People outside of the airline industry aren’t very familiar with crash pads, so the easiest way to explain it is it's like a crowded college dorm. Usually someone who owns an apartment in Kew Gardens—a popular spot for flight attendants since it’s equidistant from JFK and La Guardia—will run a crash pad and rent out beds. Probably nine out of 10 flight attendants and pilots that I know live in a crash pad. More often than not, it’s a few bunk beds per room in a fully furnished apartment, with everyone paying between $200 and $400 per month.
Many flight attendants and pilots commute to New York from other cities and spend this extra money monthly so they don’t have to rent a hotel when they have back-to-back trips. Hotels are only paid for by the airline when you’re on a layover. If you choose to live in another city and commute to a major-city airport—like NYC, Chicago, or Atlanta, for instance—then any overnight accommodations are on you. Most flight attendants get paid by the hour and only get a small per diem (about $2 per hour) when you’re working. For me, that just barely covers food.
Crash pads are technically illegal, kind of like an Airbnb, but I’ve only heard of one crash pad being shut down. Most people pay their landlord month-to-month and are not on a lease, but there is a little more trust since we all were vetted by our companies to work for airlines and crash pads aren’t posted on Craigslist. They're discovered by word of mouth, and there is a screening and interview process to get a place in one. That said, we didn’t all trust each other. Sometimes there are locked bins provided at the crash pad, but most people just take their stuff with them just to be sure no one would steal them while they were gone.