What is it? The 1st Class Sleeper is a cushion that provides extra comfort and support for your upper body and head while you are in economy-class airline seating.
How does it work? The heavy-duty nylon Sleeper has an extended inflation tube into which you blow 10 or so breaths. Drape the Sleeper over the back of the seat and settle down to allow the air inside to move about, creating a comfortable cushion shaped to your body. If you can ignore the laughs from nearby passengers, the Sleeper may also be inflated using the airline's overhead air vent. To deflate, release the inflation tube valve and gently push the air out. It can then be folded up to the size of a travel umbrella. Instructions are printed on the Sleeper and an enclosed illustrated card. A five-minute demonstration video is available at www.1stclasssleeper.com .
Why do I need one? Because the Sleeper is a cheap and convenient way of transforming the economy-class experience. Suitable for most body sizes, it is light (about 450 grams) and compact, making it easy to pack into hand luggage. The non-sweat nylon cushion has robust seams and provides a hygienic seat cover. It may be used for lumbar support alone by blowing in three to four breaths and folding the Sleeper in half.
Anything else? The cushioned air is said to act as a shock absorber during turbulence. The product is suitable for use on a train or bus or in a car (but not on the driver's seat) or on regular chairs. It's also a boon for the elderly and those with lower-back pain because it offers gentle support. It comes with a drawstring storage bag.
And the downside? There is no way to avoid feeling conspicuous inflating your own seat on a plane. Once you've recovered from the initial embarrassment, however, it is worth having achieved geek status for the significant comfort advantage. By the end of my in-flight trial everyone sitting near me had asked to try the cushion.
Where can I find one? The 1st Class Sleeper comes with a 90-day money-back guarantee and a one-year warranty. It costs US$63.95, which includes delivery to Hong Kong, and can be ordered at the website above.