Flight Plan

A mid-air break room

Ashwini Phadnis | Updated on March 20, 2018 Published on March 20, 2018

Special treatment Long-haul flights have two crew rest areas in the aircraft — one for the cockpit crew and the other for the cabin crew   -  Getty Images/iStockphoto

Why are airlines investing more on dedicated rest areas for crew on long-haul flights? Ashwini Phadnis finds out the details

Have you ever wondered how the crew on a long-haul flight — say from Delhi to New York — which lasts about 14 hours, rest? Even if you have not thought about it, airlines certainly have, and they have been spending time and money to ensure that the crew members too are comfortable like their passengers on long-haul flights. And for this, all long-haul flights have two special crew rest areas in the aircraft — one for the cockpit crew and the other for the cabin crew.

Kent Craver, Regional Director, Cabin Experience and Revenue Analysis, Boeing, told BusinessLine that typically the specifications of the crew rest area depend on the design mission of the aeroplane. “But for most part, the long-haul aeroplanes that are designed to do long missions do have options for crew rest. Typically, the flight deck crew rest area is located near the flight deck. At least on our aircraft. The flight attendant crew rest area is usually near the middle or the back of the aircraft,” said the airline veteran.

Adds Anaïs Marzo da Costa, Head of Aircraft Interiors Marketing, Airbus: “Generally we have crew rest areas in all of our wide-body aircraft. It also depends on the airlines and the recommendations they want to follow. We provide crew rest on our Airbus A-330, A 350 and A-380.” Typically, the cabin crew rest area is more spacious than the one for the cockpit crew as there are more attendants on a flight. For example, a Boeing 777-300 ER has six, eight and 10 bunk options for flight attendants. The 787 Dreamliner has two seats and two berths for the flight crew with the cabin crew rest area having six berths.

Location of crew rest area

The location of the crew rest area varies on different aircraft.

“We offer specific positions. It is never standard because some airlines do not want the crew rest area; it is up to the airline’s request. We have standard options if an airline wants them like standard locations in different aircraft. For example, on the A-350 XWB, we have the flight crew rest behind the cockpit in the crown area of the aircraft, where you have two bunks and one seat. It is above the ceiling between the fuselage and the ceiling of the aircraft. This area is called the crown area,” said da Costa.

“The pilot crew rest area on almost all of our aircraft is a three-bunk option. None of the bunks are on top of each other. They are usually end-to-end,” said Craver, adding, “think of it as a sleeping pod even though we in the industry call it a bunk”.

What does a typical crew rest area look like? “Generally it has beds or bunks. There is also communication with the cockpit, specific handsets for communication with crew, dedicated storage so that they can store their uniforms when they go to bed along with their personal belongings. There is also a changing area so that they can change from uniforms to pyjamas to go to bed,” said da Costa.

“Some airlines provide IFE also. These are options; it depends on what the airline chooses.”

The rest area for crew has evolved over the years, thanks to evolving technology. For example, the earlier Boeing 747s had several main deck enclosures developed for the cabin crew and some unique berths in the aft upper deck, which were later replaced by dedicated overhead cabin crew rest area first in the 747-300 and subsequently in the 747-400s.

Earlier days

The initial flight crew rest area in the Boeing 777 was after the flight deck on the main deck. “We initially offered a lower lobe cabin crew rest area. Both the flight and cabin crew rest were superseded on the 777-300ER and 777-200LR with the current overhead crew area. The current 777 flight crew rest area is also offered with seating for take-off and landing,” said Craver.

It is not just the location of the crew rest area that has changed — airlines have also gone miles ahead by providing comfortable mattresses and cushions.

da Costa points out that while bulbs were used earlier for lighting, now LEDs are in place. This adds to the comfort, along with in-flight entertainment system, which was introduced much later. The reasoning for making the crew comfortable on a flight is also for practical reasons. If airlines decide not to have crew rest areas, then they have little choice but to block off passenger seats on long-haul flights for crew members. From an airline’s perspective, blocking passenger seats means blocking a revenue source, and no airline would want to do this.

And as long as this thinking prevails among airlines, crew members can look forward to a comfortable flight like the passengers.

Published on March 20, 2018
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