Two Passengers Caught Insanely Fighting Over the Window Shade, Which One Was Right?

The person in the window seat usually has control over whether the window shade is open or closed. However courtesy plays a role too. On overnight flights across time zones window shades should be closed whenever possible – many passengers are trying to sleep, but it may be light out early. The outside light might also interfere with an aisle seat passenger seeing their laptop screen and getting work done.

Reasonable requests should be accommodated, though it’s up to the passenger in the window to make the trade-off decision. One key to peace on board is good communication. “I’d love to leave the window shade up just as we take off, and I’ll be glad to put it down once we reach cruising altitude” is hard to argue with.

These passengers, though, couldn’t come to a reasonable understanding.

Takeoff and landing are the most critical parts of the flight. Window shades should be open. Passengers have greater situational awareness, and everyone’s eyes are better acclimated in case anything does happen. Supposedly the incident occurred on descent, after crew had announced that window shades should be open. That may make you think the passenger raising the shade was in the right here. I disagree.

It’s up to the cabin crew to enforce their instructions, not other passengers. At most the passenger raising the shade should have consulted with crew who would have acted as they deemed necessary. Never take a dispute with another passenger into your own hands unless your safety is at direct and immediate risk. Neither passenger was right here.

Some modern aircraft – like the Boeing 787 – allow crew to manage these things themselves. While passengers can electronically open and close shades, crew can lock them. That would have been a great feature here!

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. YOur argument is spurious! They’re not even in the same row!!!!
    No there’s no contest here.
    The A hole who wants the blind down and says it’s too bright has his own blind up!!!!
    Then the snowflake who’s already reached into another passenger’s space says the other pax is being rude!?!?!!!!
    And dares the man in front to raise it again citing assault will be his watchword. All the while talking through the announcement telling them to leave the blind up!
    This is an AHole Looking for a fight. Full stop.

  2. His own window shade is open (as you can see at about 1:26 remaining in the video). So his claimed excuse that the forward passenger’s shade being open makes it too bright makes absolutely no sense.

  3. BOTH at fault? I’m sorry, but the passenger sitting NEXT to that window is right. The guy in the row behind him is being extremely rude by constantly putting the shade down. How can this in any way be the fault of the man next to the window?? And why didn’t the cabin attendant shut this down immediately explaining “his window, his decision”.

  4. Ah, the sagas of airplane etiquette! I agree that whenever possible the FA should be called to settle disputes. It seems that was done here, presumably by the passenger sitting by the window though it’s unclear from the video who called her and what she was saying. Also presumably, she sided with the passenger who wanted it up and was sitting by the window in question, but that’s unclear. If she didn’t make sure the matter was settled, the dispute is ultimately on her and the airline.

    Also, who was videoing this encounter? Either the passenger trying to pull down the shade or his seatmate? And why film this if that passenger’s actions were outside the bounds of normal airplane conduct?

    As with so many videos such as this, we don’t know what might have come before the incident. Perhaps the sun was shining right into the eyes of the passenger who wants the shade down. It’s also noteworthy that his own window shade was up.

    Anyway, as long as we’re delving into this, I’d side with the passenger who wants it up simply because he’s the one by the window. I’ve never seen someone reach into the area of the seat in front to open or close a window shade. I’d consider it really out of bounds to do so. And while the person by the window might have been inconsiderate in not closing it if the passenger behind was inconvenienced by it, it’s still the right of the person by the window to close or open it.

  5. Both at fault? I think not. How could anyone side with the jerk in the row behind? Totally inappropriate and extremely rude to try to control the window next to someone else. The stewardess should have shut that down immediately with “his window, his choice. Keep your hands in your own row.”

  6. I’m with Jamesay here. The window shade wasn’t even in the guy’s row when he’s trying to put it down. The guy wanting to leave it up is 100% right. It’s fine to say that you shouldn’t get into a fight on a plane – I agree – but in this case the guy trying to put it down is COMPLETELY wrong.

  7. Worse than the window shade debate is the new scourge of passengers who need their overhead light shining down on their backlit iPad so they can play candy crush (usually with the sound on!). And they keep moving the iPad so that the reflection of the light shines right in the eyes of passengers a couple rows back.

  8. This is too over the top – I have a feeling this is a stunt…

    Posting the video with titles, window next to the guy in the rear is open…

    Camera out and going before it really escalated

  9. I once sat next to a militant passenger who refused to open the shade one-third of the way a minute before landing, asked a few minutes before landing. That was my request in order to be accommodating even though I believe it should be opened all the way and at least 2-3 minutes before landing. The flight attendant agreed that it is wise and safer to do so but their airline manual did not require it.

    On a different topic, which of the following description matched that militant passenger?
    a. obese, African American woman probably in her 30’s from New York metropolitan area
    b. skinny, Italian American man, recent college graduate from Staten Island, NY
    c. average weight, husky white man with cowboy hat from Wichita Falls, TX
    d. slightly overweight, U.S. born Latina woman probably in her 20’s from Iowa

  10. @derek: “On a different topic, which of the following description matched that militant passenger?
    a. obese, African American woman probably in her 30’s from New York metropolitan area
    b. skinny, Italian American man, recent college graduate from Staten Island, NY
    c. average weight, husky white man with cowboy hat from Wichita Falls, TX
    d. slightly overweight, U.S. born Latina woman probably in her 20’s from Iowa”

    Because all of this is obviously relevant to the issue at hand.

  11. The most ambiguous window situation is the window located directly in line with the forward passengers seat back. I have several times closed this window shade by reaching between my seat back and the wall, but could also see the person behind me claiming it as theirs since they could reach forward a little and also move the shade. I’ve only ever touched it when its been particularly bright and I couldn’t see my laptop screen (with no complaint from passenger behind me). Otherwise it stays untouched in the no-mans land! It would be quite awkward to talk to the person directly behind as well, so not sure how else to handle other than slowly lower it and wait to see if they lean forward to say something.

  12. The middle seat passenger was in the right. The window seat passenger was in the wrong. This is because there was an announcement by a crew member.

    What would I do?

    In the past, I politely asked then explained my reason. The militant woman refused to budge. I asked the flight attendant for advice, which she said the reason to open it is good but is not the airline’s requirement.

    In the future, I will not sit there and die. Instead, I will ask to be re-seated. I will (and did) compromise to modify my request from opening the window shades before landing to opening it one-third just a few moments prior to landing.

    As far as not being relevant, it can be. I do not know if it is a culture thing to be militant. If it is a cultural thing, maybe a cultural response might be appropriate.

  13. Oh Hell No. This isn’t even close. This is his window seat and the man behind him is out of luck. I pick a window seat because I want to see out of the window. If I want it open, it is open until I want it closed. If the early morning sun is shining in blinding us – I close it. If it is dark outside but I want to see the lights down below, I open it – it is dark outside. I’ve had one jerk in Dublin turn around and close my window right after we took off. A few minutes later I opened it again and thankfully he let it be. I don’t even care if the person beside me wants to sleep during the day. That is not my problem – do they care that I want to look out of the window? I am nice, polite, clean, dressed decent, not too much perfume, I don’t bother anyone, I am quite – leave me and my window alone.

  14. I’m very sensitive to bright light and often want a window shade pulled down. But I would NEVER reach into someone else’s space like the guy in the video. I would ask politely and if the person said no, I would just sit there and suffer rather than make a scene. I always try to choose my battles wisely.

  15. This just reinforces that the right move is to never argue with another passenger. Ring the FA (and keep ringing until they come) and let them handle it. (And if they did not respond properly – rare, but it happens – just agree, get their names and file a complaint with just the facts. At least with the airline, but once I did it with the FAA (it was a safety issue). I am not a complainer, but sometimes you have to complain to make sure things are handled properly or they will just happen again.

  16. This is just more gossip tabloid crap Gary pedals to get a rise out of everyone. Who is in the wrong here?
    Gary is of course for blogging this sh_t.

  17. Gary, Angela just blew away your argument. People pick window seats because they want to look out the window. If others try to require the window seat people to put down the shade, then you have just turned someone else’s window seat into another middle seat.

  18. Just want to point out that the man demanding to close the other person’s window shade has his own window shade open. Really?! Watch the video carefully – seems likely this was staged.

  19. I think Greg is right (and was thinking this myself as I was watching it). This video looks like a fake. There are four things that suggest this is staged…

    1) Rear passenger’s window shade is up and he’s bitching about the window shade in front of him being up? Makes no sense. It would make sense if the sun was hitting him from that angle. But that does not appear to be the case from the video.
    2) Camera is already going before the FA is called.
    3) FA does nothing and leaves an escalating situation to continue to escalate.
    4) Rear guy and front guy remain seated and neither gets in either’s face? How many dispute videos have we seen where this DID NOT HAPPEN? I can’t think of any.

    On the other hand, if the FA was in on it, allowing herself to be put on video in a staged situation would reflect bad on her and her employer and probably lead to her termination. It is true that some cabin crew are that stupid and do things they shouldn’t and lose their jobs for it but there’s no indication that’s the case here.

  20. So – I’m flying from Tokyo Narita to JFK in NYC – and I clearly had read that the best way to avoid ‘jet lag’ is to keep your window shade UP for as long as you are awake and there is light outside, as is the case when traveling Eastbound leaving Tokyo at hi-noon.

    I’m in Biz Class, and this was huge one on a 747 with less than 20 percent of the seats occupied, which meant to me – that she who sat in front of me – could have easily mover herself anyplace else.

    After take off I pulled the shade fully up – and then a few minutes later she asked me if I would lower the shade. I did lower it a bit more than half way down – but apparently that was not satisfactory for her.

    When she re-complained again – I just pushed the shade up all the way, and said to myself:
    “I hope she is not a Buyer that I might deal with” – as I was in Apparel sales at the time.

    You can agree with me or not – but keep in mind she had the opportunity to easily move her seat – and she did not.

  21. I’d let the passenger keep the window up and continually bump the back of his seat to annoy him just as the bright light is annoying me.

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