On Air New Zealand's Boeing 777-300ER, flight attendants rest in a room hidden above economy class.
Before my 12-hour flight, I explored the secret bedroom with the in-service flight manager.
As I scaled the steps, I entered a cramped room with just enough space for eight beds and storage.
On Air New Zealand's long-haul flights from the US, a flight attendant's job doesn't pause until the plane's completed takeoff, dinner service is finished, and passengers are resting. And even then, their breaks last only a couple of hours.
I was curious where they rest. So on a recent 12-hour flight from New Zealand to Los Angeles, I boarded an Air New Zealand Boeing 777-300ER early to view the crew area that's typically off limits to passengers.
Sarita Rami, the in-service manager for my flight, met me at the entrance of the plane. Together, we navigated to the crew rest area.
We walked past business class, premium economy, and the last row of economy seats, into the rear galley.
Here, at the very back of the plane, Rami approached a door camouflaged in the wall. After pressing a sequence of buttons, a latch popped open revealing a steep stairwell.
Each step was covered in a non-slip tread that led up to a bedroom for flight attendants. I grabbed onto the handrail and scaled the steps.
As I entered the rest area, I was surprised by its small size. While the room was large enough to fit eight beds, I thought it felt cramped with its low ceilings and narrow hallways.
At 5 feet and 8 inches, I was too tall to stand upright comfortably. Instead, I crouched and crawled around the dimly-lit room
While there are eight beds, Rami said usually six are occupied at once. That's because the typical long-haul flight has 12 flight attendants who take breaks in shifts once meal service is finished, she said.
When it's their turn to rest, a flight attendant will open the locked door, climb up the stairs, and pick one of the eight bunk bed-style nooks for their two-and-a-half-hour break.
Rami also told me that the room can't be used during takeoff and landing. While the rest of the aircraft cabin is pressurized during these times, she said there's no ventilation in the bedroom space until the aircraft reaches 25,000 feet.
As the flight manager, Rami told me her bed comes with a telephone to communicate with the pilots and the rest of the crew.
Every sleeping nook has a heavy curtain designed to dampen the sound, block out light, and create a sense of privacy.
Each bed has a seat belt for potential turbulence, with blankets and pillows strapped underneath.
I spotted a mirror and two storage compartments inside each nook …
… as well as a panel to control the lighting in the sleeping space.
Rami allowed me to crawl into her bed, and it felt surprisingly cozy. It wasn't nearly as supportive as my mattress back home, but I thought the thick mattress topper was comfy enough for a nap.
Once out of the bed, I moved to the front of the room, where there was another mirror and storage for flight attendants to stash their personal belongings.
Also in the front was a control panel for the room's temperature and an outlet.
At the very back of the cabin, I noticed a closet. Rami told me it's for uniform storage.
Besides the lights and mirrors, the cabin rest area appeared bare. There were no windows, and I didn't spot any TVs for entertainment. Rami said that's because the flight attendant's main focus in the room is relaxing and resting.
Rami said she usually falls asleep during her break. Other flight attendants onboard told me they struggle to sleep on planes, so they just use their breaks to rest.
Sure enough, as I walked around the airplane before I went to sleep, I noticed fewer flight attendants in the cabin than during dinner service.
After watching them prepare the cabin, serve dinner, and complete countless behind-the-scenes tasks, I was glad to know these hard-working flight attendants had a comfortable place to take a well-earned break.
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