Are window shades required by regulation to be open for takeoff and landing?

Regarding window shades, there isn’t a regulation that requires them to be open for takeoff and landing. This has been an industry best practice for a long time, yet I don’t know the origin of it or how many years back it goes. What I do know is this best practice was already in place back in 1991 when I got started in aviation. The reason behind having window shades open during takeoff and landing, specifically critical phases of flight is very clear. Should there be an emergency and you need to conduct an evacuation, passengers and crew can immediately see outside and assess the conditions. They can quickly determine if it appears safe to exit nearby on that side of the plane, or if they need to find an alternate exit.

Some airlines have a policy that requires all window shades up for takeoff and landing. Other airlines require a few rows of window shades open forward and aft of an emergency exit, perhaps 5 or 6 rows, so the flight attendant can see outside, assess conditions immediately, and take appropriate action.

What is meant by appropriate action? Appropriate action would be to open the door and evacuate or redirect to an alternate usable exit. As all crewmembers know, or should know, every second matters during an evacuation. It could take a few seconds to get passengers to open their window shades so the flight attendant could look outside and start to determine the correct actions to take. With window shades open for takeoff and landing, the flight attendant can make a decision and act without delay. Here is one sad instance where passengers were delayed evacuating their plane and people died. While the reason for the deaths was not due to a delay in assessing outside conditions, part of the delay was due to some passengers wanting to get their luggage to take with them. Window shades closed or passengers reaching for their luggage, the problem was a delay in evacuating, and the unnecessary loss of life. 

Article by 7 News Australia.

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