When You Fly, Is the Window Shade Up?

Nearly all airline passengers prefer an aisle or window seat over a middle seat when flying. The benefits are obvious.

As for me, I admit my preference is an aisle seat when flying. Nothing wrong with window seats but I prefer the extra room, even a little, that comes with sitting in the seat closest to the aisle. Also, I enjoy the freedom to get up and roam, visit the lav whenever I choose, and speak with flight attendants when they are not busy.

Of course, choosing an aisle seat means the window seat passengers controls the window shades. I am okay with this but I do not understand something. Why do passengers in this seat keep the shade up when they are sleeping? I see this on nearly all flights, whether daytime or redeyes – even internationals. Even more amazing to me are those who keep the shade up and put on an eyeshade, then go to sleep.

Even if you are awake, what do you expect to see at 36,000 feet above mother earth? I can understand looking at the Grand Canyon or snow-capped mountains or the pizza farms as you fly out west, though it’s difficult to see much.

Window Seat - Pizza Farm

When I have a window seat, the shade is down (or down most of the way). It makes it easier to sleep or if I am working on my laptop, it cuts down on the glare. This also helps other passengers in similar situations. Want to read? Just turn on the overhead reading light.

I realize not all passengers are seated at window seats out of preference. Some who have the seat by default have told me they want the shade up because they are claustrophobic. Others say they sleep with the shades open at home so they do the same in the air.

Okay, I get this but given that I fly perhaps a hundred segments each year, are there really this many people who fit the above criteria? There just has to be more reasons. I am not trying to be critical here, just trying to learn. If you have a window seat and prefer having the shade up, my curiosity is asking why.

Order now! Business Travel Success…How to Reduce Stress, Be More Productive and Travel With Confidence!

To receive a free copy of our ebook, 70 Secrets to Safe Travel — Because Your Life Can Change in a Heartbeat, and for more travel savvy info to help you travel smarter, safer and with more enjoyment, visit SmartWomenTravelers.com and PearlsofTravelWisdom.com.


  1. I can’t stand when people put the shade down.

    Do people just not sleep at night or something? I enjoy being able to look out the window … so I have been booking window seats more. Half the time, the aisle pax asks me to close the window.

    This seems to happen to me on United more often than other airlines (although it’s probably just a coincidence)

    But really….I don’t get why people do it.

  2. I just like to enjoy the view at 34k feet…observing the vastness of “flyover” states is reassuring when I consider my life’s decisions 🙂

  3. I am a big fan of the view from the window so tend to have the shade up. I do drop it down if sleeping (unless the person next to me is watching the view) and during times such as dawn when the cabin is mostly asleep and the light is intrusive. . During daylight hours though, up.

  4. One of the answers is contained in this month’s issue of the United Hemispheres magazine that I read just this morning on DEN-EWR: http://t.co/Ak4DHg0v

    Excerpt: “Adding windows or simply improving artificial light in offices has been shown to increase productivity, boost morale and reduce the number of sick days, headaches and cases of eyestrain among workers.”

    Plenty of sunlight is important for physical, emotional, and mental health. As an office worker, I already get too little of it. A plane ride above the clouds with loads of unadulterated sunlight is a nice opportunity. I bet people having the shades open is mostly subconscious: people just have a dislike of being stuck in a dark, gloomy tube in the air.

    I slept for about four hours in the window seat (1A) ICT-DEN-EWR this morning with the shade up. 😀

  5. I agree this is a very uncomfortable situation particularly on international flights. I don’t want that bright light shining in my face when I am trying to sleep or even just reading a book. It causes the pupils to contract and just adds to the fatigue of a long-distance flight.

  6. If I’m awake (regardless of what I’m doing) the shade is up. The only time I’ll lower it, is either morning flights or prevent glare on my tablet while watching movies.

  7. I like looking out the window, and I never know what I”ll see. I’m with Jayson. It’s up unless I have a reason to put it down (I agree that trying to sleep with it up is silly). The two reasons I have for pulling it down are that I’m trying to work on my computer and there’s too much glare, or that it’s all clouds outside or the sun is setting, so it’s brighter than normal. But it seems that if you care so much about keeping the window shade down, you should pick a window seat and lower it yourself.

  8. During daytime flights, I prefer the window shade to be up. I like daylight, it feels good. Also the overhead lights aren’t really bright enough to read without strain

    But I also think its a bit odd to request a window seat and then close the window shade for the whole flight.

    By the way, some foreign airlines require that window shades be open during takeoff and landing. Interesting that the FAA doesn’t require that here.

  9. I’ve been told to open the shade for takeoff/landing on at least one US carrier. If I didn’t care too much one way or the other, I’d just leave it open rather than have to remember to open it at the end of the flight.

  10. Up or down? It really doesn’t matter as long as people are considerate. It shouldn’t just be “if I want to sleep” or “if there is too much glare” I will close it. I feel that people should look around to see if a fully lifted window is negatively impacting their neighbors. I have often been momentarily blinded by sun beams on my face, while the sun never touched the window passenger. I have lifted “my” partially closed window a tad to give someone in my row better, more direct light. I find the sun can make the cabin very hot with an open window. I feel closing a window shade to help others sleep is polite. However, I do agree that there is plenty to see at 35K feet. A lot of times, partially closing a window shade can go a long way.

    Not sure if many others take the direction of the flight and the time of the day into consideration when selecting a seat. Nowadays I prefer an aisle seat opposite the side of the plane on which the sun will shine through the plane’s windows the most. For example: on a morning flight heading south I will select an aisle seat on the right side of the plane, never the left.

  11. i never close the shade because it’s awesome to see the world from above, the endless sky, the beauty of the clouds or the smallness of landscape and manbuilt structures. i love the sun and the blue sky. and sometimes sitting in a plane, reading or doing something else, i need a reminder that i am high up in the air, that it’s possible for us to reach places, even if they are on the other side of the planet in short time. and in the night, when you see the lights of the cities or roads, it’s also a great feeling. because flying is amazing – not very comfortable but still a wonderful experience.

    don’t get me wrong, on long haul flights, when travelling alone, i am also preferring aisle seats. but if i would sit at the window and a passenger next to me would like to have the shade closed for parts of the flight, it wouldn’t be a problem. just ask … =]

  12. I prefer them up to enjoy the view. I have been on some TATL flights eastbound from USA where the FA’s have gone down the aisle asking everyone to close the shades. This was evening departure / morning arrival flights, on LH if i recall.

  13. I too prefer an aisle seat, even better when there is an aisle on both sides… As for the window shades, I don’t much care. I’m not a tourist and I’ve seen most of it before. The ‘Coach Queen’ in the center or window seat can endure the shorter flights just as I do – ans without reporting that she usually flies up front. I do too, ,but I don’t need to share it with the entire plane. On relatively short flights in the back, I spread some electronic gear to discourage the “Seat-Belt – Got to pee routine.” We’ll be on the ground in under an hour… Pregnant or disabled will get some grace, but not the morbidly fat – and yes, I require that they contain themselves within the confines od THEIR seat, not mine.
    Long distance flights are a different story and it is rare that I don’t buy a much better seat. Even then, I don’t worry about the windows as one or two belong to me. Just so we don’t forget, t here is a huge difference between that 2.5 hour hop and the 10-hour international leg. I save my bucks and upgrades for the legs that really matter.

  14. I like the shade up. I tend to get airsick and it seems to make me feel better when it’s up. My son, on the other hand, doesn’t like window seats (he’s 12 and frequently flies alone) on his last flight he had the whole row to himself and put the shade down. The man in the row behind him kept reaching forward and putting the shade up. He did it more than once and it was a night flight. Weird.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.