- Long-haul aircraft come with compartments in which bunks are available for flight attendants to rest and sleep.
- The hostel-like setup can be a second home for cabin crew on ultra-long-haul flights.
- Flight attendants will take turns servicing the cabin while the others rest.
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The Airbus A350 family of aircraft, for example, flew four of the 10 longest routes in the world before the pandemic. It currently flies the longest flight in the world between New York and Singapore, operated by Singapore Airlines.
But while flyers are lounging out in plush lie-flat seats to endure the long journeys, flight attendants don’t have that same luxury.
Rather, they don’t even stay in the passenger cabin for their breaks and retreat to a hidden hideaway above their passengers.
Take a look at where flight attendants go when they need to rest onboard this SAS Scandinavian Airlines Airbus A350-900XWB.
The extreme back of the plane is where passengers will find the rear galley. It’s just one of the main workstations for a flight attendant where drinks, food, and other items are kept.
Just opposite the galley, however, is a small set of stairs that appears to lead to nowhere.
A door marked “crew only” with a red no entry symbol hides the compartment above.
Open the door, and the crew rest area reveals itself.
It’s a narrow space and climbing up and down the stairs takes some getting used to. But long-haul flight attendants have plenty of opportunities to practice as they routinely spend countless hours in the air.
The compartment is completely separate from the passenger cabin so it’s not like the crew can look down on passengers from above.
Once inside, six bunks comprise the crew rest area. There’s not much headspace and some crouching is required to navigate the compartment.
Each bunk has the essentials including a pillow, blanket, and mattress pad so flight attendants can get a good sleep.
But beyond that, they’re quite bare save for a few storage pockets. While passengers below have access to thousands of hours of in-flight entertainment, flight attendants don’t.
That’s because these areas are meant solely for rest and the bare-bones setup reflects that. Flight attendants can choose to do other things like read books or go on their phones but that’s not the intended purpose.
A personal reading lamp provides the only light in the bunks as otherwise, it gets quite dark in the space.
Flight attendants can close the curtains for privacy and block any ambient light coming from the galley and main entryway.
Seatbelts are installed so resting flight attendants can sleep while safely strapped in during turbulence or any other time the seatbelt sign is on.
Smaller storage areas line the aisle and an emergency exit is available that will see flight attendants pop out from overhead bins in case of trouble.
Hangars are also available for the crew to hang up their uniforms.
The narrow passageways are reminiscent more of a spaceship than an airplane. That said, it would’ve been easier to maneuver had there been no gravity.
Crew rest is mandatory on longer journeys and flight attendants will take turns servicing their cabins while others rest.
Pilots have a separate rest area that’s closer to the cockpit, with this rest area solely for cabin crew.
The crew rest area is connected to the cabin below via an intercom, allowing flight attendants to keep in communication.
On some of the longer flights of which aircraft like the Airbus A350 are capable, this can become a second home for hours on end. The flight from New York to Singapore is scheduled at 18 hours and 50 minutes in duration, for example.
All the while, the average passenger will likely never realize that flight attendants are resting just feet above their heads. It’s one of the closely kept secrets of an airplane.
But if a flight attendant disappears for a few hours, that’s likely where they’re going.
Not all crew rest areas are as secluded, however. On smaller aircraft, a crew rest area can be a single-row in economy, often the very last row.
JetBlue, for example, is flying to London in August and blocking one of the last rows in economy for its flight attendants to rest on the journeys.
A Mint business class seat is also reserved for flight attendants to use transatlantic flights.
So while the average traveler may never know if flight attendants dream of flying sheep, they’ll now have a better idea of where they sleep.