Crash Pad Or A Real Bed? Flight Crew Hotels Compared

stewardess picking her flight crew housing

Airline employees don’t always live in the city in which they work. That makes traveling home every night a luxury that many do not have.

It’s also why so many air crews make use of crash pads as a home away from home.

Renting a crash pad can be an affordable and sometimes exciting experience for airline employees. Yet, like all lodging options, they have their pros and cons.

Here’s what airline crews need to know about crash pads, plus tips to determine if booking a hotel room is a better option.


The Flight Crew Crash Pad: What New Pilots And New Flight Attendants Need To Know

Experienced pilots and flight attendants know all too well what a crash pad is. For those new to the industry, it’s important to learn the ins and outs of a crash pad before deciding to rent one.

A flight crew crash pad is a hotel room, hotel suite, private home or apartment converted to allow for multiple occupants in one room. It’s similar to a hostel where you rent a single bed and share a bathroom rather than having a private space.

Instead of a standard-sized bedroom with one queen bed, a crash pad has multiple sets of bunk beds or multiple twin mattresses.

Why are crash pads so common in the airline industry?

Crash pads are typically located near airports so that crews can easily access transportation to and from the airport. That sometimes even includes airport transportation via free airport shuttles.

Crash pads are an affordable option, particularly for aviation professionals that are on-call or that live in one city but are based in another.

When located in hotels, crash pads include a bathroom to share and standard hotel amenities, such as:

  • Daily housekeeping
  • Shampoo/conditioner/soap
  • Ironing board and iron
  • Free Wi-Fi

When located in a private home or apartment building, crash pads may offer access to a full kitchen, a living room, storage spaces for personal items and other common household amenities, such as laundry machines.

In order to rent a flight crew crash pad, you must provide proof that you work for an airline.

Extra: Like flight crews, nurses need special accommodations. Read our travel nurse housing guide.


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Bunk beds for flight crew housing

How Do Crash Pads Work?

Not all crash pads are the same, but here are a few things to help you understand the varying concepts:

 

Where To Find Crash Pads

There are several websites where flight crews can find crash pad listings in different cities.

Online searches for crash pads produce a variety of results. There are options to rent directly through a landlord, and options to rent through a subscription service where the monthly rent depends on how many nights per month you intend to stay.

There are also different types of crash pads available, such as:

  • Co-ed crash pads
  • Gender-specific crash pads
  • Flight attendant crash pads (for flight attendants only)
  • Pilot crash pads (for pilots only)
  • Crash pads that accommodate all genders and all members of airline crews

 

Safety And Legal Occupancy

It’s important to know if the crash pad is licensed and operating legally before renting.

Every city and state has their own occupancy laws and rental licensing regulations. Many cities require property owners to obtain a license prior to renting a bed and also limit the number of people that can dwell in a bedroom. This is for safety reasons, particularly in regards to fire codes.

Crash pads that do not operate under legal procedures can be dangerous. Before renting one, research the property to determine if it is legal or not.

New hires in the airline industry often seek referrals from more seasoned airline employees regarding which crash pads are best (or worst) in a particular city.

Of further interest: Safety Tips for Airline Staff in Peak Seasons


The Pros And Cons Of Staying At A Flight Crew Crash Pad

There are both pros and cons to renting a crash pad. Airline crew members should weigh their options and consider other lodging options before signing an agreement with a landlord or subscribing through a monthly rental service online.

 

Pro: Affordability

The main reason that airline crews make use of crash pads is that they’re inexpensive.

Prices for crash pads typically range between $200 and $500 per month.

Comparatively, for airline crews based out of SFO, renting an apartment in the nearby San Francisco neighborhood of Lomita Park costs an average of $1,995 per month.

For crews based out of NYC’s LaGuardia airport, renting an apartment in the nearby neighborhood of East Elmhurst, New York costs an average of $2,126 per month.

 

Pro: Accessibility

For a flight crew member whose home base differs from the city in which they work, crash pads offer easy accessibility.

Most are conveniently located within a few miles of the local airport. This minimizes the amount of time spent traveling to and from work and makes it easier for flight crews to arrive on time for early morning flights.

 

Con: Hot Beds

Crash pads provide two different types of beds: hot beds and cold beds.

A cold bed is one that’s reserved for a specific crew member. When that crew member is not at the crash pad, that bed remains empty. A cold bed usually costs a bit more.

A hot bed is more like a hotel room bed, where different people occupy the bed on different days. In a crash pad located inside a hotel, sheets and linens on hot beds are changed by hotel housekeeping staff on a regular basis.

On the other hand, the housekeeping services offered in private residences vary depending on the landlord and the rental agreement. Occupants may be expected to change the sheets themselves.

 

Con: Lack Of Privacy

Crash pads can contain four, eight or sometimes even ten beds in a room. There is very little privacy.

Flight crews also sometimes find it difficult to deal with other people snoring, alarms ringing at different times throughout the day and night, and late night noise from crew members.

For some crew members, a lack of privacy is not a drawback — many consider it a rite of passage. Some flight attendants and pilots enjoy the social aspect that a crash pad offers while others find that it takes some time getting used to.

Frequent Business Travelers: Enjoy these Business Travel Hacks


The Pros And Cons Of Staying At A Traditional Hotel

Flight crew member sleeping in a hotel

For most airline employees, the only con to choosing a hotel over a crash pad is the price. Yet hotels provide many added benefits.

 

Pro: It’s Safer

There’s no such thing as a totally private room in a crash pad, which means there is no control over who else shares the pad. Many people feel safer staying alone in a private room, or in a double room with a coworker that they know and trust.

In a crash pad, living with strangers is almost unavoidable.

 

Pro: More Freedom

Crash pads often have strict rules as to what you can and cannot do, such as inviting guests. In a hotel room, there are no restrictions on having guests.

There’s also no need to schedule shower time or bathroom time.

 

Pro: More Privacy

When sleeping in a hotel room, there’s no need to worry about:

  • Prying eyes while sleeping
  • Someone accidentally using the bathroom while you’re in the shower
  • Your colleague coming in late and forgetting to lock the door

The privacy factor that a hotel provides is something that the crash pad simply can’t.

 

Pro: Frequent Travelers Can Enjoy Big Discounts

Hotel rooms do cost more than crash pads, but frequent travelers can join hotel loyalty programs and become a member of Hotel Engine to receive major discounts.

By booking through Hotel Engine, flight crews can save up to 60% off per booking at over 700,000 properties. Hotel Engine makes it easy to book accommodations that suit your individual needs, including late check-ins and checkouts.

Flight crews can also sign up to earn even greater rewards with the HE Rewards program. With HE Rewards, airline employees and business travelers of all types can earn points to redeem on free nights. The more you book, the more free nights you earn.

 

Pro: More Amenities

Crash pads often provide limited amenities, while booking a traditional hotel room allows travelers to enjoy all the hotel services.

With a hotel booking, flight crews can enjoy:

  • Room service
  • Fitness center, spa and pool access
  • Free coffee or free breakfast (where available)
  • Laundry services
  • A mini fridge that doesn’t require sharing with others
  • Transportation services
  • Concierge services to book reservations or make dining recommendations

Something as simple as having control of the TV remote is a luxury that crash pads don’t offer.


Hotels Vs Crash Pads: Which One Is The Better Option?

Crash pads can be useful in many ways, and some crew members even use them to sleep for a few hours in between flights during the day.

But they have many drawbacks as well.

Traditional hotel rooms are the preferred option, especially when the goal is to get some real rest and relaxation — especially essential when you’re in a line of work that requires you to be responsible for others’ safety.

At a crash pad, people come and go at all hours of the day and night. When solitude, peace and quiet and a solid night’s sleep are the main goals, a hotel room is the better option.