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the magical world of airsickness bags

Welcome. This is what my wife calls "a bunch of stupid jokes and pictures of paper bags." She's right about the jokes. She's wrong about the bags: some of them are plastic.

What the critics say: "Utterly unnotable" (Wikipedia editor). "Ridiculous collections #4" (Buzzfeed). Other comments: "As complete wastes of time go, it's a very high quality complete waste of time... An entirely dispensable source of inane comments about a truly trivial subject... A monument to the planet's worst corporate design... An unwelcome reminder of some of the more unpleasant moments in our lives."

Donations (unused, please) of bags not represented in the bag gallery are welcomed -- please mail to this address, and I'll credit you on this site! I am happy to trade any extras that I have. Check out the links to other bag sites, find out how you can use your spare bags, and explore the fascinating world of bag manufacturers

Highlights: The design features page reveals the secrets of professional baggery, and the logos page analyses the enigma of airline corporate identities. Search for your favourite bag, browse the bag gallery by country and airline, and check out the biggest, best and worst bags!


But are they optically different?

This one's Druk...

...and this is Thai.

According to Niek Vermeulen, for a bag to count as a bag, it must have a printed airline name or logo and be "optically different" from all others.

Generic bags, stickers, rubber stamps, handwriting and ethnic food stains don't count.

So maybe I should throw out my rare Bhutanese Druk Air bag because it's really from Thai. Along with a whole stack of generics.

And pity collectors in North America, where airlines - unconcerned with their corporate image among their more sensitive-stomached passengers - issue unbranded bags.

Who sets the rules? According to Niek, it's the Guinness Book of World Records. He should know: he's been anointed biggest baggist by Guinness.

And no, he doesn't include his signed Air Force One bag in his record-breaking total (it lacks a logo or airline identifcation, and the signature has ruined it for collection purposes...)

The lesson: if you want to collect bags that count, move to Kathmandu, where every seat pocket has a different bag. And don't bother about Air Force One.

What to do when you get a new bag? Check the wording and typeface, the colour, the type of paper, the construction, and the bagmaker's name (often lurking in the gusset).

If it's different from your existing bags, well, you can count it as a new bag. If it's the same, send it to me and I'll make sure it gets a decent burial.

Check my guide to bag design for more ideas.

Meanwhile, in fearless defiance of the Guinness rulebook, this site will continue to feature generics, rubber stamps, handwriting and ethnic food stains. All in the interest of reflecting the full richness and variety of chunder-containers available to the travelling public.

Friday, April 12, 2002 

Baggie with the mostest

Who's got the world's biggest bunch of bags? Check out the report on Dutch collector Niek Vermeulen at the Guinness World Records website. It says Niek (that's him on the left, at the prez's desk on Air Force One) has 2112 bags from 470 different airlines, and "heads a list of 50 serious collectors." No mention made of unserious ones (like me).

Click here for a close-up view of my very own Air Force One bag (kindly supplied by Niek).

Latest: An earlier version of this column stated that the picture showed Niek stealing the bags. But Niek says that he requested the Air Force One bags -- and one of the bag envelopes was signed by the security officer as proof of authenticity. Abject apologies for the error.

Apparently Niek is interested in selling his collection. Click here for more.

Meanwhile... Why does Guinness include barfbags, but not, say, collections of toenail clippings? The Rules and Regulations say "Due to the infinite number of objects it is possible to collect, we can only include those claims that reflect proven widespread interest." So it's official: barfbag collecting is no longer just for cranks and weirdos.

Rune Tapper points out that Guinness's intro to Niek's collection (a list of bag names in different languages) is lifted without attribution from Rune's website.

Niek claims innocence: he says that Guinness drafted the text.

And is Niek really the biggest baggist? Controversy rages: Oliver Conradi (bottom photo) claims "close to 2600 bags from 1324 airlines", not counting plain bags. Oliver appeared on ARD (German TV network) as the world's baggiest person; he says the TV crew verified his count.

Ah, but did the crew know how to count? asks Niek, who counters with his new total: now over 3000. He says that Guinness has verfied his claim to the record, and it will appear in the 2003 edition.

Email claims and counterclaims to this address.

Friday, April 12, 2002 

Kill those plain white bags

Some suggestions for persuading airlines to provide decorative bags:

  • Take some crayons on board and distribute them to fellow passengers. Invite them to draw pictures on the bag in the seat pocket in front of them instead of listening to the safety demonstration.

  • Same as above, but get them to write obscenities instead.

  • Collect all the bags on the plane, puncture them with your toothpick (they don't allow penknives on board any more), and present them to the cabin crew.

  • Collect lots of bags from a competing carrier and secretly exchange them for the plain whites.

  • Choose some of the most inspiring designs from this site, and send a printout to your favourite airline

Any more ideas? Email me!

Friday, April 12, 2002 


What do Latvia, Liberia and Lesotho have in common? Yes, they all start with an L. What else? They're all missing from my barfbag collection.

What's the biggest country not represented? Chad. In terms of population? Burkina Faso. Other prominent absentees (coloured red in the map): Georgia and Rwanda. 

Major underrepresented portions of the globe are a swathe of Africa and chunks of Central Asia and Central America.

Donations from these areas especially welcome!

Centres of megabagdiversity are the USA (though many US bags are distressingly plain), China, the UK, Canada, Germany, Brazil and Indonesia. 

Click here for details.

For new baggists only


New to the world of bag collecting? Want to get a head start on your collection? Then send me an email, and I'll send you a randomly selected free starter pack from my surplus bag stock. There won't be anything rare, and you may end up with some duplicates, but at least you'll be able to show your friends a few more of these lovely cultural artefacts. Make sure you include your mailing address in your email. Offer good as long as stocks last.

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