Why Window Shades Should Be Kept Closed On Your Next Flight

I always prefer an aisle seat but the person in the window gets to decide whether the shade is up or down. And more often than not shades should be closed.

Window shades as well as cabin lighting get adjusted for takeoff and landing for safety, to improve reaction time of both passengers and crew. And when you land in a hot city you’ll often be asked to close the window shades before getting off the aircraft, to keep the plane cool for the next flight. But what about when you’re in the air, mid-trip?

  • Midday the glare can make it tough to see the screen on an entertainment device or laptop. If you’re trying to conserve battery you need to be able to turn down the screen.

  • Overnight flights mean sleep, and shades should be closed especially because some of the time you think of as night will be light as you cross time zones and even the international date line.

Sara Stewart disagrees (HT: Tommy L.) She argues we have a right to the light, and that closing window shades makes the plane like a “flying coffin.” She thinks you should buy eye shades if you want windows closed, and wear sunscreen.

I have no problem with someone gazing out the window. I have no problem taking photos out the window, either. I just think when the person in the window seat isn’t enjoying those things, and hasn’t been instructed to keep shades open for safety reasons, that they should have the courtesy not to project a glare onto fellow travelers who may want to sleep or work.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Sunscreen? Can you really get a tan through an airplane window? And if direct sunlight from your window is actually on someone elses’s face (and therefore presumably in their eyes) would you really suggest sunscreen? Even in an office you would lower the shade.

  2. I’m of the opinion, at least in J&F, the shades belong to the passenger closest to them. It was frustrating? dissapointing? and a let down when we were flying first class this year for the first time. Flew EK, JAL and TG and if I rember right nearly all flights wanted us to close the shades because it might disturb other flyers. Where else am I going to get a view at 40k feet enjoying champagne and caviar! Seriously I love looking out the window and when in a Premium economy, where the other passengers are given eye masks in an amenity kit I should be able to enjoy the “view from the wing” or in the case of First class the view in front of the wing.

  3. Getting light at the right times is key to reducing jetlag IMO so I hate when people ask me to shut the window shade.

  4. Another seat warrior who wants all the perks of an axle seat AND control of the perks afforded the traveller in the window seat.

    Stick to 1A on the Embraer jets and you can do it all…

  5. Only thing worse is the window sitter that looks out the window:

    – cabin is nice and dark, my retinas and screen brightness adjusted accordingly.

    – window pax opens shade

    – bright light floods in the cabin

    – my eyes!

    – window pax closes shade

    – cycle repeats minutes later

    Yup, we are still over water, it’s still bright as F outside. *grumble*

  6. I like to see the takeoff and landing. So I like the window shade up during those times. I still like to look at NYC as the plane flies into JFK or LGA. Flying does feel like a flying coffin now-a-days.

    I am neutral on open windows when we are up in the air. When I was young, I used spend hours staring out the window looking at miniature houses and trees and fields. Now, I get bored looking out the window, so I am sleeping, reading, or watching the IFE.

    Also, still like looking out the window in prop planes, since they fly much closer to the ground.

  7. Ex UA Plat:

    that is precisely what Gary is advocating.

    Sorry Gary – imma split with you on this. Window person gets the window. eyeshades work.

  8. If you feel that strongly about it then take a window seat next time. I take a window seat because I want to look out the window. That is why I have the window seat. its the whole point for me to take that seat, so no I won’t be closing it just for the hell of it. That being said if its at a time of day when the sun is coming in directly through the window and casting a glare on passengers or on television screens then I will lower the shade and/or close it to eliminate that glare, Also if I am on a long haul flight and everyone in the cabin is sleeping or trying to I will not throw the window open flooding the cabin with light.

  9. Departing time counts. Or better east to west: day flight. OPEN FULL LIGHT. West to east: night flight keep closed till landing.

    I had a flight from Singapore to Beijing. At 09:30. Its just over 6 hours. They close all windows for 2 hours. Then service with canin lights. Dark again. STUPID

    Luck i was at the windows and had all 3 of mine open all the time. There is no time difference. IT IS DAY TIME. Closing it makes it worse.

    I have been asked by cabin crew to close. I said no. I dont want to get sleepy on day flights. Makes no sense.

    So yes. On day flights my 2-3 windows are often the only ones open in bizz class. Dont care.

  10. I used to be an aisle seat guy but now I’m almost always select a window seat solely so I can ensure that the window shade stays closed.

  11. Whether I keep the shade open or closed depends on the type of flight. If it is international, overseas and overnight, I keep it closed till a hour or so before landing. But if I’m flying domestic across the US during the day, sorry I’m keeping the shade the open. For those who are in the aisle, invest in some eyeshades.

  12. Economy rules: Aisle seat perk get up at any time. Middle “perk” (not really) both arm rests. Window perk is control of the shade.

  13. This is why you choose a 787 if you don’t like open windows. The FA’s will “shut” all the windows with one button.

  14. So if the window pax gets to control the window shade, does the isle pax get to control who gets access to the isle? Kidding. Seriously though, with me, if it’s a domestic flight without IFE, the window shade will probably be open the whole time. International flights, probably until the meal is served. Of course it’s a 787, then the flight attendants get to choose what happens with the window (which really irritated me over the GBR).

  15. Glad to see that at least a few people agree with me. Enjoying a view from that far up is a wondrous thing, far dearer than any recorded entertainment that can be found elsewhere. A plane with all shades closed seems as if it’s under quarantine. I’ll continue to keep them open whenever possible. On a day flight, the natural light is good. On a night flight, it doesn’t matter.

  16. I’m usually flying international and timing my sleep schedule to my final destination, not where I boarded or where the sun happens to be at the moment. If it’s dark outside and I need sun too bad for me. I guess I’ll stare into some blue light emitting screens, not really effective but that’s all I got.

    But if the sun is out and I should be awake I will definitely open the shades and get as much light on the skin as possible, including directly on the face if I can.

    Similarly if there’s full sun and I want to be sleeping I’ll take melatonin and use night shades.

    Maybe everyone can just take care of themselves instead of expecting others to do it for you?

  17. Window seat holder controls the shades (apart from crew instructions). I do think if you’re watching a movie or not actively staring out the window and someone asks you to lower the shade to reduce the glare, I think it’s a polite move to do so. But you certainly don’t have to close it all the way and you should feel free to open it back up when you want to fully enjoy the view. Presumably you pick a window seat for the view.

  18. Close the shades and your just spam in a can. Boeing and Airbus seem to think outside visibility is important. Their new widebodies boast about their larger windows. Of course 787s have no shades just the wonderful electrically diming windows that can be controlled centrally. As someone famously said, “I love it.” People who want to sleep should bring eye shades. Keep the shades open unless the sun is directly in someone’s face. Airlines could reduce the need to look outside by installing landscape cameras and high-tech flight following systems. Many foreign carriers have external cameras on widebody aircraft. For some reason (legal perhaps), US carriers refuse to install them.

  19. If you are in the window seat, then the power of the shade in is in your hands. I have been sitting in the aisle so much lately for easy access to the galley… I miss taking all those great landing shots from the window seats though.

    Kelcy

  20. We’re trapped in a locked cylinder at the mercy of airline employees. Let’s be nice to each other. I really like the shades open during takeoff and landing. It gives me precious little comfort to see out and enjoy the views. I think a reasonable accommodation mid-flight would be to have the shade at half mast. Gone are the days of the “big screen” that required shades to drawn during a movie. I don’t care if it’s night or day — I want to see something besides the back of the seat in front of me once in a while. And on ultra-long flights, resting your eyes by looking at long distances instead of a phone/tablet/laptop is good for you.

  21. I agree

    An open window blind, especially on a long-haul flight, can be uncomfortable

    Many people want to sleep, relax or see a movie, and direct sunlight makes it difficult

    Opening or closeing a window blind at cruising altitude affects other passengers comfort

    We never board a plane with the same expectations

    Everybody’s needs are different

    For many passengers flying is an uncommon experience

  22. No. I sit at a window because I like to look out a window. Not saying I’m gonna keep it open when people are trying to sleep on an international flight but absent that it’s staying open.

  23. This is one of the rare moments when I disagree with you, Gary, and for a number of reasons.

    First: Having natural light in your eyes at the right time really is important for reducing jet lag symptoms.
    Second: For me, there is an uplifting value in connecting to the real world — even at 35,000 feet — that a screen just can’t match. The wonder of clouds; the magic of mountains; the brilliance of infinity-seeming deserts and jungles and oceans; the simplicity and intricacies of the cities and villages that stir me me imagine the lives being lived below at that very moment; even the astonishing, heart-filling curve of the Earth, that reminds me that we’re gifted to live on a nurturing planet that sustains life; all bring the opportunity for contemplation, inspiration, appreciation, meditation…and simply make my life better.
    Third: There is no sense of movement, or travel, with those window shades closed, and most of the time I am onboard for the experience, for the joy, of travel.
    Fourth: The feeling of claustrophobia that sometimes affects me on a plane can only be remedied by opening up that shade and seeing that there is a something beyond the constricted, rigid-seeming tube that would otherwise be my whole world.

    I am sympathetic with people who prefer a dark cabin, but it seems to me that passengers who want to sleep do have the option of eyeshades, which gives them control of their personal environment.

    That said, when I’m not looking out of the window or don’t need the light for jet lag reduction, I do keep my shades drawn out of courtesy. And even when I am looking out at the world, I usually keep the shades at half-staff, and scrunch down to see the view, out out of consideration for those who wold rather see their screens.

  24. I will never close the blind. If you don’t like it, tough.

    You should’ve booked a window.

    I want to look out the window which is my right.

  25. Window people are selfish and control freaks. The would rather bother someone when they have to get up rather than be bothered. They want maximize room for their shoulders and head should they themselves want to sleep. They certainly don’t want to be bumped by a service cart because it’s all about their comfort. That’s because they are selfish. Why should one person be allowed to decide whether the plane becomes a flying greenhouse and unbearably hot with blinding light? On a recent flight back from Munich, the sunlight intensity in the cabin was great I had to wear sunglasses in the business cabin. Even then it was difficult to see. The sun’s rays are especially bright and damaging at that altitude. I didn’t want to sleep. I wanted to be able to conduct business and not have my retinas damaged.

    Perhaps those automatically dimmable window shades that adjust automatically to the weather conditions, flight requirements and other factors is the way to go. Then those window people could still see out to see the clouds and the little people and houses below.

  26. I believe that the window shade should be open during landing and takeoff for safety reasons. At least half open if you want it closed.

    Once, I was on a flight and a woman insisted on keeping it close. She was being militant and trying to assert herself. I simply asked “a few minutes before landing, would you open the window shade at least half open for safety reasons”. Maybe she experienced racial discrimination because she scolded me “this is my shade, I will do what I want to”.

    I calmly responded, there was a crash landing in England where lot of people died because they couldn’t see which side there was a fire. She responded “you are disrespecting me because I am ______ (color/race).”

    Huh?

  27. Once upon a time, the window shades were required to be open for take off and landing, so that all could see everything was good and no need to prepare for an evacuation because there was fire ,etc. outside. I believe this was an FAA regulation.
    I take it that this safety regulation no longer applies?
    This aside, I still like to be connected to my world and view our magnificent planet from a heavenly stance while flying by leaving the window shades open!

  28. Closed windows makes an already crowded travel experience feel utterly claustrophobic. Keep the windows open, at least partially. Pity those pax that might not be able to clearly see the latest episode of TMZ or Oprah.

  29. I just hate it when during a day flight most shades are closed (this is a US phenomenon, and not that frequent in Asia or Europe).

    Why? Because most of the flights I take are related to a time change, and most of the time I am already or will soon be jetlagged. Closed shades during such flights highly increase it.

    And yes, I bet it must be an unpleasant work space for FA, too.

  30. @Window People Are Selfish — As I made clear above, I’m a shades open guy. But what I didn’t make clear is that I’m an aisle guy. Don’t conflate wanting shades open with a seat preference.

    (but also, the decision on shades sits with the person in the window seat)

  31. This was clickbait on a stick from @Gary and kudos to him it worked.
    I am with Sara. Buy an eyeshade if you don’t like the light. I am an aisle (and window internationally) and like to see out. I have no problem viewing my Lenovo tablet window open or closed. But, I also agree the window seat owns the shade.
    BTW, Virgin Atlantic does or did require shades open on takeoff and landings. Makes sense to me.

  32. According to the NY Times airplane windows do not block UVA (which is the UV that causes most skin cancers). So I completely agree that all window shades should be kept closed!

    The pretty view can be enjoyed in shorter intervals

  33. At cruising altitude

    -When I keep my window blind open, it affects other passengers wellbeing

    -When I keep my window blind closed, it affects other passengers wellbeing

    Each passenger has their own needs

  34. When I get to the aircraft seat, I greet the passengers who are sitting next to me

    This action is a courtesy towards the human beings with whom I am going to share the flight

    The initial greeting allows a human approach, so that any further interaction is usually made easier

    If I am seated in a window seat

    I ask my fellow passengers before closing the window blind

  35. I like the window seat because i like to look out of it.It bothers me when people take a window seat and close the blind.I feel uncomfortable coming in to land and not being able to see where we are.I flew into Honolulu,and almost everyone had the shades closed.Really,a view like that,smh

  36. Hey Gary, Im curious to know if there are any studies dont relating to the temperature reduction for aircraft cabins when the window blinds are closed? The airline I work for currently dont do it but they are looking to trial this procedure. Thanks

  37. Always leave the window shades at least halfway open. The only joy in flying is looking out the window at the land and sea below. A flying coffin for 12 hours is miserable. If you want it dark, wear eye shades. I don’t watch movies as I wear earplugs and prefer it quiet. And no way can you sleep in economy minus. And with all shades down, you can’t read. Even the FA couldn’t adjust my overhead light so it wouldn’t shine on my seatmates. Just spent 12 horrible hours awake & in the dark. I remember when most people left window shades up most of the time. Now, it’s pitch black the whole flight. This is so far beyond weird.

  38. I do agree!
    I want the light,and to look out the window, even at night! Have you ever seen the northern lights…spectacular! You won’t with the shades down!
    What about snow studded mountains, glorious seas cascading onto beautiful
    Beaches, fields of bountiful crops,twinkling city lights…there is so much to see from your airplane window….do keep it open not only to enrich your life,but that of your
    Seat mates as Well!

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