Editor’s Note – The Monthly Pass is a CNN tour series that explores some of the most fascinating topics in the world of travel. We took off in June to take a look at the latest developments in aircraft interiors, including the people working to change the way we fly.
(CNN) – Wide-body aircraft have some secret areas where pilots and cabin crew rest during long flights. Travelers cannot reach them under any circumstances and they are well hidden.
They are called crew rest compartments and their location on the plane varies.
On newer aircraft such as the Boeing 787 or Airbus A350, it is located above the main cabin at the top of the fuselage. However, on older aircraft, it can also be placed in the cargo hold or simply in the main cabin.
They come in pairs: one for pilots, usually sitting atop the cockpit and often with two berths and a reclining seat, and one for cabin crew, usually having six or more berths and positioned above the aft galley, the section in the aft plane where food and drinks are prepared and stored .
Like a capsule hotel
Airlines have a say in the configuration of crew comfort zones when purchasing an aircraft, but key parameters are set by regulators such as the Federal Aviation Administration. It states, for example, that crew rest areas “shall be located where disturbing noises, odors and vibrations interfere with as little sleep as possible” and that their temperature should be controlled and the crew allowed to adjust the lighting.
Beds (“or any other surface that allows a flat sleeping position”) must be 78 x 30 inches (198 x 76 cm) – take all people note – and have at least 35 cubic feet, or one cubic meter of space around them. There should also be a common area for changing clothes and getting on and off the plane, with an area of at least 65 cubic metres.
Crew rest area on a Boeing 777 passenger plane.
The end result is a bit like a Japanese capsule hotel: a cramped but comfortable windowless sleeping area with power outlets and lighting, plus all necessary safety equipment like oxygen masks, seat belt lights, and intercom, among other things.
“They can be very comfortable,” says Susanna Carr, a United Airlines flight attendant who works on Boeing planes, including the 787, 777 and 767.
“They have a padded mattress, a vent to allow for air circulation and temperature control so you can keep it cooler or warmer, and we’ll be provided with mattress typically similar to that used on international business class flights. I love it—but I’m also only about 5ft 8in, So if you put a 6-foot-4-inch person in there, it might be a little cramped,” she says.
But are they better than a business seat or even first class?
“Yes, in some ways, no in some ways,” says Carr. “The berths can be wider than first class and for me personally I have more legroom depending on the plane. But it’s a bunk bed, so you don’t necessarily have to have full height in the cabin, and of course you don’t. I don’t have any privacy either. And if you struggle with From claustrophobia, you can definitely feel there—it’s an airplane, so you only have so much space to store things. They definitely use every inch there.”
The pilots’ rest area is located near the cockpit.
Crew rest quarters are designed not to attract too much attention to passengers, no matter where they are: “The passing passenger probably thought it was a locker,” says Carr.
“I won’t exaggerate how to get to it—it’s safe, I’ll say. Sometimes we have people who think it’s a bathroom door and try to open it, but we just show them the way to the actual toilet instead.”
Behind the door there is usually a small landing and a ladder leading up, at least in the newest aircraft.
“Beds are either open on one side or the other so that you can crawl into them — sometimes I jokingly refer to them as ‘catacombs,'” says Carr.
On slightly older aircraft such as the Airbus A330, the crew rest compartment may also be in the cargo hold, so a set of stairs will lead to the landing instead. But even on older aircraft like the Boeing 767, the comfort areas are in the main cabin and are just chaise longues with curtains around them.
“They are very heavy curtains, they block out the light and a good amount of sound, but not when you have an active crowd on the plane or a grumpy kid. We’ve had passengers open the curtains, look for something, or think they’re going to the kitchen, so it’s Not necessarily the best rest.”
Unsurprisingly, most flight attendants prefer lofts over canopy seats, but the upgrade is also beneficial for airlines who don’t have to give up valuable cabin space that could be used for passenger seating instead.
order of seniority
Split image of the cabin crew rest area on the Finnair A350. To the right is the entrance that can be accessed from the front kitchen.
Alexey Kosmanin / Fen Air
Long-haul cabin crew members typically spend at least 10% of their scheduled flight time in quiet areas.
“On average, I’d say that’s about 1.5 hours per long-haul flight,” says Carolina Uhmann, a Finnair flight attendant who works on the Airbus A330 and A350. However, this can vary depending on the airline and flight time – the rest time can be up to a few hours.
“Because there is no private area on the plane for lunch or coffee breaks, this quiet time is very important and beneficial to us,” she says.
“This is the moment during a flight when we don’t answer passenger calls or do anything other than rest, and we give our feet and minds a rest throughout the flight so we are ready to take action.” , in case something happens. The unexpected happens. “
However, not everyone sleeps in bed at once.
“Usually on a one-way flight from Helsinki, I use my comfort to listen to an audiobook or read a book since I come home from home and am comfortable. But on the return trip from your destination to Helsinki, you may have sleepless nights – for example I have trouble sleeping in ASIA – And then you usually fall asleep peacefully. “Wake up from that sleep can sometimes be a really difficult experience when your brain switches to nighttime sleep mode,” says Uman.
To get to the comfort zone of the A330 SAS aircraft, the cabin crew descends a small flight of stairs.
Philip Masklett / Master Films / Airbus
“Jetlag can be a tough beast,” Carr says, “sometimes I can relax and sleep, other times my body is not ready for sleep. But since we are taking a break we are allowed to use our cell phones so we can watch a movie or read a book about it.”
Rest areas are closed during taxis and takeoffs and landings and are used on a shift basis under the supervision of the cabin manager – or chief observer in aviation parlance – the cabin crew member responsible for all others and overseeing the operations board.
This person can usually use a special bed located near the entrance to the roosts with access to intercom to communicate with the pilots and the rest of the crew.
“Everything in our industry is based on seniority, from the schedule you travel to to the ways you can keep to your days off,” explains Carr. “The longer you stay, the better the perks, and one of those perks is your crew’s choice of break times — we track seniority, so someone with seniority in flight can choose whether they prefer the first break or the second break, then go through the list until everyone is broken.” “
The pilots’ rest area, which is separate from the cabin crew rest area, is located near the cockpit. Depending on the duration of the flight, there can be up to four pilots on board, and there are always two in the cockpit; As such, the pilot’s rest area has only two beds (or even just one on an older plane), but it does have a seat, and is sometimes equipped with in-flight entertainment that cabin crew don’t get. Otherwise the topics are quite similar.
“I usually sleep really well there,” says Alexei Kuzmanin, Finnair’s vice president of fleet pilot.
Kosmanen flies the A330 and A350 and says he prefers the latter’s rest area, which is located above the front galley rather than the main cabin. “They have really good curtains, you can regulate the temperature very well, there’s great ventilation and it’s more soundproof. You don’t hear anything about what’s going on in the galleys, it’s really quiet and relaxing.”
On the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, the crew restroom is located in the aft part of the aircraft.
Raslan Rahman/AFP/Getty Images
Next time you’re on a long flight, you might want to keep an eye out for an unobtrusive door in the front or back of the plane—if you see a pilot or flight attendant disappear inside, you may have noticed a break.
But keep in mind that crew members may not be keen to show you around, because rest areas are off-limits to passengers: “It’s a bit like Disney—we’re keeping the magic behind closed doors,” says Carr.
“You don’t necessarily want to know your hostesses are getting a rest, but at the same time you’ll be glad when we turn up as fresh as chrysanthemums after our kitten’s nap.”
Pictured above: The pilots’ restroom is located behind the cockpit of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. Raslan Rahman/AFP/Getty Images