I bought this $30 airplane gadget that went viral on TikTok — and it's a game changer

Fire or flop - Airplane Pockets
(Image credit: Future)
Fire or Flop

Fire or Flop is a new Tom's Guide column, where we test viral products from TikTok and other social media platforms to see if they're actually worth it, or a total waste.

I’ve tried dozens of products that claim to make the flying experience better, but many haven’t lived up to the hype. Take the viral inflatable air travel pillow — whoever says this is comfortable and easy to pack is, frankly, a liar.

That said, I’m always on the lookout for viral products on TikTok for Fire or Flop, the Tom’s Guide column dedicated to finding out whether trending items are actually worth the money. Airplane Pockets is something I first saw in this “travel essentials”-themed video with over 500,000 views from @brookes_buys on TikTok. 

Airplane Pockets: $29.99 on Amazon
Fire or Flop?

Airplane Pockets: $29.99 on Amazon
Airplane Pockets went viral for offering an alternative storage solution for grimy seat-back pockets. The stretchy polyester sleeve is designed to fit over the tray table at your seat, with hanging storage.

Airplane Pockets is a sleeve that slides on to the tray table you’ll find at the average airplane seat. The sleeve also features a hang-down pocket you can use to store your snacks, gadgets and other flying essentials. The idea is you’d use this pocket instead of shoving your goods in the cabin's seat-back pockets.

I’m one of those people who refuses to sit down in their seat until every surface has been swept with a Lysol wipe. Needless to say, I find the crusty seat-back pockets absolutely repulsive. Based on what I saw on TikTok, Airplane Pockets looked like a more sanitary alternative. 

Right off the bat, Airplane Pockets earned big points for packability. The sleeve weighs a mere 4.6 ounces and measures 15 x 9.5 x 0.3 inches laid out, but can fold up into the size of a wallet. The malleable material reminds me of the stretchy textbook sleeves from high school, in a way.

Once settled in my seat for a 6-hour flight from New York to Los Angeles, I grabbed the Airplane Pockets out of my bag, pulled down my tray table and slid half of the sleeve over the table. It stretched with zero hassle. Then, I stowed the tray table, and was surprised that the security notch still fit despite a bit of added thickness from the sleeve.

Beneath the tray table, I had a large, stretchy pocket ready to use. I put in my iPad mini 6, noise-cancelling headphones, a variety of snacks, chargers and some personal care items. Though the pocket seemed a bit saggy with all the added heft, it successfully expanded to hold my miscellaneous items. The dedicated pocket for my water bottle came in handy, too.

During the flight, I like keeping my tray table out to use my devices. The sleeve covered the cup-divot (can we really call it a cup holder?), so I had to be a bit more mindful when the flight attendant passed me a can of ginger ale. I noticed some crumbs stuck to the material, too. Luckily, Airplane Pockets is machine washable, so I wound up throwing it in with my laundry when I got home. 

Verdict: Fire 

fire or flop

(Image credit: Future)

If you’re flying in a seat with a tray table, and like to have several items at your disposal during flights, Airplane Pockets is a no-brainer. I will say for $30, it feels a tad pricey for it is — a basic polyester sleeve. But after my travels and washing, it shows no sign of wear. And believe me, I stretched mine to the limit.

Now, I’ve since ended up in seats that don’t have a tray table, so Airplane Pockets isn’t a ubiquitous answer for keeping your things organized and less germ-exposed. Yet all things considered, it’s easily one of the most convenient products I’ve found thanks to TikTok, so it’s earned my badge of approval. 

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Kate Kozuch

Kate Kozuch is the managing editor of social and video at Tom’s Guide. She covers smartwatches, TVs and audio devices, too. Kate appears on Fox News to talk tech trends and runs the Tom's Guide TikTok account, which you should be following. When she’s not filming tech videos, you can find her taking up a new sport, mastering the NYT Crossword or channeling her inner celebrity chef. 

  • kep55
    I'm guessing the author is around 5'2" or less because there's no way there'd be any knee room for anyone taller. My wife if 5'5" and she has about an inch of knee room on airplanes. I'm 6'3" and I have NONE. And the NTSB and BEA have no problems with this.