The ‘critical’ reason plane window shades have to be open for landing

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As the plane starts its descent, flight attendants will always ask the window seat passenger to open the shade. But why is it so important to follow their instructions?

David Doughty, an aviation expert and CEO of private jet company Admiral Jet, told “While opening window shades during a plane’s descent might seem insignificant, this is actually a highly recommended safety feature that most airlines follow.

“It helps passengers and crew members maintain situational awareness during an emergency while landing.

“For example, if there is smoke or fire on the ground, being able to see outside can help passengers determine the safest exit routes and help crew members direct evacuations.”

If the plane has to land in an emergency, passengers will be able to evacuate more easily if the shades are open.

Mercedes Zach, travel expert at Asaptickets, added: “It is of critical importance for cabin crew members as well as passengers to be able to see outside so they can assess the situation and make the necessary adjustments.”

In the unlikely situation the plane does have to make an emergency landing, open windows could also help any emergency staff to assist passengers.

Rosie Panter, head of content at dealchecker, told “If something goes wrong during landing, every second counts.

“Having all windows clear makes it easier for rescue teams to see into the cabin. Opening the shades also helps passengers acclimatise to the outside light levels quickly if they have to evacuate.”

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In the event of an emergency landing, the plane could even have to land on water such as in 2009 when a US Airways flight had to land on the Hudson River in New York.

Passengers will be able to prepare for their evacuation more easily with the window shades open and emergency staff may be able to see inside.

Emergency landings are thankfully extremely rare. However, there’s another reason for the shades to be open for every landing.

Doughty told “Opening window shades during descent can also help passengers adjust to the changing light levels as the plane descends.

“As the aircraft gets closer to the ground, the natural light outside the plane gets brighter as the cloud cover disperses.

“If the window shades are closed, passengers can experience a sudden change in lighting conditions that may cause disorientation or even nausea for those sensitive to light.

“By gradually adjusting to the changing light levels, passengers can reduce the likelihood of experiencing these symptoms.”

Passengers could even lessen the chance of suffering from jet lag if they adjust to natural light during their descent.

Zach added: “When flying at high altitudes, the sun’s rays can be much stronger than at ground level, even if it’s cloudy outside.”

Tourists may also feel more relaxed during turbulence if the window shade is open as they will be able to watch the landscape.

The window seat passenger also has the best chance of catching some incredible views when they land.

Passengers that sit on the right side of the plane when they fly into Heathrow have the best chance of catching breathtaking panoramic views of London.

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