Stories

Personal devices spark war over planes' windows

A passenger taking photos from their window seats.
Photo: Getty Images/Patrick Foto

As personal devices become the centerpiece of in-flight entertainment, airline passengers are increasingly at odds over the use of window shades, the Wall Street Journal writes.

The big picture: Passengers and airlines say the increased use of devices such as iPads and phones has boosted the desire for darkness. Outdoor light — especially when bouncing off clouds or ice — causes glare that can make it harder to view screens.

  • Many daytime flights have begun to travel in the dark, with some Boeing 787 flights disabling individual controls to keep windows dimmed throughout — and flights from Asia to North America often block passenger control entirely.

The other side: Many want the shades kept open to enjoy the view, gain reading light or keep one's internal clock in check.

  • Some customers who favor light complain that pressure from seat mates or controlled windows make them feel cheated from their window-seat experience.
  • Delta says it's even had to address customer conflicts over window light, which they resolve by relocating passengers into areas of the plane favoring dark or light.

The bottom line: Window seats were once coveted for their view. Now, they're a matter of power, thanks to technology's ever-growing influence on our lives.

Go deeper: Airlines on track to devalue frequent flyer miles