A look inside the secret, crew-only lounge where flight attendants hang out when they're not flying

Rachel Gillett/Business InsiderUnless you worked for the airline, you’d probably never know where the airport crew lounge is.
  • Flight attendants don’t spend all their time on planes.
  • When they’re not flying, they may be hanging out in their secret crew lounge inside the airport.
  • Robert “Bingo” Bingochea, a Denver-based flight attendant for United Airlines, gave us a tour of United’s crew lounge inside Denver International Airport.

Flight attendants are like the tech workers of the airline industry.

Without them, nothing would run smoothly. They keep odd hours. And they even have their own nap rooms.

While you may not think of flight attendants as your typical office dwellers, when they’re not flying or recreating, there’s a good chance they’re hanging out in their airline’s employee-only facilities inside the airport.

Not every airline has their own employee facilities in each airport. United Airlines, for example, has them at their hub airports including Newark International Airport, Chicago O’Hare International Airport, and Denver International Airport.

These employee facilities not only house flight attendants’ beloved crew lounge, but also conference and meeting rooms, training areas, computer stations, and different departments including HR and IT.

When Business Insider shadowed Robert “Bingo” Bingochea, a Denver-based flight attendant for United Airlines, for the day, he gave us a tour of United’s In Flight area, which houses the crew lounge.

As a passenger, you won’t ever see United’s employee facilities by simply roaming around their airport.

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At Denver International Airport, employees have to swipe their United Airlines ID badges to access an elevator that takes us up to the fourth floor.

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As the doors open, we’re greeted by “Restricted Area” signage, and arrows point in the direction of United’s Inflight Services.

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Bingochea checks in to let the staff know he’s physically there and ready to go. “They cover their bases because the plane has to be out,” he says. “You can’t be late. You can’t be looking for coffee. You have to be there on time.”

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If you’re not, United has other flight attendants on standby at the airport as “ready reserves” who will step in if needed. The crew lounge is their temporary home while they wait to see if they’re called for duty. It’s equipped with plenty of comfy couches and a darkened sleeping room should flight attendants want to nap.

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When we peeked inside the sleeping room, we broke one of the cardinal rules and turned the light on while someone was sleeping. We promptly left before I could snap a shot.

Crew other than those on ready reserve sometimes also use the lounge and sleeping rooms, including “lounge lizards”: commuters who don’t have anywhere in town to stay between trips and need a place to crash for the night.

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But Bingochea doesn’t really recommend this.

“You don’t want to be hanging out, because that doesn’t look very well,” he says. “You should respect the privilege of having those opportunities to get rest, because before you know it it will look like a dorm room in there with 30 to 40 people.”

The crew lounge is also equipped with plenty of outlets for charging phones, TVs with flight information, and a red phone for scheduling.

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Unlike the lounge or sleeping area, which are fairly quiet, the break room is a great place to grab a bite to eat and catch up with crew you haven’t seen in a while.

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The crew area also includes a grooming room equipped with toiletries, irons, steamers, and anything else you’d need to spruce up before you head out. “There’s so much information about what’s required, how to look, how not to look,” Bingochea says.

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Though flight attendants aren’t officially checked for uniform and grooming compliance before their flights, “our staff, they keep an eye out,” Bingochea says.

He recalls a recent instance when he was cautioned.

“I like wearing little pocket squares,” he says. But when he leaned in for a hug with one of the higher-ups at United, Bingochea says the executive discreetly said to him, “You look good. Get rid of that pocket square.”

“That gives too much calamity, I think, when people try to do things their way,” Bingochea says.

The crew area has plenty of computers on hand for flight attendants to stay up-to-date and complete training modules, which they must do every year.

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Before heading out to the gate, Bingochea can also use the computers to do any last-minute checks like seeing what position he’s working or who he’s working with. But he says he never looks to see what crew members he’s flying with “because I’ll fly with anybody. And a lot of people say, ‘Well, I don’t want to fly with so and so.’ To me, that’s just too much work,” he says.

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