Living life out of a suitcase is not without its challenges. If you talk to any number of pilots (or flight attendants, for that matter), you’ll hear some common themes when it comes to hotels. These issues aren’t in any particular order, and each carries a certain amount of weight with each person. That said, they are all problems at some point or another, and if you’re interested in the airline lifestyle, you have to be ready for each curveball.
Transportation: One of the most common complaints is that of unreliable transportation. This is usually a bigger issue when the hotel is providing the ride, since they also have to accommodate other guests as well. Shuttles usually run on a schedule, but not always. What is very frustrating is waiting for one that is supposed to be waiting when you come out of the terminal, especially late at night after a long day of flying. This is much less of an issue when the transportation is contracted out to a third-party vendor, but even then it can still happen. That said, this is much less of an issue in the day and age of the smart phone, since apps make it much easier for drivers or front desk clerks to keep tabs on your flight. And that goes both ways: If the van can’t run, you can always take an Uber.
Room readiness: This is a bigger issue on those rare days when you finish early in the morning, and the housekeeping staff is still keeping house. If the wait is going to be of any real consequence, the hotels will usually comp a free meal to the crew. Along the same lines is the rare occasion when you walk into a room that hasn’t been cleaned yet, or is currently occupied, thus requiring another trip to the front desk. It’s worth noting that rooms not being ready upon arrival is pretty common in Europe, since most U.S. arrivals are coming off of red-eyes.
Noise: For some, this is the biggest problem of all, and airlines usually have language in their contracts with the hotel that stipulate certain rooms for crews to minimize noise. The most common culprits are the elevators, ice machines, and people who are drunk, belligerent, or inconsiderate. Often, hotels with a lot of crews will isolate the crews on certain floors, away from the rest of the guests, but it isn’t always possible. Noise can be a major issue for cargo crews, but it’s also a problem when you have an early wake-up and need to go to bed early. Sometimes, it’s just unavoidable: New Year’s Eve, the Fourth of July, and certain local celebrations.
Air conditioning: This might be my own biggest pet peeve, but not being able to get the room comfortable can be a major source of frustration, especially if the hotel is set up on a single temperature based on the time of year.
Everyone has his or her own definition of what makes for a great or a lousy hotel, and in this line of work, you’ll become an expert on hotel-ology and issues. You’ll also find yourself making your vacation reservations based on the experiences you’ve had at work. The hotels generally do a great job of trying to meet the needs of the crews. When they don’t, you need to use the appropriate channels to let those in charge know that the hotel is substandard.