Airline Passenger Takes Revenge On Middle Seat Karen Who Reaches Across To Close His Shade

A passenger reports being in a window seat while the woman seated beside him in the middle seat kept reaching across him to close the window shade.

“She never asked me,” he said, and he would “immediately reopen it” and then every few minutes “she would reach in front of [him] again to close it.” This was on a noon flight, rather than one where the expectation for the cabin was darkness. And since she kept reaching across him, fighting for control of the shade, he decided to take ‘petty revenge.’

I pulled out my book and turned on the reading light, despite there being ample natural light from the open window for me to read. I then positioned my hands in such a way that my watch would reflect the reading light directly into her eyes.

I read like that for an hour, jiggling my hand the entire time, so it would shine the light back and forth across her eyes and be super distracting and annoying.

Once the plane landed he called her out for being rude. On the way into the terminal he stopped in front of her on the moving walkway, and then again “on the escalator to the curb,” and – he shares – he made a rude hand gesture throughout.

Now, I think the woman in the middle seat acted completely inappropriately. But the right answer here would have been to bring the behavior to the attention of the crew, not to antagonize her. That could have escalated things in the air and led to a diversion. Nobody wants that. Then on the ground there was no reason to continue the conflict. That was just childish.

It’s the question of who owns the window, though, that seems worth laying out clearly here.

  • The aisle seat gets to lean into the aisle for extra space
  • The middle seat comes with a bundle of rights that includes both armrests.
  • The window seat comes with control over the window shade… mostly.

And it goes without saying that the passenger at the window controls their own shade and nobody else’s. If darkness is important to you, then bring sunglasses or an eye mask.

There are (6) principles of airplane window shades:

  1. Shades up for takeoff and landing. That’s so everyone’s eyes are well-adjusted to the light, in order to facilitate evacuation in an emergency.

  2. The person at the window has control of the shade. If you’re in the window seat, you decide the position the shade is in.

  3. Flight attendant direction trumps. On modern widebodies window shades may be electronic and can be locked into position. A crewmember may decide all shades will be down, for instance, to accommodate passenger sleep. You may think you have control rights because it’s ‘your’ shade (usufructuary rights) but confrontations with cabin crew over this will not end well.

  4. Avoid blinding light. That’s especially the case on overnight flights and on early mornings. Traveling across time zones means that even though it’s “night” for people on board who may want to sleep, that doesn’t mean the sun isn’t shining where you are physically.

  5. Accommodate your neighbors. If someone asks you to put the window shade down (or up) consider accommodating you, especially if they have a strong preference and you do not. Don’t just arbitrarily do the thing they object to, or object to moving the position of the shade for its own sake.

  6. Close the shades before getting off the plane when it’s especially hot at your destination. That will help keep the aircraft cool for the next group of passengers during boarding.

Don’t let this happen!

I like an open window as much as possible, unless the sun is shining through the window so brightly that it interferes with screens. I don’t like flight attendants who require window shades to be closed on daytime flights from Europe to the U.S. since I never sleep on those flights and I find them less draining when I have light. But there’s not a lot I can do on a Boeing 787 when they control the shades, or when crew come around scolding passengers who open their windows.

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, 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. These posts about people’s behaviors are getting pathetic and obnoxious.

  2. What is the etiquette on a window that is split between seats? 1/2 & 1/2 but when the front seat is reclined it becomes more than 1/2? Less than half but when the front seat is reclined it becomes greater than half but not full? Who gets shade control? The pax in the front or the pax in the back? Does it matter? Life is not always black and white.

  3. Shades up for takeoff and landing is also so you can see if it’s safe to evacuate on your side of the plane.

  4. Adding to Bob’s comment it also allows the fire rescue folks to see which rows are occupied if they have a choice before penetrating the fuselage with a nozzle.

  5. RPVC-Noah’s arc probably never happened. But if it did, it did carry Noah and his family

  6. I’ve never had a person do that, but then again, I am a big guy and that seems to have an effect at times.

  7. Re: The Shared Window. I think the practical rule is that whoever has the view out the window gets to control it. If you have to turn around to close it, it’s not yours, but the person in back of you may not care. If you recline and can see out, it’s yours.

  8. I always take the window seat. If asked/told to close the window, I say I have motion sickness and may vomit if it is closed.

    I’ve never had an issue with anyone escalating the request after that.

  9. I had a lady seated behind me that kept opening my window shade. The sun was blaring through the window (In Arizona/116-degree day) & as a skin cancer survivor I did not want the sun hitting me in the face. I tried to be polite at first but that ended quickly. She started screaming at me in both English and in Spanish, telling me how rude I was for shutting my window. I finally told her that I was a frequent flyer & I try to be respectful of fellow passengers, so much that I don’t recline my seat so the person behind me has some extra room. For this long flight, I had my seat reclined the entire time, which made it more obvious that the window she wanted to open was in fact mine.

  10. @RPCV
    Noah’s ARK never happened. Quit injecting ludicrous religious crap into everything. Save it for your bible study. You already got SCOTUS. What more do you want?

  11. It’s a prank. Look closely the passengers window next to his seat is open and he’s trying to close his mates window in the row in front of him. Why would his window be up ?

  12. Children acting like children

    I have never had a problem asking someone to lower the blind provided they weren’t taking pictures or looking out window

    The ONLY time I have ever reached over is when person by window fell asleep on overnight flight and left shade open

  13. I had this happen to me once. I thought it was extremely rude. Just ask. When a window seat person keeps the shade down during daylight the flight seems longer.

  14. Once I sat by a very militant African American woman who refused to raise the shades even 1/3 open prior to landing. This is a safety hazard. If that happens now, I will raise a scene and even insist on sitting on the exit row jumpseat. Such woman should not endanger others.

  15. Did you notice that this drunken jerk’s OWN WINDOW was open ?

    This obnoxious, drunken, British limey loser (who sounds like bad imitation of James Corden) should have been banned for life from flying that airline ever again. Seriously.

    And the FA who did nothing should be reprimanded and retrained on how to stop and shut down pathetic, little whiny jerks like “Mr. Drunk Brit” here.

  16. Amy C – bitter much?

    “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.”
    John 15:18

  17. @Fernsie
    @Amy C.

    You know that Noah’s ark didn’t happen? You were there?

    Is that why almost every culture all over the world has some sort of Noah’s ark story told for generations?

  18. @Amy, that comment was in a spirit of levity. The anti-religionists are as tiresome as the religionists in their dogmatism Lighten up.

    On the topic at hand, I propose courtesy rather than brazen presumptuousness or petty revenge. Middle person, ask politely and state why: “Could you raise the window. We will see Mount Everest on the right in five minutes.”

  19. @Moe “Is that why almost every culture all over the world has some sort of Noah’s ark story told for generations?”

    Religion is all about power and control..

    A destruction story in primitive cultures is the same as a mom saying : “if you don’t stop RIGHT NOW I’m turning the car around and going back”.

    Belive what you will, but don’t assume you can apply your beliefs on others.

    Finally, THAT travel tall tale has nothing to do with travel today. Please stay on topic, as upgrades on an imaginary ark are unlikely

  20. Never retaliate, always inform the flight crew. The reason is you tell the crew is: thev crew CAN toss them off the flight. You cannot have her meet at the airport by police easily, but the crew sure can have her meet and cuffed You cannot get her kicked off a connecting flight even on another airline, but the crew can.

  21. @ Amy C and Zebraitis. Here’s a concept for you . . . take your own advice. It will work out much better for you, “belive” me.

  22. @derek

    There is no requirement to raise shades during takeoff and landing in the U.S., except in certain rows on particular aircraft where the crew need it to see out in the event of an evacuation. If that’s the case on your aircraft, the crew will tell you. If there is no announcement, then there is no rule. Your feelings about what the rules should be does not change what they are or allow you control over the window if you are not seated in the window seat. And the crew will not allow you to sit in a jumpsuit. It is not allowed.

    I personally prefer windows open on takeoff and landing both for the safety aspect and to see out, but no such requirement exists in the U.S., unless a particular carrier or aircraft requires it.

  23. Never retaliate, always inform the flight crew. The reason is you tell the crew is: thev crew CAN toss them off the flight. You cannot have her meet at the airport by police easily, but the crew sure can have her meet and cuffed You cannot get her kicked off a connecting flight even on another airline, but the crew can.

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