It’s a game of inches, and crews are losing…
When it comes to passenger experience, modern planes are legitimate marvels. Quiet enough to talk with a whisper and filled with lighting schemes capable of helping to reduce the effects of jet lag, they’re absolutely worth seeking out. When you look at the creme de la creme, such as the Boeing 787 Dreamliner or Airbus A350, there are little things too, like extra large overhead bins, or bathrooms where you can actually turn around. There’s just one thing that might be missing: enough space for crews to work and rest comfortably. Many airlines are taking delivery of their first Airbus A350’s in 2019, and while passengers can’t wait to experience the upgraded spaces, cabin crews rarely feel the same…
One of the amusing parts of flying around the world on planes almost as frequently as the flight crews themselves is that you get to spend a lot of time in galleys stretching your legs. Side note: it’s very important and you should do it every five hours or more. These days, after the small talk about how long they get in the given city and if they have any favorite destinations – all of which I do genuinely enjoy by the way – we usually get onto the topic of favorite planes. Many crews do have a love of aviation, and I love that. One thing most tend to hate though: new planes. Great for cashing in their standby flights, not so great to do long haul service on. The A350 is the plane that’s most fun to get cabin crew members started (ranting) on.
The Airbus A350 is a true triumph from a passenger perspective and airline revenue managers love it too. It’s wide enough to fit as many seats as almost any other plane, with more height from passenger to ceiling than any other, which creates a true sense of air, space and comfort. Even packed like a sardine in economy, it feels better; and when the cool lights turn on, you feel like you’re in Star Trek, rather than Leslie Nielsen classic “Airplane”. It’s the only plane where I can talk without raising my voice even slightly. More importantly, the natural feel of cabin pressure and humidity make you feel as good as one can reasonably expect, while zooming through the skies at 40,000 feet in a composite tube. I actually seek it out whenever possible. It’s that good. At the same time, crews tend to hate it.
Here are 10 reasons it’s legitimately cool.
As the small talk draws on, you realize that on the A350 you’re in closer proximity to the person you’re talking to than in most planes, and that actually, hang on a minute, there’s hardly any crew workspace at all. It’s hard to fathom where meals can be adequately prepared, let alone where a crew member could read magazines behind a curtain. Crews I’ve spoken to who take real pride in their work tend to remark that properly plating or staging for a meal is downright difficult in the Airbus A350. And that lack of galley space is not even taking into account the crew rest areas, those secret compartments where cabin crew “on break” can go lay down and refresh.
According to Airbus, the A350 is the world’s first plane where crew rest areas “have no revenue generating impact”. In normal speak: these crew areas aren’t somewhere that could otherwise be making the airline money as cargo or passenger seats. Airbus chose to put these rest areas in the crown, which is basically the roof of the plane, similar to the way Boeing creates rest areas. But unlike many rest areas of days past, they’re smaller and harder to get to.
Again: this plane was built to create as many areas as possible where paying passengers can sit, with the least possible impact taken by things like ovens and jump seats. Crews tend to love Boeing 777-300ER bunks as well as Airbus A380 bunks, but generally despise the cramped bunks found on the Airbus A350, even compared to direct modern competitor the Boeing 787. The next time you board an Airbus A350, and I hope you get the chance to, be sure to ask how your crew enjoys it. Chances are they’ll say “nice for you, sucks for us”.