I entered the secret room where pilots sleep on long-haul flights. I think it’s the best seat on the whole plane.

The Insider author visited the room where pilots rest on Air New Zealand’s Boeing 777-300ERs.Monica Humphries / Insider

  • Pilots take turns on long-haul flights. When not flying, they rest in hidden parts of the plane.

  • On an Air New Zealand Boeing 777-300ER, I visited the secret area where pilots sleep and relax.

  • I thought it was the nicest place on the plane, with lots of space, beds and recliners.

Twelve hours is a long time to be on a plane. But when you’re in charge of flying the plane, it’s an even more difficult role. This is why long-haul flights have several pilots on board who work shifts.

The cockpit of a Boeing 777 showing displays and controls at the Farnborough International Airshow in 2022.

The cockpit of a Boeing 777 showing displays and controls at the Farnborough International Airshow in 2022.John Keeble/Getty Images

And when a pilot is not in the cockpit, he rests in secret rooms on board the plane.

A view of the pilot's rest area.

A view of the pilot’s rest area.Monica Humphries / Insider

On my recent 12-hour Air New Zealand flight from Auckland, New Zealand to Los Angeles, I had access to that part of the plane that most people don’t see.

The author in the pilot's secret room.

The author in the pilot’s secret room.Monica Humphries / Insider

Read more: I took a 13 hour flight to New Zealand from Los Angeles. Here are 8 mistakes I made and what I will do differently on my flight home.

I boarded the Boeing 777-300ER early and Sarita Rami, the on-duty flight manager, greeted me in business class.

The author with on-duty flight director Sarita Rami.

The author with on-duty flight director Sarita Rami.Monica Humphries / Insider

Together, we passed rows of reclining seats in business class and the front galley of the plane.

The business class section of Air New Zealand's Boeing 777-300ER.

The business class section of Air New Zealand’s Boeing 777-300ER.Monica Humphries / Insider

Read more: I walked into the cabin of Air New Zealand’s future plane which has bunk beds in economy class and wireless chargers in business class. Looked.

From the kitchen, I could see the cockpit of the plane. But I didn’t spot a door or any signs pointing to the pilot’s rest area.

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The entrance to the aircraft cockpit.Monica Humphries / Insider

That’s because the room’s doors are intentionally camouflaged so passengers don’t accidentally disturb resting pilots, Rami said.

The door to the pilot's rest area is in the forward galley.

The door to the pilot’s rest area is in the forward galley.Monica Humphries / Insider

Rami gestured to a locked door, entered a secret code, and opened the latch.

Sarita Rami unlocks the door to the plane's secret rooms for the flight attendants.

Sarita Rami unlocks the door to the plane’s secret rooms for the flight attendants.Monica Humphries / Insider

Behind the door was a narrow, steep staircase. I walked up the stairs and was immediately shocked by the size of the room I was entering.

Flight attendant Alice climbs into the room where pilots rest on long-haul flights.

Flight attendant Alice climbs into the room where pilots rest on long-haul flights.Monica Humphries / Insider

Although I couldn’t stand at 5ft 8in, the room had enough space for two recliners and two beds.

Pilot's rest area.

Secret pilot rest area on an Air New Zealand Boeing 777-300ER.Monica Humphries / Insider

On most long-haul flights, there are four pilots who split the time between the cockpit and the rest area. But at all times during the flight, there must be at least two pilots in the cockpit, according to the Federal Aviation Authority.

A chair that pilots can use to rest.

A chair that pilots use for resting.Monica Humphries / Insider

Source: The Conversation

An Air New Zealand representative told me that the captain usually decides when breaks occur, but like flight attendants, pilots usually take their breaks in 2 hour slots. Once on break, pilots have the option of spending their time in the recliner, a bunk bed, or a combination of the two.

Two beds have pillows and blankets.

Two beds have pillows and blankets.Monica Humphries / Insider

Read more: I walked into a hidden room where flight attendants sleep on long-haul flights. I was amazed by its small size and comfortable beds.

No matter where they choose to rest, there are seat belts.

Both the chair and the bed have safety belts for those turbulent moments.

Both the chair and the bed have safety belts for those turbulent moments.Monica Humphries / Insider

Near the recliners, the pilots have a television equipped with entertainment. The setup was nearly identical to my business class TV. I also saw an outlet, temperature control panel, and cup holders nearby.

Each pilot has a TV in their secret rest area.

Each pilot has a TV in their secret rest area.Monica Humphries / Insider

Between the seats, a telephone is available to the pilots to communicate with the cockpit or the hostesses in the cabin.

Under the beds is a telephone.

Under the beds is a telephone.Monica Humphries / Insider

Behind the leather seats are two cubby style beds.

Two beds.

Two beds are located in the pilot’s rest area on the Boeing 777-300ER.Monica Humphries / Insider

Narrow beds have a curtain to block out light and allow privacy.

The area has two leather seats and two beds.

The area has two leather seats and two beds.Monica Humphries / Insider

Inside the sleeping compartment, I saw two sets of blankets and pillows, which looked like the ones I had received in my business class seat. I thought the mattress on the bed looked comfortable enough for a good nap.

A bed

Pilots have pillows and blankets to use while resting.Monica Humphries / Insider

Along the edge of the bed, I spotted more cup holders and a control panel for lights and airflow in the corner of the bed.

Pilots have lighting.

Each pilot is able to control light and airflow from their bed.Monica Humphries / Insider

Going down the stairs, I spotted a cupboard. Rami told me this is where the pilots store parts of their uniforms while they rest.

The pilot's rest area has a closet to store uniforms.

The pilot’s rest area has a closet to store uniforms.Monica Humphries / Insider

I felt spoiled in my business class seat, but I thought the pilot’s room was even more luxurious. They had privacy, room to stretch out, and a bed bigger than my reclining seat.

The author in his business class seat.

The author in his business class seat.Monica Humphries / Insider

And, of course, these benefits were well deserved. On my flight home, I slept better knowing pilots had room to rest and recharge for some of the longest flights in the world.

Air New Zealand pilots arrive at Sydney International Airport.

Air New Zealand pilots arrive at Sydney International Airport.James D. Morgan/Getty Images

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