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Flight attendants 'hot bed' to deal with sporadic shifts – but an insider says the practice is in a legal gray zone

Flight attendants 'hot bed' to deal with sporadic shifts – but an insider says the practice is in a legal gray zone
Flight attendants walking.
Flight attendants often stay at "crash pads" to handle sporadic work schedules.Johner Images/Getty Images
  • Flight attendants sometimes stay in temporary housing called "crash pads."

  • An airline worker says crew can "hot bed" at a crash pad if they bring their own bedding with them.

  • While common across the aviation industry, the practice is in a legal gray zone, the insider said.

For those not in the aviation industry, it might be easy to assume the life of a flight attendant is glamorous with constant travel.

But when it comes to housing, that isn't always the case, according to Lea, an American Airlines flight attendant who goes by @flightattendantbaelee on TikTok and Instagram. Lea, 28, would not disclose her last name for privacy reasons, but Business Insider has verified her employment.

At the start of their careers, Lea said flight attendants are typically kept on "reserve," meaning they have little say over their schedule.

"You don't know what you're working, where you're going on the days that you work, you just know that you're on call that day," she said.

In Lea's six years of working in the aviation industry, she said she's rarely come across early-career flight attendants who live close to the base they get assigned to after training. More often than not, they commute from other cities or even other states, she said.

"There are people that live in Puerto Rico or Hawaii, that come all the way to DC, New York, wherever," she said.

When you are on reserve and get called in to work a flight, the airline typically gives flight attendants two to three hours to get to the airport.

For that reason, flight attendants on reserve sometimes resort to staying in shared housing, commonly known as a "crash pad."

Lea is a flight attendant at American Airlines.
Lea is a flight attendant at American Airlines.@flightattendantbaelee/TikTok

Depending on the city, crash pads are houses or apartments that are usually owned by flight attendants, pilots, or former airline crew.

Shared rooms and bunk beds are common, Lea — who has stayed in several crash pads before — added.

"It reminds me of like a sorority house," she said. People find crash pads through word of mouth or on social media pages, Lea added.

What's more, flight attendants have two options to choose from within the crash pad: a "hot bed" or "cold bed."

Hot bedding requires flight attendants to take whatever bed is available at that time, and there's not always a guarantee one will be free, she said.

"It's very temporary," Lea said. "You bring your own linens, you take them off when you leave."

The other option is cold bedding where a flight attendant can rent a specific bed on a more permanent basis. They also don't take turns using it with anyone else.

Renting a cold bed can cost between $260 to $700 while hot bedding is much cheaper — typically half the price, according to Lea.

Crash pads aren't always clean — or legal

According to Lea, the cleanliness of crash pads and the different bedding options they offer can vary wildly.

"I've had all kinds of experiences," she said. For example, the first crash pad she stayed in "smelled like dog" because there were also eight French Bulldogs living there.

Besides a lot of dog hair, Lea said the home was otherwise decently clean.

But Lea said there are no guarantees when it comes to how clean a crash pad is.

"What you get is always a mystery," she said. "It depends on the people that are occupying the space and the person that runs the crash pad."

Besides cleanliness, Lea said that crash pads and hot- and cold-bed systems wade into murky legal territory.

Crash pads can feature bunk beds.
Crash pads can feature bunk beds.Amelia Hanron/Getty Images

"That's a huge thing that people don't realize," she said, adding that the number of airline crew occupying crash pads could be considered dangerous.

"Even in your regular house that you live in, you can't legally have 15 people living in a three-bedroom home. It's a fire hazard," she said.

It is possible for crash pads to be shut down, particularly in New York City, where most airlines have a base, she added.

"The issue is if that crash pad ever gets shut down and you're on a trip, your stuff will just be on the sidewalk," she said. In some cases, crash pad owners will take special measures to avoid being discovered, she added.

At a crash pad in NYC Lea used to rent, she said the owner discouraged flight attendants lingering outside of the apartment while waiting for taxis or ordering packages to the apartment to avoid unwanted attention that could lead to it being shut down.

That said, Lea's rarely heard of a crash pad being shut down from her experience, it mostly has happened when a flight attendant reports the crash pad to authorities themselves.

"It's like a petty revenge type of thing," Lea said. "You typically see that it's like the crash pad owner sucks or something, and someone feels the crash pad owner wronged them."

Outside of crash pads run by current or former airline crewmembers, flight attendants also have the option to rent beds with officially registered companies like The Hotel Crash Pad Network, which offers shared living spaces in several states. The company has a variety of subscription options and advertises different accommodations, depending on location and membership type, in the range of $60 to $475.

Cierra, a flight attendant who spoke to Business Insider's Monica Humphries about what it's like to stay at The Hotel Crash Pad Network in New York City back in 2021 said there were some downsides, including dealing with people snoring and noises from late-night partying.

But she maintained she still enjoyed the experience overall, which cost her $350 a month at the time.

"I can come into this hotel and it feels like a family," Cierra said. "It really is like the 'Suite Life of Zach and Cody.' I love being here."

Read the original article on Insider