Flight attendants may sleep in secret hideaways during long flights, and they usually stay in hotels during multi-day trips. But what happens between their shifts is truly fascinating.
Before, after or between trips, many airline crew members sleep in what they refer to as "crash pads." These converted houses, apartments or motels near the airport can fit dozens of airline employees, who often squeeze into spaces as tight as an overhead bin. Airlines are not involved with the wild world of crash pads; crew members set up these living situations on their own accord. The Huffington Post spoke with two flight attendants to get all the details on what have been called "voluntary barracks."
Between work trips, flight attendants usually sleep in 30-person dorms. Or attics. Or worse.
"Starting out, I stayed in a sleazy motel with about 10 of my classmates," says flight attendant Sara Keagle. "Can’t forget the strip joint across the street. And our airport driver smelled of urine."
If it's not a motel, a crash pad can also take the form of a converted house or apartment.
"Crash pads are kind of like dorms, but worse," says Abbie Unger, who formerly worked as a flight attendant with three major airlines. "I used to stay at a crash pad in Newark, where 37 people lived in one house. I slept in the attic, which was converted to hold 10 single beds."
Flight attendants likely don't know WHO they're sleeping next to.
In crash pads, flight attendants rent either a "cold bed" (aka a bed with their own sheets on it, where no one else is allowed to sleep) or a "hot bed" (aka a "first-come, first-serve" bed). In the case of a "hot bed" arrangement, flight attendants keep their sheets in a cubby and find an empty bed when they arrive.
Yes, some hookups have been known to happen there.
Flight attendants are a tight-lipped crew, but it's confirmed: crash pad hookups are a thing. How could they not be when 30 strangers shack together under one roof? "I've never seen a crash pad hookup," Keagle says. "But I could tell you stories!"
And even though sleeping quarters can be low-quality, crash pads are expensive.
Of course, flight attendants don't sleep in these pads every night. They rent a spot, usually by the month, and crash in the house or motel when they need to.
"Crash pads can be like a cheap motel room all the way up to a beautiful apartment... it depends what you're willing to pay," Keagle says. Even though a flight attendant might only sleep there one or two nights a week, a bunk spot runs anywhere from $200 to $400 per month. That's a hefty price to pay for an overnight on a flight attendant's salary.
Oh, and if the weather's bad, don't count on getting a bed.
It's usually easy to find an empty bunk in a crash pad... but when there are weather delays, don't expect to sleep on a mattress. "If there's a snowstorm, crash pads are awful," Unger says. "My attic looked a little like an orphanage."
But at the end of the day, it's all about that flight attendant community.
It's not all hookups and strip-club smells, Unger says. She has fond memories of cooking spaghetti in the communal kitchen and making friends over wine.
"In many crash pads, you’ll just find flight attendants resting up, hanging out, doing laundry and getting ready for their next trip," Keagle says. "The best part is the camaraderie. I have friendships that will last a lifetime."
Well, that's just plane adorable.