As the crowded, busy summer season approaches and travelers everywhere have less personal space than ever, let's take a look at some of the most secret places onboard planes: crew rest areas.
These are parts of the plane most passengers never get to see, but they are essential for hard-working crews on long international flights - a secret space where they can catch a few hours of rest away from demanding passengers.
On large wide-body jets, crew rest compartments (known as CRCs) for flight attendants and pilots are usually tucked away behind locked doors and are off-limits to the public. Depending on the type of aircraft, these compartments are usually located either above or below the passenger cabin.
You typically climb or descend stairs to get to this space. Once you're inside this confined area, things can start to feel really claustrophobic (or cozy, depending on your outlook).
You'll typically find a set of bunk beds that look like they belong in a Japanese capsule hotel. Sound deadening curtains at each bunk help block out light and noise. Most capsules have reading lights, air vents and entertainment systems to help crew members comfortably pass the time during break hours.
Delta Air Lines recently gave us a peek at the crew rest areas on its brand new long-haul Airbus A350 jets. The flight attendant bunks are located near the back galley. A staircase leads to six beds — one of which is reserved for the chief purser. The pilot crew rest is located at the front near the flight deck, and inside that one are two bunk beds and a recliner chair.
There are several mirrors in the rest compartments so employees can make sure they look sharp for passengers after a few hours of sleep.
Flight attendants and pilots use the crew rests in shifts on intercontinental flights that now routinely run 14-18 hours. After the main meal service on a transoceanic flight, half of the flight attendants will catch some Zzzs while the others staff the galleys. The two teams trade off halfway through the flight. Pilots have a similar schedule.
Most international airlines provide employees the same bedding amenities business class passengers receive. On Delta, each bunk bed comes with Westin Heavenly bedding — the same pillows and duvets found in Delta One (business class). On United Airlines, bunks are stocked with Saks Fifth Avenue Polaris bedding.
"We want to take care of our flight crews," one Delta flight attendant told TravelSkills.
Not only do airlines want to take care of their crews, these rest areas are a safety requirement in the eyes of the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration.
The FAA requires that carriers have designated areas on every plane for the crew to sleep so they can be alert and well-rested throughout the flight. This is especially true for pilots.
On shorter international flights, particularly those flown by single-aisle jets, you'll find some airlines curtaining off some passenger seats and turning them into areas for crew to rest, recompose and be re-energized for landing.