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For Flight Attendant(s) - Why close the windows?

I'm enjoying reading the "Friendly Skies" thread and do appreciate the role and assistance of flight attendances.

For some reason the discussion prompted another question: Did airlines recently make mandatory closing the windows on Transatlantic flights? On our last trip (on a major airline based in another country with a blue and white logo..) the flight attendants were quite insistent that all windows be closed. I appreciate that the light might bother some people but that's what the eyeshades they pass out are for.

I always book a window seat so I can look out at the window - particularly the artic features of northern Canada and Greenland. And I love looking at Scotland as we near landing - there's really only a couple of hours where you're completely over water.

And yet it seems there's been increasing demand by the flight attendants to keep the windows closed. In which case the window seat is truly awful because it's so hard to get out.

Posted by
808 posts

Hmmmmm...Good question, I'm asking it myself...
This happened on a Trans-Atlantic flight, on a non-American Airline, blue and white logo...? If you can name the Country I can probably guess the blue and white livery. (Which may or may not necessarily mean anything at all...just curious)

My next question was this just on one particular flight, one leg or both? That might give a clue.

I'm sure there were more than a few inquiring minds on that one. Had I experienced this rather odd behaviour (as a pax) I probably would have asked the Incharge what was up. But then again they might not give a straight answer, either.

I'd imagine it would have to be safety-related somehow if the crew was INSISTANT upon it. Generally we don't insist or demand anything unless it is safety-related.

The Arctic/Greenland is truly spectatular and still takes my breath away! F/A NEVER complain about the view from their office! FORCE me to close my window shade and I'd be a little unhappy, too!

Posted by
3313 posts

No reason not to identify the airline - It was British Airways. But I've flown them several times before without the demand to close the windows.

Posted by
808 posts

I'm not familliar with BA's policies and procedures. If I can ask a BA F/A I will no doubt ask them about this because now I'm curious, too! Or maybe if someone out there will be flying with them sometime soon maybe you might ask?? Has anyone experienced this on BA? On any other?

My best guess would be that this was safety-related. Maybe they didn't want you looking out at the aircraft for some reason? Something like burned out bulbs on the wing can cause alarm/concern to pax...especially if they are nervous flyers to start with. (Not that insistantly closing all the shades wouldn't seem a little odd!)

Maybe there was some sort of mechanical issue they'd rather you not see? Who knows?

Posted by
9363 posts

I've experienced the same thing on United (en route to China and back) and Aer Lingus (two flights, both ways)

Posted by
219 posts

They may have closed them to encourage you to sleep or to not wake up those who already are. Did they also dim the cabin lights?

Posted by
705 posts

Experienced same on any overnight flight I have been on in the last few years. Qantas, Cathay Pacific and AA. I always assumed it was so people could sleep. I too book a window seat so I can look out and look at the scenery and even though the shades are down I slip them up a bit from time to time to have a look. The only other time I have been asked to put it down was when another passenger complained of the sun coming in.

Posted by
505 posts

Greetings
Trans-Atlantic flights are rarely long enough these days for much sleep, but when on a longer overnight flight, I really appreciate having all the windows shut.

Not everyone is comfortable with an eyeshade (think babies etc.) nor do they always work perfectly. And having a dark, quiet aircraft makes it MUCH easier to get some sleep, and people - kids especially - tend to be quieter when its dark. I loved Qantas because they firmly insisted on all windows being shut and pulled curtains across the toliet areas so there was almost no ambient light.
Also, on long trans-Pac flights, sometimes you need to be sleeping when it's not totally dark in order to deal with the time change. Which is when dark cabins are essential.

Frankly, most of the time you are on an overnight flight, you're probably either over water or so high up that you view is obstructed by clouds/distance. The best views tend to be at the beginning or end of flights or during the day.

Kate

Posted by
103 posts

On our flight to Italy from LAX, Lufthansa did the same, but not until it was time for sleep.. Maybe a closed shade gives a feeling of privacy and comfort as they did everything possible for the comfort of the pax.

Posted by
423 posts

On long flights, we were always asked to pull down the shades when it was time to sleep or when they were about to show a movie. I always knew when it was ok to open the shades when I could smell breakfast being heated up. I have fond memories of my 14 hour flight with Qantas from SFO. They really did an exceptional job at keeping passengers occupied.

Posted by
152 posts

I've had them ask the shades be down in daylight, so the lousy movie could be seen better. I don't recall any flights during darkness when they asked the shades to be down. If it's dark outside, how does that affect the sleepers?

Generally, I don't pick a window seat anymore, for the reason mentioned above: what's the point if you can't watch the landscape, clouds, close encounters with other planes, etc.

For our flight from SFO-LHR next month, we selected seats in the center section, where it's easier to get in and out.

Posted by
808 posts

Dimming the lights is definately standard procedure. (It helps to facilitate a more comfortable resting environment for relaxing or watching the movie. It also indicates that major services have been completed.)

Suggesting the window shades be lowered in order to better view the movie sounds reasonable. Or at least reasonable if you are flying into the daylight/sunlight. But being "insistant" on it and "increasing demand" to me, doesn't sound reasonable. Unless it is somehow safety-related?

Posted by
219 posts

Or if it was accidentally misinterpreted. Sometimes F/As have to be authoritative (many times for good reasons) and one should not take it personally.

Posted by
17 posts

Once, when we were leaving Rome at around 10:00 a.m. to return home I happened to look out the window on the right side of the plane (facing the flight deck). I had the amazing experience of seeing the aqueducts (parts were missing of course) as it snaked along the country side. It looked like a roller coaster from the air. Just as I was motioning for my adult son to look out the window, they closed them (people in front of me) to watch the "safety movie thing". I know this was in the interest of safety, I just wish they had done it while we were on the ground or after that amazing view was gone! I consider it a once in a lifetime sighting and will probably never be able to see it again. It was truly amazing.

Posted by
42 posts

I flew B/A over ten years ago and they did the same thing then. I was told by a flight attendant that it not only helped people to sleep better, but it also helped the passengers so that their brains didn't get so confused when they saw the sun coming up only a few hours after it went dark. I think it was to help with jet lag and the time change. I took a little peak out my window for a few moments and watched the sunrise and it was beautiful. I only lifted the shade part way up and looked around to make sure I didn't appear to be bothering anyone. Most of the passengers slept pretty well, or at least rested. I appreciated the dim lights and the shades being closed so it did feel like night, even after the sun was rising.

Posted by
365 posts

We had a similar experience a few weeks ago on BA..Seattle to Heathrow. Because of the flight departure times, there was no darkness the entire flight in both directions. Contrary to the problem expressed by others in this forum, we WANTED the windows shut. As poster Kate described, a few hours of sleep is not an unreasonable goal and eyeshades don't work well for many people. I appreciate wanting to see the scenery below, but I've flown these transoceanic flights many times and all one can normally see is the tops of clouds.

There was one person on the plane who wanted to keep the window open. Halfway open in fact, so it wasn't a "I just wanna see Greenland" thing. The flight attendant requested that the passenger close it, and she refused. The flight attendant reported back to us that she couldn't force the passenger to comply. An important point is that when traveling with children, if you can get them to sleep it's a big bonus. I don't care about myself.

Posted by
689 posts

On Lufthansa this summer we were requested to close shades. I kept peeking out because I love the horizon when you are headed over Greenland!!! But nobody FORCED the issue...

Posted by
3 posts

Airlines recently have been requiring that window shades be kept open at take-offs and landings, as a safety function. Flight Attendants may need to assess the outside conditions before an evacuation, and the more visibility, the better.

In flight, closing the shades has been more of a courtesy and not a requirement in my experience. On a flight to Europe from the States, you leave at night, and depending on the season, you may be experiencing a bright sunrise hours before you are landing. For people trying to maximize their sleep, who don't think ahead to bring eyeshades, it can be an illuminating experience. Asking to lower the window shades before they go to sleep will solve that problem.

On day flights, before the advent of seat-back monitors, it was difficult to see the movie screens with the shades open.

Tim Kirkwood, Author
THE FLIGHT ATTENDANT JOB FINDER & CAREER GUIDE

Posted by
342 posts

This is interesting. In 2005 and 2006 we flew to LHR from BWI via British Air. No one asked that the shades be closed. This past April we flew via AA and, again, no request that the shades be closed.

I wonder if it is individual crew preference?

Posted by
8995 posts

Majority rules. Isn't that the way the world works :)
I guess you could make the same argument for talking on a cell phone during a movie or play. You've paid for your ticket therefore you should do what ever you want, even if it interferes with the enjoyment of the rest of the audience. In this case, the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.

Posted by
808 posts

I agree with Tim and Steve!

Tim is absolutely currect! Great author, too!

I would say that the requirement to keep the shades down after critical phase of flight is a procedural preference which varies from airline to airline and not a universal protocal.

Posted by
3580 posts

I'm glad to be hearing from a flight attendant on this and other issues. I have a personal interest in the shades up-or-down issue; the glare from the window can be disturbing to me when I am trying to sleep or watch the movie. During the "sleeping time" (you can tell when this is because the flight crew dims the interior lights of the plane) it is thoughtful on the part of people with window seats to keep the shades pulled, especially when the light outside is bright.

Posted by
3313 posts

So I may have as lonely a position on this topic as I would if I wanted to be able to smoke on the plane. What's the point of having windows on a plane if you can't look out?

I have never been able to sleep on a plane. I have enormous interest in geography and a flight to Europe is a rare opportunity to see a polar landscape. So I always reserve a window seat. But if I'm not allowed to have the window open, I'm trapped in the dark.

I understand that many people want to sleep along the way. But it seems to defy logic that some people sleeping should dictate that the entire plane be dark. There's no similar demand on trains.

Again, I realize that mine is probably an unpopular position, but why should travelers expect their desire for darkness outweigh my desire to look out the window?

And when did British Air decide that closing the windows is mandatory? Sleepers can use eyeshades. There's no substitute for looking out the window...

Posted by
8995 posts

I also prefer window seats, and although I do like to look out the window when its okay, I mostly like the "wall" to lean against, and I find I get more sleep. Even when the lights are dimmed I will sneak a peak occasionally, and when flying over the Arctic ice packs, the glare is so bright it hurts my eyes. Unless you have sun glasses I don't think it very practical to leave the windows open in any event.

Posted by
808 posts

Doug,

While I can relate to your comparison of demands on a train to demands on an airplane...the two are very different, unique environments. Looking at it from a safety stand-point (as Flight Crew always do) there is a difference between train safety on the ground and flight safety at 30,000ft.