The secret behind the curtains that you see around business-class pods

Jul 27, 2021

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

Have you ever walked up and down the aisle during a long-haul flight and noticed that one (or more) business-class pods were enclosed with thick curtains?

It doesn’t happen on every flight, but when it does, I’m always jealous of whoever’s resting inside. It always looks like they’ve scored the ultimate business-class upgrade, in what’s arguably the most private suite on the plane.

Well, turns out that these seats are reserved for someone very special, and it’s not a paying passenger. In fact, it’s perhaps the most important person on the plane — the pilot.

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Many long-haul flights are staffed with ten or more flight attendants, as well as extra relief pilots. While cruising at 35,000 feet with most passengers sleeping, the crew can — and must — take a break. On the longest flights, the crew works in shifts — only a portion of flight attendants and pilots are needed at any one time.

Sign up for TPG’s free new biweekly Aviation newsletter for more airline and airport-specific news!

This is required by the Federal Aviation Administration, the governing body that regulates all aspects of civil aviation in the U.S., as well as government agencies abroad. This way, the crew will be well-rested in order to deliver proper service or assist during an emergency.

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

The same is true in the cockpit. Only two pilots are required to be on duty at a single time. The others rest up until it’s their turn to be at the controls.

And where exactly does the crew go during the longest flights?

Well, it depends on the plane. On select ones, like Delta’s retrofitted Boeing 767-300 and JetBlue’s new Airbus A321LR, the relief pilots will be resting in a lie-flat pod, with thick curtains drawn around them for additional privacy from paying passengers.

There’s even an industry term for this seat, the “crew rest.” In fact, the FAA has a classification system for crew rest facilities.

  • Class 1: a physically separated space from the cockpit and passenger cabin
  • Class 2: lie-flat seat and separation from the cabin with a thick curtain to provide darkness and some sound mitigation
  • Class 3: any cabin seat with at least 40 degrees of recline and leg and foot support

As you see, the biz pod with curtains is considered a Class 2 rest facility according to the FAA. It’s not as private as a dedicated crew bunk, but on smaller planes like the Boeing 767 or Airbus A321 that don’t fly ultra-long-haul flights, a Class 2 space will suffice.

Class 2 crew rest of JetBlue’s A321LR (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

In fact, on United’s Boeing 767s, you can snag a seat in a Class 3 crew rest when it’s not being used for international flying. There are four extra-reclining extra-legroom seats located in row 43 and 44 that are available for selection when they’re not being used by the crew.

If you end up on one of those seats, you’ll enjoy the leg rest, footrest and 40 degrees of recline.

As for Class 1 crew rests, they exist on the largest planes that fly the longest routes, like the Boeing 777. They’re located in separate compartments from the passenger cabin. In most cases, you’ll find them hidden up a set of stairs either at the forward or rear of the aircraft.

Inside, you’ll find a handful of lie-flat bunks, with individual thermostats and other interesting items, including smoke detectors, fire extinguishers, flashlights and portable oxygen containers for use in an emergency. There are also comfort items, such as power outlets, a small mirror, coat hooks and a phone to call the other flight attendant stations.

So, the next time you see the curtains drawn in the biz cabin, now you’ll know who’s inside. Just don’t open them to disturb a pilot who’s resting.

Featured photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

Earn 90,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new card in the first three months of card membership. Offer ends 11/10/2021.

With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 90,000 Bonus Miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer expires 11/10/2021.
  • Earn up to 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) with Status Boost® per year. After you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, you can earn 10,000 MQMs two times per year, getting you closer to Medallion® Status. MQMs are used to determine Medallion® Status and are different than miles you earn toward flights.
  • Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
  • Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
  • Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. *Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $75 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
  • Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
  • Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®.
  • Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • $250 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Regular APR
15.74%-24.74% Variable
Annual Fee
$250
Balance Transfer Fee
N/A
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.