Crashpads 101

April 02, 2009 0 Comments A+ a-

I recently received a question from one of my Twitter followers asking me what crashpads were all about. I'll do my best to 'splain them from my experience.

A crashpad is a place where commuting flight crews (and sometimes other airline employees, too) lay their heads for the night, instead of getting a hotel room before or after their trip. (The airline covers hotel costs when actually on your work trip.) A crashpad is so much cheaper on a monthly basis than having to stay in a hotel.

If you live in one city and are based in another, you would fly or commute to work to start your trip and fly or commute home after your trip was over. Sort of like driving to work and back home every day, but flight crews generally do it only once a week.

If your trip starts early in the morning, and there is no flight from your home city to your base that would get you to work in time, the crew member would commute in the night before. The more senior a crew person is, the more likely that they would have commutable trips in their schedule--that is, there is enough time to fly to work the day of their trip, instead of the night before. So, a lot of junior and Reserve Flight Attendants and Pilots are in crashpads, which offer significant savings over hotel stays. Also, if weather screws up your commute home (remember, we fly standby!) you could go to your crashpad instead of having to find a hotel room.

When I was based in Chicago, my crashpad was at the third stop from O'Hare Airport (ORD) on the Blue Line. It was also down the street from a bar/restaurant, and walking distance to a grocery store/strip mall. This is important since none of us had a car to get around. It was a three bedroom apartment where one bedroom was for the crashpad's owner and her boyfriend, and the other two bedrooms were for commuters. These two bedrooms had two sets of bunkbeds in each one. No one else slept in my bed, which was initially the top bunk. (As people leave the crashpad, you can move into their spots, and I eventually got a bottom bunk.)

My rent at my crashpad was $160 a month. (I think that is sort of a mid-range price. In New York, one probably pays more, and in Dallas, probably less expensive.) We had to provide our own sheets and food. Our crashpad was actually pretty nice in that there were only 10 people total who "crashed" there...some places have a lot more people than that, but, it also makes it cheaper to stay there. Some places "hotbed" which means you get whatever bed is available when you show up--you might be dog-tired and have to put your clean sheets on the available bed in the middle of the night--all while trying not to wake up someone sleeping near you! I much prefer knowing exactly which bed was mine and that it was already made up and waiting for me.

In any airline crew lounge you can hear Flight Attendants and Pilots imploring the Crew Schedulers to "find me an overnight" so they could work a flight that ended with a layover. That way, the crew member can have a hotel room all to themselves and paid for by the Company--versus going to the crashpad where there may or may not be anyone else there. Our crashpad was run by a Flight Attendant who would keep the place really clean and she would wash the towels for us. We had internet access, a huge DVD collection, and some really cool people there. While you never wanted to have to go there, it didn't suck when you were there!

While our crashpad had 10 people in it, there was only one time when 6 of us were there at the same time--and I still had my room to myself! There was one bathroom to be shared by the 8 of us in the we had to coordinate times, especially in the mornings! Usually, though, there would only be me and one other person at the crashpad. At times, I was the only one there. There were people in my crashpad that I never even saw while I was there.

Sometimes while on Reserve, the Company would have me on Standby, where I could possibly be required to report to the airport for a flight within 2 hours. Of course I was hangin' out in the crashpad on those days, since there would be no way I could get to work from my own home in the required time.

There were some fun times while in my crashpad. The first day, while trying to find the new crashpad, my training classmate/new crashpad roommate and I had to walk from the subway station across a parking lot and down the street about 500 yards, with a 10 inches of snow on the ground. All dressed in our brand new, Company-issued uniform pants and blazers on, and our winter coats, we set out of the train station and into the parking lot, and were very quickly introduced to Chicago weather in January. When I tell you it was cold, just know there are not words to describe the feeling of the coldest I have ever been in my life! It was well below freezing and the wind was blowing so hard that it felt like little razors were cutting my face! Since both if us came from places that have relatively mild winters, we had no hat, gloves or scarf--no other winter gear whatsoever! Realizing that we just couldn't walk in that weather without more protection, we retreated back to a bus stop shelter and unzipped our brand-new suitcases. Necessity being the mother of invention, we both grabbed our brightly colored pajama pants and wrapped them around our heads! I have no idea what people thought as they drove by seeing two women walking with wildly colored pants on covering their faces!

Another time, my roommate and I went to the bar down the street after not being able to fly home after we had finished our trip. We had a a great time there, drank some wine, then came back to the crashpad, and had a little more wine to drink. Needless to say, sleep came very easily for me--on the top bunk. Sometime in the middle of the night, I woke up and apparently forgot where I was--I rolled over in that bunk bed and fell straight to the floor, landing with a huge THUD on my back. My equally wine-ingested roommate barely woke up, lifted her head and asked "Are you alright?" As soon as I replied from the floor that I was okay, her head was back down on that pillow and she was asleep in less than a nanosecond! To this day we laugh at what the people in the apartment below us must have thought when they heard the sound of me crashing to the floor!

I was very glad when I finally had enough seniority that I could hold a commutable line and not need a crashpad anymore. I did have some cool people whose company I enjoyed and we had some good times while we were stuck in the same situation. A crashpad isn't an ideal situation, but it does give us an affordable, quiet and usually fun place to be when we have to be there.

Have you been a crashpadder? What was your experience like?

If you are interested in seeing some crashpads try:

This crashpad website offers
Privacy Pods. Not many are like this, but it would be a good thing if they were!

Crashpad Atlanta