The hidden areas of planes where the crew rests

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(CNN) – Widebody aircraft have some secret areas, where pilots and cabin crew go to rest during long flights. Passengers cannot access them under any circumstances and they are well hidden from view.

They are called crew rest compartments and change their position in the plane.

On newer aircraft such as the Boeing 787 or Airbus A350, they are located in the upper fuselage, above the main cabin. But on older aircraft, they can be in the cargo hold or even just in the main cabin.

They come in pairs: for one pilot, which usually sits above the cockpit and often consists of two bunks and a recliner seat, and for another cabin crew, which usually has six or more bunks and is placed above the rear galley. , The back of the plane where food and drinks are prepared and stored.

Like a capsule hotel

Airlines have their say in the configuration of the crew rest area when buying a plane, but the main parameters are set by regulators such as the Federal Aviation Administration. It commands, for example, that the crew’s rest areas should be “in places where intrusive noise, smell and vibration have minimal effect on sleep” and that they should be temperature-controlled and allow the crew to adjust the lighting.

Bunks (“or other surfaces that allow for a flat sleeping position”) should be 78 by 30 inches (198 by 76 centimeters) in size – tall people beware – and should be at least 35 cubic feet or one cubic meter , The space around them. There should also be a communal area for changing, entering and exiting that provides at least 65 cubic feet of space.

Crew comfort area on a Boeing 777 passenger jet.

Crew comfort area on a Boeing 777 passenger jet.


The end result is somewhat similar to a Japanese capsule hotel: a windowless, cluttered, but comfortable sleeping area, with power outlets and lights – as well as all the necessary safety equipment such as oxygen masks, seat belt lights and intercoms. , Among others.

“They can be quite comfortable,” says Susanna Carr, a flight attendant for United Airlines who works on Boeing aircraft, including the 787, 777 and 767.

“They have a cushioned mattress, air vents and temperature controls to keep the air circulating so you can keep it cool or hot, and we’re given linen, which is commonly used in business class on our international flights. Like them – – But I’m also only 5 feet 8 inches, so if you put a 6 foot 4 inch guy in there, it’s going to be a little tight, ”she says.

But are they better than business or even first class meeting?

“Some ways yes, some ways no,” Kerr says. “The bunk may be wider than first class and for me personally, depending on the aircraft, I get more legroom. But it’s a bunk, so you don’t have to have a full living space in the cabin and obviously you don’t even have privacy. “And if you’re claustrophobic, you can definitely feel that there – it’s a plane, so you have so much space to put things. They definitely use every inch there.”

Tucked away

The comfort area for pilots is close to the cockpit.

The comfort area for pilots is close to the cockpit.


Crew rest areas are designed not to attract more attention from passengers, regardless of where they are located: “Passengers walking by will probably think it’s a closet,” says Carr.

“I won’t go too far into how we access it – it’s safe, I’ll say it. Occasionally we have people who think it’s a bathroom door and they try to open it, But we just show them the real way. Toilets instead. “

Behind the door is usually a small landing and a staircase upstairs, at least in the latest aircraft.

“The bunks are open either on the side or at one end so you can go inside – I sometimes jokingly refer to them as‘ catacombs ’,” says Carr.

On a few older aircraft like the Airbus A330, the crew rest compartment may also be in the cargo hold, so take the ladder down instead. But even in older planes like the Boeing 767 the rest of the area is located in the main cabin, and there are only recliner seats with curtains around them.

“It’s very heavy curtains, they block light and a good amount of noise, but not if you find an enthusiastic crowd or an upset child on the plane. We have opened the curtains to the passengers, looking for something or thinking. They will be going to the galley. , So it’s not necessarily the best rest. “

Surprisingly, most flight attendants prefer overhead bunks on curtained seats, but the upgrade is also beneficial for airlines who do not have to leave expensive cabin space that can be used for passenger seats.

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Order of seniority

Finnair A350 divided image of cabin crew comfort area.  To the right is the entrance, which is accessed from the front galley.

Finnair A350 divided image of cabin crew comfort area. To the right is the entrance, which is accessed from the front galley.

Alexei Kausmanen / Finair

Cabin crew members on long-haul flights typically spend at least 10% of the planned flight time in the remaining areas.

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“On average, I would say that means about 1.5 hours per long-haul flight,” says Carolina Åman, a flight attendant with Finnair, who works on Airbus A330 and A350 aircraft. However, this can vary depending on the airline and flight time – the rest time can be extended to a few hours.

“Since we have no private area in the aircraft for our lunch or coffee breaks, this period of rest is extremely important and helpful for us,” he says.

“During the flight this is the moment when we do not answer the call of the passengers or do anything other than relax, and let our feet and mind rest as well. The purpose of this rest is to maintain alertness and preparedness during the whole flight. We are ready to take action if the unexpected happens. “

However, not everyone can sleep in a bunk once.

“Usually on an outbound flight from Helsinki I use my leisure to listen to some audiobook or read a book because I come from home and rest well. But on an inbound flight from the destination to Helsinki, you may have a sleepy night behind you.” I have trouble sleeping in Asia for example – and then during rest, you usually fall asleep. Waking up from that sleep can be a really harsh experience if your brain has switched to night sleep mode, “says Amen.

To reach the rest area in this A330 SAS plane, the cabin crew goes down a small flight of stairs.

To reach the rest area in this A330 SAS plane, the cabin crew goes down a small flight of stairs.

Philip Mascalet / Master Films / Airbus

The car says, “Jet lag can be a difficult animal,” sometimes I can relax and I can sleep, other times my body is not ready for sleep. But because we are on break, we are allowed to use our. Phone so we can watch a movie or read a book on it. “

The rest of the area is closed during taxis, takeoffs, and landings, and is used on a supervisory basis by the cabin manager – or chief parser, in aviation lingo – a cabin crew member who handles all other duties and oversees operations. Plank.

This person usually uses a special bunk to communicate with the pilot and the rest of the crew that is close to the entrance to the rest of the area and has access to the intercom.

Kerr explains, “Everything in our industry is based on seniority, from the schedule to the route you can hold, to your vacation.” “The longer you stay there, the better the benefits and one of those benefits. Your crew chooses the break time – we go to the seniority order, so the person who is the most senior in the flight chooses whether they choose first, a break or a second break, and then until everyone gets a break. Until you go through the list. “

Piloting benefits

The comfort area for the pilots, which is different from the one dedicated to the cabin crew, is closer to the cockpit. Depending on the duration of the flight, there may be up to four pilots on board, but two will always be in the cockpit; Therefore, the pilot’s comfort area has only two bunks (or just one in older aircraft) but sometimes includes a seat equipped with in-flight recreation, which cabin crew does not get. Other than that, the compartments are very similar.

“I usually sleep well there,” says Alexei Kuosmenen, deputy fleet chief pilot at Finair.

Kuosmanen flies on A330 and A350 aircraft, and says he prefers the next rest area, which is located above the forward galley rather than into the main cabin. “It has really good curtains, you can adjust the temperature really well, there’s excellent ventilation, and it’s more soundproof. You don’t hear anything about what’s going on in the galley, it’s really quiet and comfortable.”

On this Boeing 787 Dreamliner, a rest room for crew members is located behind the plane.

On this Boeing 787 Dreamliner, a rest room for crew members is located behind the plane.

Roslan Rahman / AFP / Getty Images

The next time you’re on a long-haul flight, you may want to keep your eyes peeled for an obscure door at the front or back of the plane – if you see a pilot or flight attendant disappear into it, you’ve probably seen a rest area.

But keep in mind that crew members won’t necessarily be happy to show up around you, as passenger access to the rest of the area is restricted: “It’s a bit like Disney – we keep the magic behind closed doors,” Carr says.

“You don’t have to know that your flight attendants are feeling a little embarrassed, but at the same time you’ll be happy when we pop up after a fresh nap like our little cat Daisy.”

Top Image: A comfort room for a pilot located behind the cockpit of a Boeing 787 Dreamliner. Roslan Rahman / AFP / Getty Images

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