As airline pilots, we will likely be faced, at one time or another, with the prospect of commuting to our base. A big part of that is also likely to include multiple monthly overnights in a crash pad with other crew members — either pilots, flight attendants, or both (and possibly even gate agents, mechanics or members of other work groups).
The crash pad experience, for better or worse, can have a major influence on our job satisfaction, our stress levels, and even our fitness for duty and overall health. As a career commuter myself, I’ve had my share of experiences with crash pads, some better than others, but none that I could honestly call “great.” When I set out to build a nationwide network of hotel-based crash pads, my goal was to address the shortcomings I had dealt with in my own crash pad experiences while establishing a new standard for pilot pads by offering services and amenities not typically found in your average run-of-the-mill pad. But what are those things — those big-ticket items that can make or break the crash pad experience for a commuting pilot? Let’s take a look at the things I consider to be the most important items to look for when you’re trying to decide on a pad — a place where you will likely spend a significant portion of your life as an airline pilot, at least for a while.
One of the first considerations you’ll need to address is what your budget, your comfort zone, and your “pain point” are for a place to rest before and after trips. The old adage, “you get what you pay for” does apply here, (at least to an extent) and the cost of crash pads can vary widely from market to market and even from neighborhood to neighborhood within a market. Generally, you’ll pay exponentially more for better accommodations, with the least expensive pads being bare-bones facilities in less-convenient areas, and the most expensive ones being private rooms in upscale areas with lots of amenities and nearby conveniences. Your personal “pain point” will dictate your decision here: Are you willing to pay a premium for the best digs? Or are you strictly a bargain shopper? Or do you fall somewhere in the middle? Only you can answer these questions. Of particular consideration, generally paramount in this process, are safety and security. If the place isn’t in a safe neighborhood with a secure and dependable means of getting to it, the rest of the features might be moot.
Having identified your priorities in terms of cost and quality, it’s time for you to roll up your sleeves and get to work searching for your home away from home. The internet is a good place to start, but there actually aren’t as many crash pad advertising websites out there as one might expect. One pretty good place to start is CrashPad411.com, which allows you to search for pads near specific major airports, advertised by proximity to the airport, cost, and a number of other data points. Other good sources of leads include some of the old standbys for airline info: Crew room bulletin boards, your base chief pilot, Facebook and other social media resources (such as AeroCrewNews.com and The Hotel Crash Pad Network), personal referrals, and word-of-mouth “cockpit chatter.” Regardless of what avenues you decide to use, make sure they seem reputable, and always try to validate the info you acquire by cross-referencing other sources, especially personal anecdotal information you might be able to obtain from people who have actually stayed in the pad or area you’re considering.
Once you’ve narrowed down your search and are ready to compare a number of potential pads, make sure you do a good apples-to-apples comparison of all your options. Here are some good questions to ask in order to further filter the places you’re considering:
- Is the neighborhood safe? Crime data for specific areas is pretty readily available from the local police department. That, combined with anecdotal evidence you can obtain by talking to your base chief pilot, other crew members and from “locals“ can be really helpful here. Keep in mind that major airports have a depressing tendency to be located near areas that have greater challenges with crime, safety and security, so this is definitely a factor to consider.
- How close is it to the airport, and how will you get from the airport to the pad and back? How much extra will it cost you in cab fares or other expenses to make that additional commute to and from the airport? How convenient will it be? Obviously, a pad with a built-in airport shuttle is ideal, but those are generally tough to find. A little thought and planning here can save you a lot of headache (and a lot of money) down the road.
- How many beds are there per room? Is it a hot-bunk or cold-bunk setup, and are bed linens and towels provided and changed daily, or will that be up to you to accomplish? How many bathrooms does it have, and what are their quality and accessibility? Is it pilot-only, or mixed with other work groups, such as flight attendants and gate agents? Is it coed or unisex? Do the other amenities and conveniences that are available offset the relative cost and inconvenience inherent to each of these particular considerations?
- What is the overall quality of the place? Is it in a run-down old tenement or a sparkling-new building or complex? What are its particular amenities? How will you access the pad — with a key you’ll have to manage, or a keypad code you’ll have to remember, or by way of a “gatekeeper” such as a concierge or front desk personnel? Does it have built-in security features? Is parking available? Does it offer regular maid/housekeeping services? (A continually filthy crash pad is not something you want to be subjected to). Does it have a pool? Is there a gym available nearby, and if so, how much will it cost to use it? Does it have a full kitchen, and maybe an outdoor grill or patio/courtyard area you can use?
- Are there restaurants, bars, stores, urgent care clinics, pharmacies and other conveniences nearby? How easy are they to get to, and what transportation options besides walking are available to get to them?
- Is there a security deposit required? Any long-term lease obligation? Are any deposits refundable if you decide to move or are forced to change bases?
- Are there any reviews of the crash pad or its owner available online or elsewhere? How responsive is the crash pad owner/operator when you contact him or her for information? What’s your “gut feeling” about the person when you communicate? Is he or she actually a fellow airline employee, or maybe just some realtor who decided to get into the crash pad business?
Based on my 12-plus years’ experience as an airline commuter and as a crash pad occupant and owner, these are just a few starting points for you to use in your quest for a crash pad. I hope they’re helpful. As a baseline to get your journey started, I invite you to begin your research with The Hotel Crash Pad Network on Facebook at https://m.facebook.com/TheHotelCrashPadNetwork/ . Please feel free to reach out to me with any questions you might have.
Happy hunting! ACN