Galley Gossip: The mini motel for the commuting flight attendant

See that guy over there, the one wearing a business suit lying on the floor inside an orange tent at the airport? The first time I saw that picture on The New York Times website, I laughed, and then I thought to myself, genius, absolute genius. The Mini Motel, a one-person tent complete with air mattress, pillow, reading light and alarm clock, that’s what Frank Giotto, a business traveler, created after an unscheduled stay at a German airport.

There’s one problem with the luxury tent, and it’s a pretty big problem. Simply put, it’s a tent. Personally, I can’t see too many passengers interested in buying a tent. I mean who in their right mind wants to lug that thing on the airplane – just in case there’s a delay, or cancellation, or something that would cause one to set up tent? Nor do I see the airlines purchasing it. Not when they’re getting rid of things – namely employees – in order to save money. So who do I see desperate to get their hands on a luxury tent aimed at stranded people at the airport? Flight attendants of course!

According to Wikipedia, Commuting is the process of traveling between one’s place of residence and regular place of work. For most people, normal people, commuting means getting in the car or hopping on a train and taking an hour long ride to the city where the office is located. Commuting for a flight attendant is a whole other animal. We cross cities, as in several cities, in order to get to work. Yet it’s what a lot of flight attendants choose to do, particularly the ones based in New York – like me! Yes, I am a commuter. I commute from my home in Los Angeles to New York where I start my trips at one of two New York airports. I know I know, it’s a little crazy, but it works.

Just to be safe, and well rested, I always fly to New York the night before my trip. But some commuters travel up on the same morning of their trip. Haven’t you ever wondered why the crew looks so worn out? Why they look as if they haven’t slept in days? Chances are they haven’t. Chances are, if they weren’t working twelve hours a day for three days straight (with short layovers), they could be commuters.

Now I know what you’re wondering: where do commuters stay at night when they’re not on a trip and laying over at a hotel in a strange city? If they do not have family or friends they can “visit”, they’ll stay in one of three locations…

  1. The Crash Pad: If they’ve got the money to spend (about $150/month), you’ll find commuters living in crash pads not too far away from the airport. My first crash pad, located in Kew Gardens, also known as Crew Gardens, was a three story house that was home to so many flight attendants I couldn’t begin to count them all. Seriously. I don’t even know if I met everyone who lived in this particular crash pad during my first three months as a flight attendant. All I know is “my room” had six bunk beds lining the walls, and each bunk bed had a different flight attendant (who brought along their own set of sheets) sleeping in it each and every night.
  2. The Airport Hotel: Sometimes a few commuters will get together and chip in to share a cheap hotel room near the airport — though this doesn’t really happen often, not anymore, not since we took a pay cut after 9/11. However, I do still see quite a few commuting pilots waiting for the hotel shuttle outside the airport.
  3. Flight Operations – Besides a couple of computers and a few sofas and maybe a television, there’s usually a little “quiet room” located somewhere at the back of ops. The quiet room is always dark and filled with reclining chairs. This is where you’ll find a majority of the New York commuters. But ONLY if ops is located on the outside of security, which isn’t always the norm at most airline terminals. But if ops is an option, rest assured, that’s the place to be.

Which brings me back to The Mini Motel, a $39.95 luxury one-person tent that comes complete with a mattress, pillow, reading light, alarm clock, and, most importantly, a bit of privacy when you’re stranded at the airport far away from home. Tell me this isn’t the perfect gift for that commuting flight attendant in your life! After that commuting flight attendant FINALLY stops thanking you over and over and over for the wonderful gift, you tell me that thoughtful gift is just a tent and not a luxurious crew condo.