Using Air Pillows to Prevent Damage in Packaging

Using Air Pillows to Prevent Damage in Packaging
Published On: April 27, 2018 Revised On: March 6, 2024

Shipping and transportation form the backbone of global commerce. As businesses strive to deliver products to consumers and clients, ensuring that goods arrive intact and undamaged is important. Ensuring that products reach consumers undamaged is more than just a logistical concern—it’s pivotal to a brand’s reputation, profitability, and sustainability.

Damaged goods can diminish customer trust, leading to costly returns and replacements. Beyond financial implications, consistent damage can result in negative publicity in our digital age and increase environmental waste from discarded products and packaging.

Moreover, a smooth, damage-free supply chain fosters trust between businesses and streamlines operations. As such, prioritizing damage prevention isn’t just about intact deliveries; it’s about maintaining brand integrity, operational efficiency, and environmental responsibility in today’s interconnected marketplace.

Understanding Air Pillows

Air pillows are inflatable packaging materials designed primarily to provide cushioning and protect goods during transit. Lightweight and versatile, they fill voids within shipping boxes or containers, preventing the movement of products and reducing the impact of external forces. Compared to traditional packaging fillers like styrofoam peanuts or crumpled paper, air pillows offer a more efficient, cleaner, and often more sustainable solution.

Air pillows are typically made of polyethene, a type of plastic known for its durability and flexibility. Polyethene allows the air pillows to be inflated to a desired firmness and provides a barrier to keep the air trapped inside. Some air pillows on the market are also crafted from biodegradable or recycled materials, catering to businesses looking for more eco-friendly packaging options.

Air pillows also come in various sizes, ranging from small pouches for filling gaps in envelopes or small boxes to larger ones designed for bulkier packages. The choice of size and type often depends on the nature of the product being shipped and the level of protection required. The variety of air pillows reflects the diversity of shipping needs. Some common types include:

  • Quilted Air Pillows: Designed with multiple connected pockets of air, they are suitable for wrapping around products for extra protection.
  • Single Chamber Air Pillows: These are singular, larger pillows used to fill larger voids or gaps in packaging.
  • Bubble-on-demand: An innovative solution where air pillows are created as needed, helping to save storage space.

Advantages of Using Air Pillows

Air pillows present a multifaceted solution to packaging needs, balancing robust protection with cost and environmental considerations. Their adaptability and range of benefits make them a favoured choice for businesses across various sectors.

Effective Damage Prevention: At the core of their design, air pillows aim to safeguard products during transit. Their inflatable nature allows them to cushion goods effectively, reducing the risk of damage from impacts, jostles or falls. Filling voids within packages prevents items from moving around, ensuring that products remain secure throughout the shipping journey.

Lightweight and Space Saving: One of the standout features of air pillows is their weight—or lack thereof. Being predominantly air-filled, they add minimal weight to packages, which can lead to reduced shipping costs. Additionally, air pillows occupy very little space before inflation, making storage convenient and efficient. This space-saving feature is especially beneficial for businesses with limited storage capacity or those that use on-demand inflation systems.

Environmentally Friendly Options: The world is becoming increasingly conscious of environmental concerns, and packaging is no exception. Many air pillows are manufactured from recycled materials or are designed to be recyclable. Furthermore, some companies offer biodegradable air pillows, which decompose over time, reducing plastic waste and environmental impact.

Cost-Effective Solution: Air pillows provide an economical alternative to protective packaging. Their lightweight nature can lead to lower shipping fees. Their efficient storage reduces the need for expansive warehousing. Moreover, effectively preventing damage can reduce the costs associated with returns, replacements, and potential negative customer feedback.

How Air Pillows Work

Air pillows harness the properties of trapped air to provide a protective barrier for products during shipping. Through a delicate balance of air volume, pressure, and force distribution, they ensure that goods arrive at their destinations in the same condition they were sent.

The reason that gives air pillows their cushioning effect is the principle of pneumatics, which deals with the mechanical properties of gases. When an external force is applied to the air pillow, the air inside is compressed. This compression allows the pillow to absorb and distribute the shock, protecting the packaged item. The trapped air acts as a buffer, reducing the direct impact on the product and ensuring it remains undamaged.

Air Volume and Pressure Considerations: The effectiveness of an air pillow largely depends on the air’s volume and the pressure at which the air is maintained. Too much air and the pillow might burst upon impact; too little might not provide adequate cushioning. Air pillows must be filled to an optimal level that maximizes protection while minimizing the risk of rupture. The thickness and quality of the plastic material also play a role in determining how much air and pressure an air pillow can safely contain.

Distribution of Forces during Transit: One of the key advantages of air pillows is their ability to distribute forces evenly across their surface. When a package encounters bumps or drops during transit, the impact force is spread out over the pillow’s surface area rather than concentrating on a single point. This even distribution ensures that no single area of the packaged product bears the brunt of any impact, greatly reducing the risk of damage.

Best Practices for Using Air Pillows

Incorporating best practices into packaging strategies can greatly enhance product safety during shipping. Beyond delivering an undamaged product, such care and attention to packaging details underscore a brand’s dedication to quality, inevitably resonating with recipients and fostering trust and loyalty.

Choosing the Right Size and Type for Products

The selection of appropriate air pillows is integral to the safety and security of packaged items. The product’s size, weight, and fragility should dictate the type of air pillow chosen. For smaller items, it’s advisable to employ smaller air pillows or those with a quilted design, ensuring that all voids are adequately filled and the product is protected. On the other hand, larger or weightier items might demand the use of single-chamber, larger air pillows. These can act as a robust cushioning base or effectively fill substantial gaps, ensuring the product remains stationary during transit.

Proper Placement within the Box

The strategic positioning of air pillows within a package can significantly enhance their protective efficacy. When items are prone to shifting upwards due to transportation dynamics, placing air pillows on top can serve as a buffer, ensuring the product remains in place. Similarly, to mitigate the risks associated with lateral movement, air pillows can be positioned on the sides, acting as protective walls.

Moreover, since product corners are often points of vulnerability, cushioning them with air pillows can help absorb and distribute force, reducing potential damage. The importance of a cushioned base is also worth noting, especially for weightier items. Ensuring a sufficient layer of air pillows at the bottom of the box can be the first defence against shocks from inadvertent drops.

Ensuring Optimal Air Fill Levels

The volume of air within an air pillow is pivotal to its performance. Overfilling risks the pillow bursting upon experiencing impact or under the strain of external pressures.

Conversely, underfilled pillows might fall short of providing the necessary cushioning, leaving products susceptible to damage. It’s paramount to adhere to the manufacturer’s inflation guidelines. Regular calibration is essential for businesses utilizing on-demand inflation systems to maintain uniform and optimal fill levels across all pillows.

Combining with Other Protective Packaging Materials

While highly effective, air pillows can sometimes benefit from the complementary protection of other packaging materials. A preliminary layer of bubble wrap can offer added security for exceptionally fragile items. This dual-layer protection protects the product from multiple angles and pressures.

Foam inserts can be valuable when products have an irregular shape or require more tailored protection. Combined with air pillows, they can ensure stability and enhance shock absorption, ensuring the product remains unscathed regardless of the rigours of transit.


Ensuring products reach their destinations in pristine condition is not merely a logistical consideration; it directly reflects a brand’s commitment to quality, care, and customer satisfaction.

The air pillow’s design, driven by physics and material science principles, allows for optimal cushioning, reducing the risk of product damage. Humi Pak offers extensive air pillow packaging solutions, ensuring optimal impact protection for your products. Contact us and schedule a consultation with our packaging engineers for a complimentary demonstration.