If you’ve walked up Cottage, Havre or Princeton Streets in East Boston, you’ve almost certainly walked past a so-called “crashpad,” an apartment with multiple rentable beds for flight attendants and crew.
After Boston inspectors shut down an illegal East Boston crashpad earlier this month, GBH News identified over a dozen crashpads in East Boston, all located within a couple miles of Logan International Airport.
Interviews with flight attendants indicate there are even more, marketed on private Facebook groups like “Boston Crew Commuter Apartments” and “Boston Crashpads New,” where users must be a flight crew member to join. Others are advertised on crashpad-focused websites like Crashpad411 and CrewMatesApp.com.
Crashpads have been around since the inception of the airline industry. They are shared spaces with beds for airline employees to lay their heads down several nights a month, close to the airport. Online listings indicate prices range from $250 to $500 a month, according to listings, with “cold” beds — beds not used by other guests — going for a higher rate than “hot” beds, which have other occupants but sheets are changed between visitors.
The rent is good, especially considering a room at the nearby Embassy Suites by Hilton Boston is $300 a night, and a room in a multi-bedroom apartment in East Boston can cost more than $1,000 per month.
“The cost of living in Boston is ridiculous for a flight attendant’s salary,” said Krystal Valdes, a flight attendant who stays in an East Boston crashpad. She lives in Texas, but she’s based out of Boston.
“When you go through training, a lot of the training instructors recommend going and finding a crashpad,” she said. Valdes wouldn’t say where she’s staying, but said the rules say she can’t stay there more than six days in a row.
The affordability gives crew members “opportunity to save money, especially when they’re not making much the first few years,” she said. New flight attendants make $24,000 to $30,000 in base pay each year, putting normal rental prices out of reach in many cities. And the nature of the job is such that they may only spend a couple nights a week in their “home base.”
Airlines pay for hotel rooms during overnight layovers, but don’t pay for rooms if attendants are on-call and just need to be close to Logan Airport, or if they’re arriving from another “home” city and need a spot to sleep before flying out early.
Clearly, one of the customs of crashpads is that members don’t talk about crashpads. GBH News reached out to almost 30 flight attendants who had posted publicly on crashpad websites, and most declined to comment. One participant in a crashpad Facebook group warned others not to talk to the press after receiving a message from GBH News.
“In this case, the media is not your friend,” the flight attendant wrote. “Our lifestyle is not their business,” and negative press coverage “could potentially ruin our unique lifestyle that has existed since airlines have existed.”
Crashpads occupy a legal gray area. People who want to turn an apartment into a short-term rental in Boston have to jump through a variety of hoops, like getting licensed contractors to do any prep work and then obtaining inspections, final approval and registration by the city.
Boston has different categories of units that can be approved, like a “limited share” unit, where an “operator” is present, or a “home share” unit where an entire apartment is a rental when the operator isn’t present, like an Airbnb.
But the ordinance allowing short-term residential units for Boston doesn’t address renting out beds in an apartment, or squeezing multiple people into a bedroom.
Boston’s inspectional services division did not grant a request from GBH News for an interview about whether the East Boston crashpads are legal.
Three crashpads GBH News identified with publicly available addresses on Havre, Cottage and Princeton Streets in East Boston aren’t registered as short-term housing on the Inspectional Services Department website.
The Geneva Street garage that Boston inspectors shut down April 6 had a four-bedroom apartment with multiple beds in each room, meant to house up to 20 people, but not usually at the same time. Property owner Aaron Daigneault didn’t have authorization to convert the commercial space into housing, let alone one for a rotating cast of 20 people, according to the Inspectional Services Department.
Daigneault told GBH News via email that when he bought the building, it was a warehouse space and one apartment, and he collected $3,600 a month from one tenant. He told NBC10 Boston that he rented the second floor of the building to a woman, who sublet the space and added the extra beds without his knowledge.
“It’s a death trap,” John Meaney of Boston Inspectional Services told GBH News the night of the bust, describing how the entire apartment was above highly flammable materials, with no fire escape, missing smoke detectors and other health violations.
But to many flight attendants, crashpads are ideal living.
One crashpad of multiple on Cottage Street boasts its location — two blocks from the free airport shuttle, with “no hot bedding and super high speed internet,” for only $300 a month. Others offer 24/7 shuttle service to and from the airport.
A crashpad on Princeton Street even offers a daily rental, with a 12-hour stay for $40, and a 12-24 hour stay for $70. The amenities are plentiful — Netflix, coffee, an iron and a “clothes rack to keep your uniform looking good.” The person who listed the space did not respond to requests for comment.
Finding a crashpad is usually done by word of mouth, Valdes said.
She described how people could leave toiletries or food on a certain shelf so others can help themselves. “Everyone tries to help each other out as much as possible. It kind of reminds me of a sorority.” She has a cold bed, so no one else sleeps in it while she’s gone.
A former flight attendant named Kaitlyn, who didn’t want her last name published for privacy reasons, said she lived out of a crashpad in Boston for 18 months.
She empathizes with new flight attendants who are on-call for over a week a month. “You have no other option, it's getting a crashpad or sitting on the floor of the airport,” she said. Crashpads aren’t unusual at all — she said “there’s hundreds in every city.”
Kaitlyn is concerned for flight attendant friends, including some who can no longer live at the condemned Geneva Street apartment. “Word on the street is that the city just doesn’t care,” she said. She worries more news coverage of the issue will lead the city to crack down and close more crashpads, leaving flight attendants without an affordable place to stay.
But the spotlight doesn’t seem to be deterring new owners. One posted recently to Facebook, “Hello everyone, we have crash pad under renovation with everything new on Princeton St. in East Boston coming available on 5/1/22, or maybe late April!” Single, double and four beds in a room are available. The author, who said the crashpad is a four-minute car ride to Logan Airport, did not respond to a request for comment.