Where cabin crew sleep

Long-haul journeys can be exhausting for hardworking flight attendants as well as passengers, but where do crew go to unwind and escape demanding flyers?

Many Boeing 777 and 787 planes feature a secret staircase that leads to a tiny set of windowless bedrooms known as Crew Rest Compartments (CRCs).

Fascinating images provide a rare glimpse inside these confined areas, which few people have a chance to witness for themselves.

This image of a Boeing plane shows flight attendants stretched out in the hidden bedroom area, which many passengers don’t get to see

A small staircase can be seen leading to a compartment of sleeping spaces for long-haul crew members. These bedrooms are located in the rear of this Boeing 787 Dreamliner, and there are another two further sections at the front of the plane too

Sleep tight: The cosy  sleeping quarters on the Boeing 787 Dreamliner  feature cushions, pillows and curtains to offer a touch of privacy

Sleep tight: The cosy sleeping quarters on the Boeing 787 Dreamliner  feature cushions, pillows and curtains to offer a touch of privacy

Enter the cabins where aircraft crew sleep during long journeys

Most flyers are unlikely to have spotted the area before, as its narrow stairs are concealed behind a door, which usually requires a code or key to access it, and sleeping areas for crew are discreetly hidden above their heads.

The size and position of these spaces varies depending on each aircraft model, but they are typically nestled away behind the cockpit area, located above first class.

One image of an American Airline’s Boeing 777 300 even shows staff members entering the relaxation areas through a hatch disguised as an overhead bin.

The accommodation is cramped and features an average of eight beds, depending on the airline.

On Boeing 777s, there are between six to ten beds, each containing storage space for flight attendants’ belongings during the journey.

This model of plane also includes a separate area for pilots, with two beds, two business-class seats and, in some airlines, a bathroom area with a sink or lavatory.

WHAT IT’S LIKE TO SLEEP IN THE CABIN CREW BEDROOM ACCORDING TO A BRITISH AIRWAYS FLIGHT ATTENDANT

A British Airways flight attendant revealed to MailOnline Travel: ‘On the Boeing 747s it is all bunk beds and on the 777 it feels like you are in a coffin.

‘They are cramped but you can make it comfortable as you get a blanket and a pillow.

‘I always take my own pyjamas and I make a little bed up. I sometimes try to take pillows and blankets from business class if they aren’t in use.

‘It’s very basic, some have TVs but they are tiny, smaller than iPad minis.’

On the Boeing 777, there is a separate area for pilots, with two beds, two business-class seats and, on some airlines, a bathroom area with a sink or lavatory

As this graphic shows, some of the sleeping compartments are situated at the front of the plane above the first class section

As this graphic shows, some of the sleeping compartments are situated at the front of the plane above the first class section

Staff are pictured chatting and relaxing with magazines and refreshments inside the Crew Rest Compartments on a Boeing 777

Some bays come with entertainment systems, a blanket, pillows and on occasion, pyjamas, with each bed separated by draped heavy curtains which muffle out the sounds of other crew.

Different airlines have opted for varying bed layouts, ranging from Malaysian Air A380s, which has beds stacked on top of each other, to American Airlines Boeing 773s, which has beds sectioned-off from a central aisle.

A British Airways flight attendant revealed to MailOnline Travel: ‘On the Boeing 747s it is all bunk beds and on the 777 it feels like you are in a coffin.

‘They are cramped but you can make it comfortable as you get a blanket and a pillow.

‘I always take my own pyjamas and I make a little bed up. I sometimes try to take pillows and blankets from business class if they aren’t in use.

‘It’s very basic, some have TVs but they are tiny, smaller than iPad minis.’

The crew accommodation is cramped and features an average of eight beds, depending on the airline.This image shows the layout inside a Boeing 787 Dreamliner

The crew accommodation is cramped and features an average of eight beds, depending on the airline.This image shows the layout inside a Boeing 787 Dreamliner

Tight surroundings: Layouts vary depending on each model, but the sleeping areas are typically nestled away behind the cockpit area

Tight surroundings: Layouts vary depending on each model, but the sleeping areas are typically nestled away behind the cockpit area

There is a strict policy of one staff member to each bunk, which usually stretches 6ft long by 2.5ft wide.

Dan Air, the flight attendant behind Confessions of a Trolley Dolley, which has thousands of fans on Facebook and Twitter, told MailOnline Travel: ‘Crew rest areas on certain aircraft are a lot better than they used to be.

‘They are very small and very cramped and yes can be very claustrophobic. It’s not nice being in the tiny, confined space during severe turbulence, it can get very unnerving.

‘In terms of what staff do there, well that would be telling, but I’m sure you can imagine that a lot more than sleeping often goes on here.

‘We try to make them as comfortable as possible for us, bringing our own pyjamas, blankets and teddies to try and help us get some sleep, but to be honest it’s often very difficult to sleep.’

Cathay Pacific ‘A Day in The Life of a Flight Attendant’
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Premium class

Nearly 15 years after revolutionizing the world of domestic air travel with blue potato chips and personal in-flight entertainment systems, JetBlue has equipped their planes with a host of design upgrades that will make transcontinental flights less hellish experiences. Starting later this year, JetBlue passengers who upgrade to the new “Mint” experience will get a seat that lies flat, an in-flight amuse-bouche, and, for the right price, a mini-suite that will block out the wailing infant in seat B24.

Instead of using foam padding, JetBlue opted for a series of air tubes.

JetBlue made the change after hitting some turbulence. Its reputation as the hip airline was being challenged by Virgin America, and the larger airlines kept business travelers locked in with the promise of plush upgrades. In 2011, when the company was adding new Airbus 321s to their fleet, the team decided to rethink their approach to aeronautical architecture. The effort was spearheaded by Donny Uselmann, JetBlue’s Manager of Customer Experience, who focused on fabricating new seats, refining food options, and developing first-of-their-kind user interface tools.

A review of the competitive landscape showed that lie-flat seating was one of the reasons JetBlue was losing out on lucrative business travelers. The feature, where a seat turns into a bed, is common on trans-Atlantic flights and the three largest carriers were adding the feature to their new domestic routes. All of the competitors chose off-the-shelf seating solutions, but Uselmann saw an opportunity for differentiation and took the risky step of creating a custom solution in partnership with Thompson Aero Seating. “Thompson presented a seat that was innovative, but quite frankly not the most elegantly designed,” says Uselmann, but what the seat lacked in polish the company made up in its desire to create a unique chair starting from a bare metal base.

The first challenge was finding the right balance between personal space and profitability. The seats needed to be comfortable, but would cost millions to develop and take years to certify, so there needed to be a clear ROI. In the end, a staggered “2-1″ approach was selected where a pair of seats would be interspersed with a single suite. This gives people traveling together the option to spoon while providing road warriors a measure of solitude, all while meeting revenue targets and accommodating passengers up to 6’8″ tall.

By starting from scratch the designers were able to challenge every bit of conventional wisdom. Instead of using foam padding for the cushions, JetBlue opted for a series of air tubes that would allow the passenger to customize the firmness of their seat, like an infomercial mattress, which sadly does not double as a flotation device.

Going the custom route gave the team the opportunity to discover new design concepts. After sketching dozens of chairs and sitting in several prototypes, Uselmann realized that with a few minor modifications, a privacy door could be added to the seats creating a private room. It’s a simple solution, but one that greatly improves the flight experience while helping to pad JetBlue’s bottom line.

With the seating problem solved, the designers started looking for other ways to improve the travel experience. As frequent fliers, they had a library of observations gleaned from the frustrations of fellow travelers. “We’re always after purposeful innovation, not innovation for innovation’s sake,” says Uselmann. “We put everything under a microscopic lens.”

For example, some premium airlines give riders access to power outlets during flights, but put them just out of sight. The JetBlue team decided to give each upgraded seat two outlets and placed them in clever locations—one was added directly to the seat back so laptops would receive a steady stream of power, the other was placed in a small pocket meant to hold smartphones. These seem like minor changes, but are choices that prevent these tiny quarters from becoming a nest of cables.

These small changes prevent these tiny quarters from becoming a nest of cables.

Despite offering various seating options to customers for the first time, Uselmann is adamant that JetBlue is offering “different experiences, not different classes” and to drive that home, there won’t be vestigial signs of differentiation, like flimsy curtains separating the sections. Many of the innovations will spread throughout the cabin. Passengers in the upgraded seats will have drinks, tapas, and cappuccino—with menus designed by one of Zagat’s top 10 New York City restaurants, but passengers in the rear of the plane will no longer be subject to the whims of the drink cart and will be able to purchase refreshments from an onboard vending machine.

“Do not disturb” signs are common in even the shadiest motels, but many a sleeping red-eye traveler have had their slumber interrupted by overzealous flight attendants. With this onboard overhaul, passengers will now be able to push a button that lets the flight crew know if they want to be woken for breakfast or left to catch every last wink before touchdown. Then there are tiny details like a custom translucent plastic material Uselmann’s team had designed that enhances privacy between rows while introducing a cool edge-lit glow in the cabin. The goal was to be reminiscent of the glowing light on Macbooks and the ambient lighting in BMWs to create a cool nightlight for overnight travelers.

Flights in these expanded seats will start at $599 for a one-way ticket, which is steep, but still a 75 percent less than a first class fare on other airlines. “We’re not reinventing everything,” says Uselmann. “We’re just trying to serve customers who have had to deal with overpriced and underwhelming products for too long.”

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