John Horsfall wood fibre pillows

All images via John Horsfall

In-flight textile manufacturer John Horsfall is plumping its pillow offering to satisfy travelers’ increasingly refined tastes. The company has introduced an entire range of new pillows that bring hotel-quality coziness to the skies. Products include 100% recycled polyester fibers in a variety of deniers and crimp, and even feature microencapsulated calming scents.

Textile manufacturing has been the name of the game for John Horsfall since 1863. The company has been serving the aviation industry since it sold its first airline blankets to British Airways, Kuwait Airways and Malaysian Airlines in 1978. Today the company has an in-house design studio, warehouse and sampling facility in West Yorkshire, UK, along with an office in Hangzhou, China. John Horsfall’s bold touches can be seen in the soft furnishings adorning the cabins of Qantas, Air Mauritius and Finnair aircraft.

The current situation has been difficult for the company’s small team. The cancellation of AIX and WTCE means that staff wasn’t able to share ideas and swap stories with clients, colleagues and friends in Hamburg. Instead, the team is using this time to continue developing the products they had planned to show at AIX, and focus on creative, thoughtful design.

Pillows have been offered by the company for many years, but as the market, materials and passenger expectations for cabin cushions changed, John Horsfall’s designers looked to evolve as well. They scoured the raw material market and curated a range of pillow fillings that are miles ahead of the standard hollow-fiber pillows that airlines typically settle for, according to Ellie Parkes, manager, Business Development at John Horsfall. “We are offering a wider choice with more enhanced features, which until now has only really been seen in the retail and hotel markets,” she said.

John HorsfallThe new product line, which would have been revealed at AIX 2020, includes 100% recycled polyester fibers sourced from post-consumer waste, which Parkes says usually consists of plastic bottles. The pillows come in a variety of deniers (a measure of thickness). The lower the denier number, the finer the fiber, and therefore the softer and more down-like the filling. “For a daytime lumbar pillow we might recommend a high 15-denier fiber for firmer support and longevity, whereas a premium sleep pillow might be best in our super light 3-D fiber,” Parkes noted.

The company has also been experimenting with the crimp of fiber fillings. Crimp is used to describe the profile of the fibers. Parkes explains that some fibers are soft and smooth, some have a zig-zag and others resemble spirals. Generally, the tighter or higher the crimp, the more “bounce-back” or springiness the pillow has. For airlines that use pillows frequently, the company is innovating with balls of fine denier fiber that move smoothly inside the pillow, avoiding clumping and extending the product’s lifespan. John Horsfall aims to deliver value that goes beyond the purchase price. “Airlines understand that it’s about the full lifecycle cost of each item and its contribution to customer satisfaction,” mentioned Parkes.

John Horsfall Ball Fibre Pillows

For high-turnover applications, John Horsfall created low-cost economy-class pillows which use compostable, biodegradable non-woven fabrics made from post-industrial wood waste instead of polypropylene, a thermoplastic. The benefits of are twofold: the production process is cleaner and the final product is better. The company’s economy-class pillows are made using minimal water and no solvents, while the wood-fiber fabric is softer than polypropylene, making for a more comfortable sleep experience.

One of the features that John Horsfall was most excited to show off at AIX is microencapsulation technology, which adds calming scents directly to the fiber filling on a microscopic level. Using patented Celessence Sleep Technology™, various scents can be integrated into any pillow the company offers. Parkes notes that due to the price, this solution “is more likely to be taken up in business or first class.” The scents are scientifically proven to improve sleep quality, helping users to fall asleep more quickly and wake up more refreshed.