Have you ever wondered how flight attendants and pilots relax when the flight enters that phase of pure silence, especially on longer journeys in the middle of the night?
Crew members actually have their own space to rest, recognized by international bodies such as the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration, the American Anac) or the EASA (European Union Aviation Safety Agency, its European version) by the acronym CRC.
What it means? CRC is “Crew Rest Compartment” or, literally, the crew rest compartment. It can be found on large aircraft, which usually carry out transatlantic flights — longer and, therefore, requiring that employees can even stretch their entire body for health reasons.
They are all versions of Airbus A330, A340, A350, A380, Boeing 747, 767, 777 and 787, as well as others such as Antonov An-124 and Tupolev Tu-114. Despite being large planes, the available space is tight — and the result of these compartments is very similar to a capsule hotel in Japan.
On more modern aircraft, such as the Boeing 787 and Airbus A350, the flight attendant CRC is located above the main cabin, next to the upper fuselage. But in the older ones, it was often situated next to the cargo compartment or even in the middle of the main cabin. There is always a second for pilots above the cockpit, according to Business Insider.
Some comforts are mandatory, according to the regulatory agencies of international civil aviation. Rest compartments must always have lighting and temperature adjustment, satisfactory air circulation and minimal discomfort in relation to sounds and odors from the rest of the aircraft.
The newer ones still have “bunk beds”, in which each bed needs to be at least 198 centimeters long by 76 centimeters wide and 1 cubic meter of space around it, so that the crew can move at least. A common space is also needed for flight attendants or pilots to change.
“It can be quite comfortable. We get sheets, similar to the ones used in business class on our international flights. I like them, but I’m only 1.73m, if you put someone 1.93m in there, it’s going to be a little tight.” , United Airlines flight attendant Susannah Carr told CNN.
For her, in some ways, the CRC is more comfortable than a first-class seat. But in others, it is not so.
“The berths can be wider than first class and for me personally, depending on the aircraft, I get more legroom. But if you’re claustrophobic, you can really feel [desconfortável] there — it’s a plane, you only have so much space and they really use every inch.”
Susannah usually flies Boeing 787, 777 and 767 aircraft. In the latter, according to the US vehicle, the rest area in the main cabin consists of simple reclining seats. Thus, privacy is much less and cabin noise can also more often interrupt the crew’s moment of relaxation.
But what about who is flying the plane?
Depending on the duration of the flight, it is normal for a plane to have up to four pilots on board. They then work in shifts — there are always two in the cockpit, while one or two rest in the CRC.
This type of relay, as well as the crew break, is strategic.
“This is the time in the flight when we don’t answer passenger calls or do anything other than rest, allow our feet and head to have their break. The purpose is to maintain an alert and ready mindset throughout the flight, so that if anything unexpected happens, we are ready to act,” Finnair commissioner Karolina Åman also explained to the broadcaster.
She still estimates that crew members spend at least 10% of the flight in the CRC or at least 1h30 on longer trips.