a row of seats in an airplane

The Boeing 787 Dreamliner is a wonderful plane, in many ways.

As a newer generation wide body aircraft made of special composite materials, it’s a lot quieter and more fuel efficient than many of its earlier predecessors, with a more enjoyable interior space too. Even the windows are unlike any other, but on American Airlines, that often lead to a funny tug of war between cabin crew and passengers.

The Boeing 787 Dreamliner is the only commercial plane without any window blinds. Instead, the planes windows dim, allowing passengers to effectively black them out, like a computer screen on the lowest setting, or leave them “fully open”, letting in as much light as any other plane with the blinds up.

This has lead to more controversy and frustration than one could imagine.

American Airlines cabin crew have real opinions on how customers treat their blinds, and like parents ferrying children around, they have the ability to “lock” the blinds for all passengers into certain positions, such as fully dim. After overruling one too many passengers, the child proof locks are being taken away, kind of.

a plane with rows of seats

American Tells Cabin Crew To Stop Locking Blinds

Ok, so you’re right – there are no “blinds” – just dimmers – but, you get the gist, right? American Airlines cabin crew members love sleeping working on flights and setting the tone for all, by locking all the window dimmers into one position, to control the mood.

When they deem people should be asleep, they lock all the dimmers in full blackout mode. When they want you to eat, they turn them all up to full brightness. If you want something different, tough luck.

If you’re a jet lag aficionado and believe in controlling the light environments around you, this presents a problem. If you want just a crack of light while you work the night away, this also presents a problem.

Per OMAAT, American has sent out a memorandum telling cabin crew to stop messing with the blinds, after what must have been an enumerable amount of complaints. That certainly doesn’t mean everyone will read the memorandum, or that one should point out that such a memorandum exists, should there be any issues – but it should help.

GSTP Take: Let Passengers Sort It Out

Like many things in life, these issues tend to be best left between the passengers. If someone would like me to dim my blind, and politely asks to do so, I’ll gladly oblige if at all possible.

If I’m trying to sleep and the person next to me doesn’t want to dim theirs, I have eye masks and the ability to control my own blind. We each paid for our seat (hey, even points count), it’s not a private jet, so we can’t expect absolute rule over the cabin.

This is a great move by American Airlines which settles a very frustrating passenger experience issue, where you could never quite win with the virtual blinds. Cabin crew should stop “locking” the virtual blinds to the setting of their choice, which allows each passenger, or row of passengers to customize their lighting environments.

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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  1. As Cabin Crew myself, I have to admit, I do agree with locking the blinds DIM on night flights.

    Being sat near the window in economy gives you ‘control’ of probably about 40-50 other people environment when it comes to light or dark.

    I used to see it on flights from the UK to the Far East all the time. Flight would take off from LHR for Hong Kong say, around 19:30 UK time. We’d serve dinner and drinks and by around 22:00/23:00 dim the lights as passengers doze off by the dozen. By 01:00 85% of the aircraft are sound asleep, aided by the darkness.

    At 02:00 UK time the odd passenger that decides he wants to stay awake opens a window blind in economy. I’ve seen it happen time and time again – it wakes up the 20 – or – so people sat around them trying to sleep as well.

    1. Is there a way to lock it to say 25% max? I see your point but I also like to see out for scenery when mountains etc.

    2. Tough.

      Pack a sleep mask, as the writer of the article does. I don’t need you controlling me when I paid maybe a grand to take the flight.

      1. Tbh I think that is a little bit of a selfish viewpoint. It’s a little like people that insist on having their seat reclined during the meal service and also eating. ‘Since you’re eating, would you mind popping your seat upright so the person behind me has a little more room to eat their meal’? ‘I paid my thousand dollars for the seat and it has a recline button and if I want to recline it I will’. Urgh.

        The whole window shade opening thing on a night flight always has a domino effect as well. You are the rogue that has to open it illuminating the whole immediate area. You wake the person in front of them and now they open theirs.

        As a passenger, I am considerate. If I am on a night flight and I can obviously see that the overwhelming majority of my fellow fliers want to sleep I won’t open the window shade. The effect the bright sun has on a totally dark cabin is not small. If I need light, i’ll use my individual reading light. If I want to gaze outside i’ll go to the galley or door and look out of the window there. Then again, I am considerate and will go with the majority instead of the ‘i’ve paid my money so f**k you other 200 people trying to sleep’.

  2. Just flew the 787 for first time. Economy Aisle seet. My son liked the windows. The seat itself was not comfortable. Specifically , my upper thighs and backside hurt. My wife noted the same.

  3. What surprises me when travelling in the US on any type of aircraft is that very rarely do the flight attendants ensure that the window blinds are open on take off and landing. Which I know is an FAA regulation

    1. That’s not true. There is no FAR regarding window shades being open during takeoff and landing. The airline itself may make it a rule, and since these rules have to be approved by the FAA, the rule becomes effectively an FAR, for that airline only.

  4. On Tui flights UK-Mexico, the Dreamliner crews got into the habit of serving lunch at 1pm UK (probably just south of Iceland), clearing away a hour later, then locking the windows to black for the next 5 hours. That got some complaints.

  5. I usually book a window seat. On a day flight I love to kook out of the window and observe the geography, clouds, mountains etc.
    I’m surprised that on morning/day flights the number of people who pull the blind down…
    Sometimes it’s because they want to watch a film..
    On occasions where I have been asked to close the blind on a day flight by the Cabin Crew or by the passenger in the aisle seat I’ve generally refused .
    I’ve also flown many times from LHR-SIN and of course as it is a night flight observe the blinds rule

  6. Same issue on Virgin and I suspect other Dreamliner operators. Hopefully we’ll all be given back control one day.

  7. @Duckling, your approach is very “Big Brother”. Do you also believe there should be an all-knowing government making decisions for the whole society? Seems like many cabin-crew (esp AA) abuse their power, esp those who threaten a passenger of expulsion if they are disobedient. I hope you’re not one of them.

    1. FYI I was giving my opinion and perspective. At BA we do NOT lock the window shades dark. I would absolutely ask a passenger with a window shade open on a night flight with the majority of people sleeping if they’d mind closing it. If they say ‘actually, yes I do’ then so be it.

      Exactly the same with the example that I used above regarding seat recline while eating. We can request. We will not enforce.

      It’s just consideration for the majority really.

  8. I flew on a night flight where the aurora was visible outside from my window seat and then the guy in a row behind me started to complain about his beauty sleep being ruined and whined to the flight attendant until they forced me to close the window. So i complied, pulled out a nice novel, turned my light on, and didnt turn it off until morning.

    You reap what you sow.

    Rediculous that i cant look out a window of a dreamliner unless the crew allows me.

  9. Personally, I don’t like someone controlling what I can and cannot see through my window. I book exclusively window seats because I enjoy looking out of the plane, filming things like takeoff, landing, other interesting things and photography. I am also slightly skiddish. If I can’t see out a window I get a bit nervous and it helps to calm my nerves also. I’m not a complete tool as I practice what I preach, but I ALWAYS bring a sleep mask to block out the light from anything Illuminating my area. Making the argument about controlling the shades for the good of the other passengers is just as asinine as making an argument for controlling the overhead “personal” light for each passenger’s designated seat (I don’t think that’s even possible, but I may be wrong) because you think that just because people SHOULD be sleeping in your mind, a person should not have a light on to read a book in silence whilst everyone else is sleeping.

    Point is, attendants are there for exactly that…to attend the passengers…not be overnight hitlers dictating what a REASONABLE passenger can or cannot do to enjoy their flight (when I say reasonable,, I mean as in not some loony passenger trying to make waves over a Corona mask mandate or even trying to break into the cockpit). Some people like me only get to fly every now and again, so when we get the chance to look out the windows, we take every chance we get. This experience shouldn’t be trampled on. Good for AA putting out this guidance!

  10. So I am claustrophobic and if I don’t have the ability to look outside (especially if there is any sort of turbulence which is ok to me as long as I can see the ground or the top of the clouds) I am going to be that passenger that freaks out so my blinds better be my blinds (as I specifically request the window seat so I can raise the blinds if I need to in the brief instant that I might need to look outside to make sure we are not crashing).

  11. So true about the narrow 787 seats in Y! Horrid!! I had shoulder wars as well as arm rest battles with one gent. I had the mixed fortune of a baby in a car seat for 14 hours on one flight. It may have cried 4 times but at least I had space! I won’t fly it, or the 10 abreast B777 if I can help it. Actively hunt out the A350 and A380. Even the A330 is more comfortable. Why are American planes so cramped yet the European ones more spacious?

  12. Somehow it seems that dimming a window is a big issue – nonsense.
    The majority of the passengers have no access to the windows. TRY TALKING ABOUT LEG ROOM!

  13. Hey Ricky…why inject your political ‘view’ in this conversation…seems you would prefer an Edict, instead of cooperation…
    Relegate yourself to the rear of the aircraft, let those ‘up front’ sort it out amicably…

  14. AA staff like it dark, keeps customers compliant (and gives them an easier time. I’ve seen a number of comments, including from cabin crew about ‘night flights’. I’ve taken the AA late morning flight (10:15am) LHR to Charlotte. Bearing in mind 11am UK is 7am Charlotte (and so day time). The cabin crew insisted the blinds were shut until we we in US air space. I was wide awake and so wanted to read a book, and having been told brusquely that I should close my blind, I tried opening it a couple of inches, again, the cabin crew came over almost immediately and sternly told me to shut the blind (same manner you might expect if wandering around near landing). Its laughable.

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