A ongoing debate which has caused as much angst amongst FlyerTalk members as armrests and reclining seats is the proper etiquette regarding the window shades aboard aircraft: who gets to determine whether the window shade is raised or lowered?
Some FlyerTalk members believe that passengers who site in window seats are selfish because they like to keep the window shade fully opened during a flight at all times when fellow passengers work on their computers, use the in-flight entertainment system, or attempt to get some sleep — especially on long-haul flights.
Debating that accusation is FlyerTalk member jmorris, who claims to use sunlight to help avoid “jet lag” and keeping the window shade open is the solution — never mind that “the overhead lights have too much glare and do not provide enough light.” Besides, jet lag can make you dumb — but I digress.
So who really decides if the window shade is up or down? Does the passenger seated in the aisle seat have a right to demand to the person seated next to the window that the window shade be raised or lowered, as experienced by FlyerTalk member KarensuePDX?
What if a fellow passenger seated either in an aisle seat or in the seat behind you reached over and either closed or opened the window shade next to you if you were seated next to the window? For example, a passenger first yelled at FlyerTalk member hockeystl for closing the window shade in the first place before abruptly reaching over to raise it — but the bright light was hurting the eyes of hockeystl. What would you do?
On the other hand, FlyerTalk member JIMCHI does not like the idea of being in a “dark tube” for many hours on an international flight – but what if that is the policy of the airline?
FlyerTalk member PTravel admits to having a fear of flying in an airplane and chooses a window seat to mitigate that phobia. Was this situation handled correctly or incorrectly?
Why do you think that some window shades would be permanently closed altogether, such as on a Boeing 747-400 aircraft operated by Cathay Pacific?
This question can be moot if the flight attendant is the ultimate arbiter as to whether or not the window shade should be raised or lowered. Can you guess the reasons as to why the window shades should be raised when an airplane descends prior to landing or ascends after it takes off — or why the window shades should be lowered in the exit row of certain aircraft?
While the aircraft rests at a gate during the boarding process, sometimes window shades will be purposely lowered throughout the aircraft during the summer to mitigate the building up of heat inside the aircraft and conserve energy; while at other times the window shades are fully raised.
Before I travel, I choose my seat wisely. If the flight is not that long and is on a route where I have seen the scenery multiple times — and leaving the aircraft sooner is my priority — I will select an aisle seat. If, however, the flight is on a long route where I might want a wall to rest my head and where I expect to want to look out the window, I will choose a seat next to the window.
Not taking into account specific orders from a flight attendant, these are my guidelines in terms of etiquette pertaining to window shades:
- If I am sitting next to the window, I believe I have the ultimate say as to whether or not the window shade is raised or lowered — but that does not mean that I should be inconsiderate to my fellow passengers.
- Unless there are some really spectacular cloud formations, I will leave the window shade partially open so that I may admire the view below.
- If fellow passengers are attempting to sleep or use their portable electronic devices or in-flight entertainment system, I will keep the window shade closed unless I specifically want to look out the window — and then, I will raise it just enough for me to enjoy the view with minimal disturbance to fellow passengers. In fact, I will usually lean forward and block the opening to further reduce any glare while I can still fully enjoy the view.
- Conversely, if I notice a fellow passenger craning his or her neck to see out the window, I will attempt to give them as much of a view as possible — whether it means completely raising the window shade or leaning back so as not to obstruct his or her view.
- Depending on the situation, I will politely ask a fellow passenger in a neighboring seat if they would mind my raising the window shade. Typically, that passenger usually responds that he or she does not mind and is appreciative that I asked first.
- If the sun is shining brightly into the cabin and causing a blinding glare — especially directly on the face of someone else — I will lower the window shade either completely or at least enough to eliminate the potential discomfort of fellow passengers.
- If I am seated in an aisle seat, I may place a polite request to the person occupying the seat by the window to open it if I want to see something — but this is quite rare, as I usually select the seat I want before the flight.
As I have repeatedly posted in past articles here at The Gate, politeness and respect to others go a long way in keeping as many people happy as possible — including yourself.
For me, the view outside of the window of an airplane is my in-flight entertainment. It is an opportunity to witness the miracles of nature and the tenacity of mankind with a view unmatched and unrivaled by terrestrial means — even being at the top of the tallest building in the world. I enjoy guessing where I am at the moment without the use of an in-flight navigation system, figuring out which road is what and what cities are below me. I am usually in awe to see snow-capped mountains and rivers flowing below the aircraft, and how the sun chooses to light up the panoramic view in a way in which I may never again see…
…so yes — if I am seated next to a window, I will open that window shade. For me, it is part of the unique enjoyment of flight.
Then again — as illustrated by a few examples above — fellow passengers may have valid reasons for needing to have the window shade raised or lowered. Perhaps a brief discussion is necessary whenever there is a debate over whether the window shade should be raised or lowered so that a compromise can be reached — assuming that the parties engaged in the debate are reasonable, of course.
I first briefly discussed the debate pertaining to window shades in a humorous manner six years ago here at The Gate, with a brief follow-up article almost two years ago. However, this time I look forward to you to please shed some light on this topic with your thoughts.