In June I wrote a post entitled “Is Opening Your Window Shade On A Plane A Right Or Privilege?”
The premise of the question was regarding flight attendants who try to dictate the position of window shades during a flight. In theory I can appreciate flight attendants trying to create a consistent ambiance in the cabin, but at the same time I think individual passengers should have the right to do what they want with their own window shades.
The conclusion I came to regarding the “right vs. privilege” of opening window shades during a flight was as follows:
- The person in the window seat has full control over the window shade, and can do whatever they please; after all, the window shade controls are at their seat
- At the same time, the person in the window seat should be a decent human being and try to be considerate of seatmates; if it’s an overnight flight where the sun is going to rise, keeping the window shade open for hours on end isn’t very considerate
So I suppose my thoughts on window shades are the same as my thoughts on seat recline — the right belongs with the person who has access to the controls, but that person should do what they can to be considerate.
Anyway, a reader emailed me the following question which is sort of a spin-off of my previous post, and it got me thinking:
I have always preferred aisle seats in my frequent flyer profiles but have recently changed that to window seats because of the trend of passengers to keep the window shades closed during the entire flight. On a recent noon flight out of ATL, first class on an MD-88, all but four windows had the shades closed during takeoff. I often close the window shade if I’m on the sunny side of the aircraft and I’m working on my computer but for the most part I enjoy looking out the window. Often you can see other aircraft traveling in the same or opposite directions. Trying to figure out what city you are flying over on a clear day. I can often identify the city by the airport and runway configuration. What about all the beautiful sunrises and sunsets passengers are missing?
If you are in the aisle and ask your seatmate to open the window they often give you the impression that you are invading their space. Sometimes they reluctantly open the window half way! On one flight the window seat passenger refused to open the window. So if he owned the window I owned access to the aisle. When we landed I blocked his exit to the aisle until all the passengers had exited from first class. Additionally I think this is a trend of the younger generation of passengers who are dialed into their phones for emails, text, listening to their play list, or playing games. Flying to the younger generation is probably like riding a school bus to my generation.
Now, previously I concluded “the person in the window seat has full control over the window shade, and can do whatever they please,” though could the same argument be made for the person in the aisle seat regarding the aisle? Does the aisle passenger have full control over the aisle, and not have to make room if the person in the window seat wants to get up?
The above point presents an interesting perspective, but I’m still not sure it changes my opinion. I suppose what it did change is how I view this. I no longer view aisle vs. window seats as coming with certain “privileges,” but perhaps rather that you should choose seats based on what’s important to you:
- If you have to get up often and value being able to get up whenever you want, pick an aisle seat
- If you value having a view out the window and deciding whether the shade goes up or not, pick a window seat
And while I can appreciate wanting to look out the window when you’re in the aisle, that can also be annoying for the person in the window seat. I don’t like when I’m in a window seat working on my laptop, and the person in the aisle is glaring at my laptop/out the window. So I think there’s that side to it as well.
Ideally we could all get along and do what we can to make flying as pleasant as possible for one another. If you’re in the aisle seat, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with asking the person in the window seat if they wouldn’t mind opening or closing the window shade, but I also wouldn’t be mad if they refused.
The other way around, I do tend to think that getting up is more of a right than a privilege. Though perhaps if you suffer from IBS or something similar, you should prioritize that need over the desire for a nice window view. But if the person in the window isn’t being cooperative, I can see why the person in the aisle might take a “two can play this game” approach.
Where do you stand? Does the passenger in the aisle seat have any say about the position of the window shade? Does the passenger in the window seat have a right to aisle access?