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This week, TPG Editor-in-Chief Zach Honig is reporting live from the Paris Air Show. During a tour of Qatar’s brand-new Airbus A350, he was able to photograph a flight attendant rest facility — read on to see what it’s like.

If you’ve traveled on a long-haul flight on a twin-aisle aircraft, you may have noticed that the crew appears to thin out significantly after the first meal service. But with passengers occupying all of the seats, where in the world do they go? Chances are, those missing flight attendants are relaxing a few feet above your head in a designated “crew rest.” Just as you might when working an hourly job on the ground, crew members need to rest for a certain number of hours during especially long flights — they’re not doing it to be lazy; it’s actually required by the FAA and government agencies abroad.

Newer planes, like the Airbus A350 and Boeing Dreamliner have very modern crew rests that appear to be almost as comfortable as the first or business-class seats a level below. There are mattresses, pillows and sometimes even in-flight entertainment systems, with the same content available to passengers. The crew rest is usually at the front or the back of the plane, though some aircraft have them at both ends, with relief pilots occupying the front and flight attendants resting in the rear.

On Qatar
On Qatar’s Airbus A350, flight attendants have real (albeit thin) mattresses to sleep on.

During my Qatar A350 tour earlier today, the pilot crew rest was off limits to photography, but we were permitted to shoot in the flight attendant area at the back of the plane.

The Qatar A350 crew rest area is quite large, with one bed in the front above the entrance, two in the middle and three in the rear.
The Qatar A350 crew rest area is quite large, with one bed in the front above the entrance, two in the middle and three in the rear.

Crew rests are typically hidden behind unmarked doors that might otherwise look like a closet or lavatory. It’s strictly forbidden for passengers to access a crew rest during a flight, so don’t even think about trying! On smaller planes, pilots and flight attendants might have rest facilities in the regular cabin, separated from passengers by thick curtains; just like with dedicated rooms, you can’t interrupt crew members resting there.

It might seem unfair that flight attendants have access to a comfy (yet claustrophobic) in-flight refuge while you’re suffering in coach, but on long flights, they need to be well-rested in order to deliver proper service, or assist during an emergency.

Know before you go.

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