# Why don't pilots control window shades & seat recliners?

Every time before landing or take off, the cabin crews continuously remind passengers to pull up the window shades, straighten their seats and what not. My question is why can't pilots be given control of these things, at a flick of a button they can open / close all window shades and upright all seats. It's 2015 not 1980.

• That shouldn't be the pilots, but the purser who is in charge of the safety of the cabin and of the evacuation.
– mins
Oct 16 '15 at 6:24
• harass passengers to pull up the window shades, straiten their seats interesting take on actions proven to enhance your chances of survival in the event of an accident. Oct 16 '15 at 7:13
• Um. 1980 wasn't the stone age, you know. There was plenty enough technology in the world to do this back then, too. Which should be telling you that the technology isn't the issue. Oct 16 '15 at 8:12
• Well, that is on the agenda, but first they are trying to get the passenger ejection capability approved and installed. Oct 16 '15 at 15:55
• As a parent of small children, please no. I don't know where their little fingers are when you push this button. Oct 16 '15 at 17:41

Adding all those actuators and associated wiring will add weight and cost to each flight, but the cabin crew have to be there for safety reasons, so they may as well have something to do.

Besides, how would you feel if your seat suddenly jolted you upright without warning?

• The biggest learning for me from Aviation SE, is the amount of consideration which goes into cost and weight issues when it comes to aviation. As a general passenger, I would not have known the amount of trade-offs airlines do to save costs. Oct 16 '15 at 10:10
• @Firee it's not just cost and weight. Certification, maintenance, more chances for things to go wrong, more sources of potential accidents, passenger safety (press the button, seat moves upright, babies fingers are in the gap) and so-on. It has to be really worth it for something to get added. Oct 16 '15 at 11:34
• @Simon your comment is probably the best answer this question has. Oct 16 '15 at 12:13
• Or if a child is climbing on or between seats when suddenly the seats automatically move by themselves. Or any number of other possible accidents that could happen any time furniture starts moving by itself directed by no one who can see what's next to it. Oct 16 '15 at 23:39
• @Mehrdad: Oh, keeping the cattle docile (and having them on your airline instead of the one that added those feature) is really worth it, all right. Oct 19 '15 at 9:22

On the Boeing 787, the mechanical window shades have been replaced with glass panes which can be made more opaque or transparent by applying electric current to them. (source) The passengers can control their own window's opacity through buttons, but the cabin purser can also control them centrally.

• I have noticed that too.. Which means, the newer aircrafts have recognised this as a mean to keep in control certain basic functions. Oct 16 '15 at 10:08
• @Firee : note that, in line with Airskick's answer, those blinds are designed to be fail-safe - lose power, and the window becomes transparent. Oct 16 '15 at 14:38
• As a result, the 787 is a horrible plane to fly on! I had blazing sun in my face all the way from London to Guangzhou, and there was nothing I could do about it. I believe the windows were at their lowest setting (not sure though) but it wasn't dark enough. As GdD said, give the passengers control over their own comfort. Oct 16 '15 at 23:41
• @alephzero I can't imagine that the electronically-controlled windows actually reduce parts count, let alone fabrication complexity. They add wiring, controllers, etc., which are almost certainly heavier and more expensive than plastic shades. The stated reason I've usually heard for it is that it allows passengers to be able to see outside without having sunlight flood the cabin, which makes sense considering the 787 is designed pretty much exclusively for operating long-haul routes where they normally want window shades closed for nearly the entire flight so people can sleep. Oct 17 '15 at 4:36
• The 787 window frames are about the 1/2 the weight of "traditional" window frames, and part of the weight savings comes from removing the frame for the plastic shade. source. I remember seeing a demonstration of the 777 and 787 window frames side by side at the Smithsonian, and I recall that the frames are both thinner and have larger windows. Oct 17 '15 at 14:00

Adding to @Airsick's answer there's an important psychological component, which is the illusion of control. Passengers in an airplane have very little they have control of, they are told when they can go to the bathroom and when they have to stay in their seat, they are given their meals rather than choosing when to eat, etc. Passengers have the option to control seat position, tray tables, shades, lights, and entertainment systems to suit their comfort. These things are important as they make people feel better about being shut up in an aluminum tube for hours, even if they make no ultimate difference as to what happens.

If you take control of these things away people would feel they are an intrusion into their personal space, and would not like it at all. People like doing things themselves, even if they have no choice ultimately.

• Very interesting thought into passenger psychology Oct 16 '15 at 10:06
• Is there any "hard" research, which confirms that the ability to change the seat position and control the blinds actually makes the airplane passengers happier? Oct 17 '15 at 6:54
• @DmitriPisarenko: I realise that this doesn't satisfy stringent scientific requirements, but, purely informally, isn't it completely obvious? Oct 17 '15 at 18:06

It would also be something else to cause a flight to be cancelled. If the window blind system failed and the blinds couldn't be operated manually then the aircraft would be grounded.

• @user23614 Whose CAA? There is no such regulation in the U.S., for example, so it's not an ICAO thing. That seems like a weird regulation anyway. I can't imagine how that would possibly improve safety, but rather quite the opposite. I can see having a regulation for the cabin lights being off during a night takeoff or landing in order for people's vision to be adjusted to darkness, but having the window shades open will not affect that when it's dark outside anyway. Oct 16 '15 at 19:05
• @user23614 Do you mean window blinds are required to be open? I've never been told that I have to close the window blind for landing or take-off. (And, echoing reirab, which CAA?) Oct 17 '15 at 7:50
• @user23614 I add my voice to the list of people who are confused by your claim that window blinds are required to be closed. Every single commercial flight that I took (more than half of which was during nighttime) specified that window blinds must be open during takeoff and landing. Oct 17 '15 at 10:25
• @user23614 It has been discussed here beofre. The blinds have to be open so that you see what's outside. For the very same reason, lights are dimmed for these operations (not switched off, just dimmed). They are more dimmed at night, so that the lighting level inside matches to an extent the one outside. In case of an emergency, this makes it easier to realize what happens etc. On all European flights I took it was like this.
– yo'
Oct 17 '15 at 13:00
• On average, I fly commercially about 15 times a year. About 10 within the UK, the rest somewhere else in the world. I have NEVER been on a flight where the blinds were required to be closed, always open. There is nothing in the CAP or ANO requiring this but it is standard procedure for BA, Virgin, FlyBe, Air France, Thompson, American, Emirates etc etc etc. Since it is an operational procedure, opening the blinds becomes a legal requirement in accordance with the ANO which states that any lawful command of a crew member must be followed. Oct 17 '15 at 20:45