisco. It was light blue, and had instructions written on it. Friends started helping him out – they’d swipe the bags from their own flights and give them to him. As he says on his website, he’s now amassed nearly 3,400 specimens.

“One can tell a lot about an airline’s image from their Air Sickness Bags,” Silberberg writes. “Some barf bags are no more than a baggie with a twist tie, while other sickbags could win international design competitions. Are they art? I think so.”

The Air Sickness Bag Museum includes a Random Bag of The Day (which actually changes every time you refresh the page). You can also search through his collection via airline, text color, background color, bag type or any specific details the bag has. He also has some bags available to swap.

So if you looked for Delta bags, without any other key words, you’d see the 24 different types of Delta barf bags currently in his collection. Each bag has photos (clickable for close ups), approximate year, description of its specific details and, where applicable, the person he got the bag from.

Silberberg also curates AirSicknessBags.com, which gives another view of his collection.

Kelly’s World of Air Sickness Bags

Bruce Kelly doesn’t say when he started collecting puke bags. But he’s amassed a collection of over 7,300 bags (as of January 15, 2022).

In his own words:

Why do I collect airsickness or barf bags? It just goes to prove the old adage that everything is potentially a collectable. I live in Alaska where most travel is by air as there are few roads here. The collection started as a diversion from too many hours spent on long airline flights staring at the seat-back pocket in front of me. These pockets generally contain in-flight magazines, safety cards and air sickness bags. I briefly considered collecting safety cards but instead zeroed in on what I considered were the often over-looked and under appreciated little air sickness bags. It probably helped that I am prone to air sickness myself on small bush aircraft which are such an essential component of travel in rural Alaska where I live. Yes, I have used airsickness bags for their stated purpose on some of these flights but the bags in my collection have never been knowingly used for that purpose.

Kelly considers his barf bags to be art.

As I developed what started out as a mere eccentric casual hobby, it slowly developed over the years into a full blown obsession, much to the dismay of my somewhat patient and understanding wife, Audrey. I now consider it my calling to preserve this perhaps small bit of airline history before it is lost forever to future generations. My site is intended as a reference and research site for the serious collector as well as a source of information and entertainment for the casual observer.

Like SFO’s and Silberberg’s site, you can search for specific bags, starting with the name of the airline. Every entry includes:

* Airline history including IATA number, ICAO number and headquarters city if known.
* Number of minor variations of that particular design if applicable
* Size of bag in metric measurements and any additional information including manufacturer’s name if known
* Date the bag was received
* Donor (source of the bag)
* Spares status- if yes is indicated that means I have spares for trade (spares are also listed under swaps)

Another cool thing about Bruce Kelly – in 2018, he was on a podcast called For Keeps – a podcast about collections.

Those are the 2 biggies and the one “official” collection. But there are several other puke bag collectors both inside and outside the U.S.:

Anan’s Airsickness Bags Collection

Toshiaki Anan’s site, which was founded in 2007, is based in Japan. The collection contains 1,513 bags from 544 airlines in 130 countries (as of March, 2023).

The collection is divided into what geographical area they’re from, but don’t appear to be in any order once you’re in any specific category. Information includes airline name, logo, image of front and back, roughly what year it’s from, who they got the bag from, and if it’s available for swapping.


Located out of Germany, baghecht says they have nearly 10,000 different bags from more for 1,250 airlines in about 190 countries from around the world – this might be the largest current collection in the world.

Bags are listed alphabetically by airline name and include a photo of the bag (front and back), what country they’re from, ICAO and IATA info, current status of that airline/name, years of the airline, and any comments about the bag or airline.

David Shomper’s Barfbag Collection

Last updated in mid-2020, Shomper has amassed 1,813 bags (from 627 airlines in 142 countries). Collecting since 1980, Shomper, who is based in Boulder, CO says, “I don’t have the largest barfbag collection in the world, but I very likely have the highest.”

Bags are listed alphabetically by airline name and include a photo of the front of the bag.

Federico Mandrile Barf Bag Collection

This virtual collection of 1,147 barf bags is based in Italy. Much if it is written in Italian, which makes it difficult to understand until you actually see the bags. The site shows the front and back of each bag, but no descriptions.

Homer’s Airsicknessbag Collection

This site is run out of Denmark, and as of late April 2023, they had over 5,100 bags in their collection.

The bags are listed in alphabetical order, based on airline name. Country of origin is also included.

Rune’s Barf Bag Collection

Based in Sweden, it looks like the last time this site was updated was in May, 2020. Bags are categorized based on what geographical area they’re from.

Heads up: the site has a lot of background photos that make the site a little difficult to read.

So yeah…

Unfortunately, most airsickness bags in the U.S. are pretty generic nowadays (some of the ones from other countries are still usually prettier). But then again, puke bags aren’t used nearly as often as they used to. As far back as 2014, Slate reported that vomiting in airplanes seems to have grown less common, with fewer passengers “joining the bile-high club.”

“Right now, air sickness is almost unheard of,” said Bob van der Linden, an aviation expert at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum.

Most barf bag collectors tend to be Baby Boomers – people in their 60s, 70s and even 80s, who remember when tossing your cookies in a bag on a plane wasn’t so unheard of. Regardless, those folks have amassed a collection of a combined 20,000+ barf bags. That’s…a whole lot.

Oh, almost forgot – there’s a public Facebook group called the Air Sickness Bags Appreciation Society. As of this writing, it’s 164 members strong.

There may still be other sites out there, but I haven’t found them.

Feature Photo: CrustynDusty / Reddit

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1 comment

derek June 5, 2023 - 5:02 pm

I have a small collection of airline barf bags but it is not catalogued. That’s a major flaw. I do not know the year each was obtained. Of course, depending on the airline, I can estimate the date.

I also have a napkin collection. These are hard to keep. I used to carry books with me so I would put them inside the book. Some books still have them inside.

I have a dormant airline ticket jacket collection. Those are not made anymore. I now use an envelope or a folded brochure to keep boarding passes. I always print out boarding passes. That is why I condemn Alaska Airlines for taking out kiosks. I do not consider a home printed boarding pass to be official.


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