I’ve noticed an uptick in social media and discussion forums about what seems to be a very touchy issue: whether or not a flight’s window seat occupants should keep window shades up or down — or even be forced to.
Team Window Shade Up
Some people insist on keeping the window shade raised throughout a flight’s duration — rain or shine, day or night.
But they don’t want to annoy other passengers: they enjoy looking out the window and appreciating the views. Some people feel claustrophobic and looking out the window comforts them. One Redditor flat-out said, “You suck if you don’t open the airplane window.”
For the most part, I fall into this category. I love geography and maps; seeing the world from above is an absolute treat. It always reinforces Earth’s beauty.
It’s also fun to see landmarks — especially during departures and arrivals.
I also generally prefer to have some natural light when it’s daytime. (Although seeing all that ocean can sometimes make me a bit woozy. Especially when we can see those Tropics or Equator lines in the water 😉 ). But I understand the other side.
Team Window Shade Down
Some folks want the window shades down, no matter what. Loved ones who passed away could be angels escorting their flight and just outside the window. But there’s no way such a glorious and miraculous sight would persuade them to allow even a sliver of sunlight to disturb them.
Htowng8r says, “I actually do hate that one jackass that opens their window and blinds the entire section with white light.”
I get it. Light might be distracting if you’re trying to sleep (though an eyeshade solves that problem). If you’re trying to work or using something with a screen susceptible to glare, people opening windows during the day can be a problem.
Will Air Rage Come to the Window Shade Debate?
Most of the air rage incidents we see on social media, blogs, and TV news usually involve alcohol, mental illness, or seat reclining. (Or a combination of all three.) People reclining their seats and possibly inconveniencing other passengers isn’t exactly new. But it’s a hot-button issue.
Are you like 12 ? Have you never see out a plane window . Like 300 people are trying to keep it dark and you see the 1 person not
— Matthew Campbell (@kanwisher) November 27, 2023
Whoever books the window seat gets to decide when the shade is up/down. Obvious caveats include very bright sun shining directly in the window.
— Roger Wagner MD PhD (@RogerWagnerMD) November 27, 2023
I wonder if some of the same people vocal about the “I purchased this seat, I’ll recline it!” complain when someone seated in the window wants to keep the shade open. It’s the same logic.
I haven’t seen any arguments about window shades during flights. However, I once witnessed some weirdo make a scene and act like the Wicked Witch of the East melting when a sunset shone on him from the window on the opposite side of the plane. That was his (obnoxious) way of asking if the person in that window seat would please kindly lower the shade.
Because some people seem extra tense and edgy when flying since the travel boom resumed, I can see the window shade debate getting ugly at some point.
Don’t Windows Have to Be Open During Take Off and Landing?
Based on my research, no FAA requirement states that window shades must be open during commercial airline take-offs and landings. But as someone who generally prefers aisle seats, it unnerves me when the window seat occupant doesn’t keep their window shade open during take-off and landing.
From the YouShouldKnow subReddit:
…why we (flight attendants) ask you to open the window shades before takeoff and landing
In addition, we always turn off the lights in the cabin at this time. This is so that the human eye can get used to the level of light outside the cabin. In case of an emergency situation and an urgent need to leave the cabin, it is very important that the person can immediately orient himself to his surroundings outside the plane and not wait for his eyes to become accustomed to bright light or darkness.
And there’s this:
From my FA friend:
Every second counts in an emergency and if there is an emergency you need those few seconds to look outside the aircraft to see if there is fire or debris outside where you are sitting so you know whether you can evacuate to that side or not.
— And the P is for… (@The_Precious1) November 25, 2023
I remember years ago that flight attendants enforced a “window shades up” guideline before take-off or landing. But that hasn’t been the MO for quite a while (or maybe the hundreds of flights I’ve taken since were outliers).
Flight Attendants Ordering Windows Shut?
In fact, people are writing about flight attendants telling them to lower their window shades.
I was honestly shocked. The world is so [freaking] beautiful, and I’m sitting there for a couple hours watching the clouds and sea, watching for interesting things out of the window and just contemplating how incredible the planet is. I’m flying over the least populated place on the planet, the south pacific ocean. This is the first time delta has even flown this route, I happened to be on the inaugural Auckland to LA flight.
And out of nowhere, a flight attendant comes over to me, points at my window and asks me to close it. I then realize I am the only person on this plane with their window open.
What the [fork]? The Delta One area is too bright because one guy looking out the window is ruining your experience?
[Inferior], wear your damn COMPLIMENTARY EYE MASK
Yeah. I’m that guy. But I got a [freaking] window seat and I’m gonna salivate over how incredible the world is.
Bobabutt (hey, I don’t make up the names) wrote:
Straight up had to fight for my life to keep my window half open. She told me everyone is trying to sleep. Okay great, I’m purposefully trying to stay awake given it’s still in the afternoon and I booked this seat for a reason?
Update: Thanks for keeping me company on this flight, but the debate has been settled (seemingly). I now have in writing from Delta support that no, I cannot be required to lower the window shade by a FA:
FAs come by and require passengers to close their window shades. On my most recent flight I shelled out extra $$$ for a window seat in Premier Plus because I wanted the sunlight… can’t say I’m particularly pleased.
It’s a daylight flight leaving in the afternoon and landing in the afternoon… not everyone wants to sleep, and sitting in the dark watching a screen or reading in the dark for hours hurts my eyes.
Is there a reason we’re required to close the shades? Passengers in the window seats should be able to make their own decisions, especially those paying thousands of dollars for premium class service. Use an eye mask if you want to sleep.
Flight attendants (and other airline employees): what are your thoughts on this?
Here’s What I Do
I always keep the shade up during take-off, ascent, approach, and landing when I’m in a window seat. The only exception is if the sun is absolutely glaring during ascent and approach. When we reach near-cruising altitude, I try to read the room (or cabin, as it were). But I’m not shy about the opening shade during flight. Wear sunglasses or an eyeshade if you’re so upset.
One Final Thing
I’ll get in front of this. Yes, my former boss once portrayed someone who left his window shade open for most of a flight.
There seems to be some trouble brewing about window shades being open or shut during airline flights. What are your thoughts about the issue? Please share in the below Comments section!
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