Why Some Aircraft Have Bedrooms

Posted by at 09:30

The thought has sometimes crossed my mind – after being awake all night on a full eight-hour flight –if only I could lie down, just for a moment… alas, it’s not to be. A bed for every passenger would make air travel prohibitively expensive. Yet, there are beds on aircraft, but only for the crew. If a flight lasts longer than 10.5 hours, crew are legally obliged to rest. This is for everyone’s safety.

When I first heard about onboard bedrooms, I had an image of something like this:

hotel bed in planePhoto credit: Vlieghotel

But, it seems, this is closer to reality:

OCR bed bunks

Safety operations manager, Richard Swart, knows all there is to know about onboard aircraft safety, because he’s also a cabin attendant. As such, he sometimes finds himself in Overhead Crew Rest (OCR) – definitely the right man to answer my questions about aircraft bedrooms.

Why are there crew bedrooms (OCRs) onboard?

KLM has OCRs on the B747, B777 and the B787. This has everything to do with the long distances these aircraft fly and the duration of the flights. Airlines have to comply with duty and rest regulations. The collective labor agreement rules, which are based on these regulations, state that a person may only work eight hours at a time.

This is a complicated, technical area, but it comes down to this: the crew has to rest during a flight lasting 10.5 hours or more. The crew changes shifts during the flight so that everyone gets enough rest to guarantee onboard safety.

Entrance OCR cabin crewDoor to cabin crew OCR.

What does a crew rest look like?

There is a maximum of eight beds in the OCR. KLM provides pyjamas and bedding. The beds (or bunks) are 70 cm wide, have two reading lights and are about 1.95 m long. The location of the OCR is decided by the manufacturer in consultation with the airline. Boeing presents KLM with the options from which it can choose.

The bedrooms in KLM aircraft are usually overhead, above the cabin, hence Overhead Crew Rest. Other airlines choose to put the rest areas in the belly of the aircraft, in which case they are called Lower Crew Rest (LCR). Cockpit and cabin crew have separate OCRs, because their sleep schedules do not coincide.

OCR beds cabin crewCabin crew OCR.

Is there a sleep schedule, then?

Indeed. The purser draws up a roster of two shifts. The Crew Assignment Movement List states who is working in the galley and which colleague will sleep first. You get between 1.5 and 3 hours rest, depending on how the onboard service goes and the duration of the flight.

Do you prefer to sleep during the first or second shift?

I prefer to go first. I don’t really like waking up just before arrival, when you have to deliver the final services at top speed. This is usually the passengers’ breakfast. It takes me a while to get my face into shape after a sleep, so I much prefer the first shift.
Funnily enough, I also have a favorite OCR. In the Boeing 777-300 the OCRs are at the back near the tail. This is the spot where you feel the aircraft moving most, so it kind of rocks you to sleep. Some of us really like this.

Entrance OCR bedsEntrance to flight crew OCR.

Everyone, of course, wonders whether anything ever happens in the OCR?

Romantically, you mean? No. If you see the space, you soon realize there is nothing romantic about the set up. Peace and quiet is sacrosanct in the OCR. Colleagues have to be quiet as mice when they go in and out of the space. Occasionally a pilot might communicate flight information over the public address system but forgets to turn off the speakers in the OCR. Of course he or she than has to buy the first drink at arrival.

Are there any rituals around changing shift?

There are always KLM pyjamas laid out on the bed. These are compulsory, because crew members have to be recognizable at all times in case of an emergency.
Waking colleagues up is usually done very tenderly – a cup of tea, fruit juice, a hot towel to wipe your face.

Cockpit crew OCR bedsCockpit crew OCR.

What about your own safety? And are you relieved of safety duties during your rest?

There are always enough crew members on board to guarantee safety. Occasionally it gets bumpy due to turbulence. Every bunk has a safety belt, just as every seat does. The safety belt is always closed, even when sleeping, that way I don’t have to look for it in my sleep.

21 Responses to Why Some Aircraft Have Bedrooms

  1. Norbert Schultze

    Very interesting. See you on my next flight to Cape Town, me in my business-bed!

    • Jeana

      You’ve got to be kidding me-it’s so tranrpasently clear now!

  2. Lolita M. Balboa

    Nice blog. Very interesting.

  3. Joyce Swanenberg

    In this blog pictures are shown from 777-300 which offers the most luxurious bunks, quite glamoureuze. However, on the other aircrafts it looks more like a mortuariumdrawer….(almost having a card on your big toe) where you have to squeeze in and out one by one. Thats more realistic.

  4. Friso Lustig

    Why is the KL A330 not equipped with OCR’s? Some routes are over 10 hours so where do these crews rest?

  5. D. Wilder

    Maybe you could create a whole new onboard section for passengers called “Hostel Class” ! Lol

    • Tori

      à°šాà°²ా à°0#°®à°¤&à3149;à°•ాà°°&#3š74;à°—ా compare à°šేà°¸ాà°°ు Sujata Garu. Telugu vadu kakapoyina teluginta undi throughout the nation thana talent ni spread chestu manchi cinemalu tistunna Benegal garu hydi/telugu vade ani lekkaloki teesukoka tapaddu..:) :)

  6. Joseph B. Cassidy, III

    This topic is something I have been wondering about for some time, so I thank you for sharing this information.

  7. Bryan Kirby

    Many thanks, that’s a long thought about question answered. Keep up the good work as I love your blogs.

  8. Jeff Anderson

    Great blog and insight into crew life, also good to know that even the Pilots (in their greatness!) are still part of the crew ‘family’ and are chastised for their ‘inadvertant’ lapses.. Mine’s a G&T.

  9. Ronald Zwerink

    In wonder, if there’s space for an OCR on a 777-300 in the back and above the cabine of the airplane then there must be some unused space above the cabin in the other parts of the airplane?
    Why not offering bunk beds as a service?

    • Lloyd

      The aircraft would be too heavy. Nearly everything about an aircraft is to do with weight

  10. Stuart

    Can you explain why the cockpit OCR has seats in it? For safety I would assume the cockpit crew OCR would be in the front right above behind the cockpit. Are my thoughts correct? I’m not a flight attendant but have many friends who are and a lucky view into the back workings of flights. Such an interesting lifestyle.

  11. Johnny E

    Nice blog is there also space for showering?

  12. Rachael

    Ronald Zwerink – the overhead luggage lockers are sacrificed in the section where the overhead bunks are in order to create enough room. This means there isn’t free space throughout the rest of the aircraft – it’s taken up by luggage lockers

  13. Margrit Pulkowski

    Awsome. That’s great for the crew. Funny this should show up for me right now as I have been thinking of taking KLM for my flight to Frankfurt in 2017.. Have heard nothing but outstanding reviews from people about KLM. Here’s hoping to see you next year.

  14. MaryAnne

    Wow! This is pretty good in sight on some things a passenger never gets to know about! I know feel comfortable knowing the crew get a rest on long haul flights and the bit about first round drinks!! Next time am on a flight I will look out for the crew rest area!!

  15. Taas

    Can I have a look in real life tomorrow on my KL835 flight?

  16. Per Gustafsson

    The best crew rest compartments ever is with active humidification of the normally extremely dry air that this areas normally has.. Standard on Boeing B787 and in service with KLM also options for Airbus A350 and A380. Flight Deck Humidifers options also on B787 and A350. Make such a difference.

  17. Cavin

    Always something interesting

  18. terry

    I was interested to see what appeared to be 2 off duty crew being whisked away to the upper rest area on a 777 flight last night, by the 1st officer, after doors closed but before taxi. He was careful to close the curtain to WBC before he did so, but the girls had miraculously disappeared 20 seconds later, when the curtain was reopened. There was only 2 options, there were upstairs for taxi / take off, OR the 1st officer is a part time magician !

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *