Inside The VIP ‘Mystery Cabin’ Airlines Don’t Want You To See

With more legroom than first class...

Inside The VIP ‘Mystery Cabin’ Airlines Don’t Want You To See

Image: AFP

Discover the little-known ‘Mystery Cabin’ that ever long haul plane has but passengers are never meant to lay eyes on.

With the news that US airlines are simultaneously introducing more basic, crueller cabin classes than ever before while simultaneously scrapping first-class seats at an unprecedented rate, you might think you’re about as across airline cabin news as you could ever need or want to be. However, just when you think you’ve seen it all, it emerges that there’s a little-known cabin that you’ve probably never heard of, let alone laid eyes on…

his mysterious cabin, often referred to as a “Crew Rest Compartment,” is where the flight crew and pilots retreat to rest during long flights. These hidden gems are an essential part of modern air travel, ensuring the crew can rest and remain alert for the duration of your journey. And yet, even the most seasoned flyers never get to lay eyes on them.

The Secrets Above & Below

The location of these mystery cabins varies considerably depending on the aircraft. On newer models like the Boeing 787 and Airbus A350, they are typically found above the main cabin in the upper fuselage. In older planes, these compartments might be tucked away in the cargo hold or even integrated into the main cabin, discreetly hidden behind unassuming doors. These areas are designed to provide a quiet, comfortable space for the crew to get some hard earned R&R, complete with temperature control and soundproofing to minimize the disturbances from the bustling aircraft.

Flight attendants in a rest area
Image: Boeing

A Peek Inside

So, what’s actually inside these hidden compartments? Imagine a space akin to a capsule hotel: cozy, compact, and functional. Crew rest areas often include bunks for sleeping, complete with padded mattresses, linens, and personal air vents for climate control. Equipped with all necessary safety features that passengers are used to, including oxygen masks and seat belt lights, some even offer a communal area for changing and relaxing. The layout and amenities can vary, but the goal is always the same: to provide a restful environment for the crew.

A pilot in a rest area
Image: Boeing

Why the Secrecy?

You might wonder why airlines keep these cabins under wraps. As with so many things in the air travel sector in a post-2001 world, the answer lies in the need for security and efficiency. These areas are designed to be unobtrusive and secure, ensuring that only authorised staff can access them at any given time.

On the customer experience side, this secrecy also helps maintain the illusion of seamless service, where the crew appears tireless and ever-present. According to Susannah Carr, a flight attendant with United Airlines, the rest areas are often mistaken for storage closets by curious passengers.

An Airbus rest area
Image: Airbus

The next time you’re on a long-haul flight, keep an eye out for those unmarked doors at the front or rear of the plane. While you might not be able to access these hidden retreats, knowing they exist adds something of an irresistible new layer of intrigue to your flying experience. These secret cabins are a testament to the many hidden complexities and careful planning that go into making your journey as smooth and enjoyable as possible… unless you’re flying ‘UltraBasic’, of course.