Will Airbus’ new ‘e-glass’ dimmable A350 windows spoil your view?

Newly-delivered A350 jets will adopt electrochroamatic windows which go black at the touch of a button.

By David Flynn, September 22 2021
Will Airbus’ new ‘e-glass’ dimmable A350 windows spoil your view?

Most frequent flyers love window seats, and with good reason: there's nothing quite like that view from high above the clouds.

Whether you're admiring sunrises and sunsets; making moonlight journeys over cities marked by telltale pinpricks of light; watching the distant landscape illuminated by the orange of dawns and dusks; or simply letting your mind run free, your thoughts as untethered to the ground as you are.

All of which could explain why a decision by Airbus to introduce dimmable cabin windows on its new A350 jets is expected to trigger outsized consternation from many travellers.

At its Airbus Summit 2021 held in Toulouse, France overnight, the aircraft manufacturer revealed it would adopt 'e-windows' for the popular long-range A350 as part of a 2022 upgrade to its Airspace cabin design.

Instead of the long-standing window shade over which passengers have total control, the new A350 windows will be made from high-tech electrochroamatic material similar to that already seen on the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and the forthcoming Boeing 777X family.

Now you see things, now you don't: dimmable e-windows on the Boeing 787.
Now you see things, now you don't: dimmable e-windows on the Boeing 787.

Passengers will be able to dim their window by tapping a soft-touch button mounted into the frame; holding that button down steps through the dimming stages.

Describing its A350 e-glass as using 'third generation' technology, Airbus says the windows will be able to go to 100% dark to block out everything.

The catch is that the aircraft's cabin crew are expected to be able to over-ride any passenger settings to 'open', 'close' or dim by degrees any and all windows.

There's an obvious passenger comfort angle here: on an overnight flight, the windows can all be darkened to prevent sleeping passengers from being roused by the sharp light of sunrise.

And there's no need to remind everyone to open their window shades ahead of a landing when the crew can set all the e-windows to maximum transparency with the flick of a switch.

All the same, we know many travellers love being able to gaze out the window at any stage of their flight – it's why so many select window seats in advance, and why those seats are among the first to be reserved on most flights.

ET readers: what's your take on the news that future Airbus A350s will include electric window dimming?

David

David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

09 Nov 2018

Total posts 6

I might be in the minority, but I like the ability to have the dimmable window in one of the translucent settings. That way you can see outside and get some natural light in; but without the glare and intensity that comes with shutters that can cause glare on screens and disturb others. Obviously it relies on the crew not overriding the controls...

08 Oct 2011

Total posts 51

I agree with you on that. Able to see out of the window but without the glare intensity. Sort of like a large external sunglass. I vote for the electrical dimmable window. That could be a middle path between those who wants to sleep without eyeshades and those who want to see outside. Currently manual shades means either full glare view or none at all.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

14 Jun 2014

Total posts 19

Yes nothing worse than the laser beam of light cutting across a pitch dark cabin as the first  to awake has a look outside...

QFF

19 Sep 2013

Total posts 179

Feel sure that I’ve already been in an aircraft with dimmable windows. Doesn’t the 787 have these? My recollection was that dark wasn’t completely dark compared to shutters.

Delta Air Lines - SkyMiles

11 Sep 2015

Total posts 9

The new generation (3.0?) of the Gentex dimmable aircraft windows not only dim faster, but now offer 100% +/- darkess

https://www.gentex.com/files/Gentex_Aerospace_Brochure.pdf

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

24 Jan 2018

Total posts 517

Yes, Dreamliners have them, and I found them perfect.

Joe
Joe

03 May 2013

Total posts 643

As usual the majority are punished because of the sometimes minority of selfish pax who insist on keeping window shade open when rest of cabin shares are down, let alone the person behind or in front of the offender who suffer most.

22 Sep 2021

Total posts 1

OFFENDER???? What a totally inapproprriate language is this...criminalizing pax who would love to enjoy the pleasure of flying

18 Sep 2015

Total posts 10

I agree.I usually find most crew members cooperative when I explain that I am slightly claustrophobic and I really need to open the shade once in a while.Bottom line is the crew is there to serve us, tha paying passengers from whence salary comes, and not to accomodate THEIR NEED to keep all cabins cold and in the dark so they can spend most of their time in the galleys chit chatting away on my MIA-DXB commute!

02 Nov 2017

Total posts 8

I really really object to window shades being closed when it’s broad daylight outside and I’m asay flying over the arctic and want to see the amazing ice or over the Sahara and want to see the desert. 

emd
emd

Singapore Airlines - KrisFlyer

17 Oct 2014

Total posts 4

Ever heard of eye shades?

Jetstar Airways - Qantas Frequent Flyer

24 Aug 2018

Total posts 105

As a captive audience going for a ride in a plane, it is rather nice to have some control over one's immediate environment. Discretionary control over the window being the key one.

Etihad - Etihad Guest

09 Jun 2019

Total posts 8

Pax on longhaul flights have different preferences for whether they want to be in day or night, so ability for a passenger to override a cabin-wide shutdown of the windows is essential.

22 May 2020

Total posts 5

Not happy! have chosen A350 in the past for the reason it has manual shades vs B787 with chromatic. Not really an issue on a night flight, and agree re the unwelcome blast of light at 4.30am.  However when we return to international travel, we will do as always - take day flights. On these I want to stay awake…for instance day flight to Tokyo that gets in around 5pm.  Or the day flights from Tokyo to Europe. 

We always stay awake on these, as we will go into a bed for sleep not long after arrival. A dark cabin on a day flight makes it very hard to NOT fall asleep in the middle of the day, which buggers up our jetlag management.

Plus we enjoy the view….the reef and the islands up to Japan, snow over Mongolia etc. If a pax wants to sleep on a day flight, put on the eye shades. I have to say Qantas and Finnair have been fine about us keeping shades up on the day flights…we would shut one blind but keep one open (business A330) however when we used to travel Thai (a long time ago) they got very snappy about blinds up on a day flight, even in First.

02 Nov 2017

Total posts 8

I was in PE on JAL and refused to close the blind during a daytime flight. The flight attendant being Japanese couldn’t comprehend just rebellious behavior. The person beside me moved so it was a win win for me! 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

05 Jun 2014

Total posts 210

Same experience with Thai day flights MEL-BKK in the 777 days

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

22 Sep 2021

Total posts 2

The Author has it backwards - I am (I believe) part of the majority who like control of the window blinds (when seated in a window seat) - although I usually choose Aisle seat for easy entry/exit during the flight.   

And - with experience from the 787's and their dimmable windows - I think it a great improvement for the A350's to incorporate these.   

The ability for the flight attendants to dim the entire cabin during a night flight, as well as open the windows to 100% clear for landing is a positive tick for the crew.   Kudo's to Airbus for including these in the next batch of A350's!.

18 Sep 2015

Total posts 10

Not sure that the tick for the crew is warranted 100%, but open to debate this, as I am a crew member as well. Any alternate take on this, me Lord?

22 May 2020

Total posts 5

LordZones - well if you like control of your blinds you lose it with these new A350 window blinds. The crew can decide when you can look outside and when not. They can set the controls to over ride your personal button at the window. Totally agree on night flights - but not for day flights.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

22 Sep 2021

Total posts 2

FlyingFx - Yep - noted about the crew having control - when they need to control the blinds en masse (as noted for landing, and on occasion - night flights).   

My experience with flights in 2018, 2019, and 1 (sadly) flight in 2020 - when flying ANA and Qantas on the 787's -- a simple request to my cabin flight crew (done politely) has always resulted in my being able to retain control of the window (on about 4-5 flights in that period, where I specifically selected a window seat).   

That being said - I usually select Aisle - and am not perturbed on window shades being up or down.   

We can agree to disagree on Day Flights - I'm a 100% sleeper on most of my day flights - and appreciate a darkened cabin.  It doesn't impact my jetlag recovery routine at destination.

22 May 2020

Total posts 5

LZ - I am happy if I can keep the window half open on a day flight, so take your QF 787 experience as a positive. Sadly, at my advanced age, if I can't get a bit of daylight on the day flights I completely pass out and then can't sleep at night. It's a bit like putting a blanket over the cocky's cage...make the room dark and ....zzzzzzzz!!

25 Jun 2018

Total posts 13

As an occasional flyer, one major leisure trip per year, for which I save up my hard earned, I like to be able to sleep in the dark or not sleep according to my own wishes.   That said, I have only had 2, maybe 3 differences of opinion with cabin crews about blinds up or down in 50 years.   Not bad I think.

Now whether giving the FAs control will spoil that record, who knows?

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

21 Nov 2020

Total posts 2

The worst thing about flying on a 787 is the windows can never go dark enough! Please keep the manual blinds.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

24 Jan 2018

Total posts 517

Sleeping eye covers?  They're often complimentary on most airlines.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

26 Nov 2012

Total posts 97

I remember flying past the Himalayas on a day flight out of BKK to Doha and it was the best scenic flight one could ever ask for and then some selfish person insisted I close the shade. In declined. We left at 10am and I think it was about 2 or 3 hours out. I mean who needs to sleep then?  I see Joe made a comment above about the selfish few wanting the window open, I’m the opposite, the selfish few who want night when it’s day and or you’re trying to adjust to destination time. Eye masks people, eye masks!

28 Nov 2018

Total posts 4

Totally opposed to the window shade police. Trapped in a metal tube at 36,000 feet, the sublime views of sunlight, sometimes mountain ranges, watching the terrain at takeoff and landing, keeps you sane. If you want to sleep, wear the eye patches provided.

17 Apr 2017

Total posts 5

I like the chromatic windows on the 787, on saying that, the only time the cabin crew should have control over the windows is on take off and landing. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

26 Oct 2017

Total posts 83

Its odd in an environmentally conscious world we are moving from human manual power to push button electric/battery convenience everything. The Manual shades are much quicker to adjust too. At least cabin crew will be happy not having to ask passengers to raise their shades upon takeoff/landing.

18 Sep 2015

Total posts 10

Mea Culpa X 3. As a working crew member, I accept that many crews just find it easier to keep the cabin dark and cold for THEIR convenience, and I believe passenger accommodation should prevail on the varied shade up or down, dim or not issues.Cheers to all.

Etihad - Etihad Guest

09 Jun 2019

Total posts 8

Totally agree with FlyingFox and all the others wanting day flights to be day and not turned into night the moment the wheels leave the ground. I always choose day flights between SYD and all European ports -- day flight between SYD and wherever in Asia, overnight in airport hotel, and day flight onwards to LHR, CDG or wherever. That's the best way to control for jet lag on arrival. So we need complete pax control of window blinds.

08 Oct 2011

Total posts 51

What view? I do open the the window shades partially and momentarily during those long haul flights and all I see is a sky above and white clouds down below (if not the wing and engines). I have seen and know what clouds looked like. And if there are no clouds, everything else is too small to be seen. Then I pull down the shades again, missed nothing. The only time I enjoy looking out of the window is when the plane is at low level shortly after take-off and before landing in which the windows are to be kept open anyway. Or during one of those short domestic flights in turboprop airliners where the plane have to fly low below the clouds for the entire duration of a flight lasting less than an hour. That's when I see the awesome landscape of rivers, estuarines, lakes, rice fields, forests, mountains, etc. No need to shut down the shades in these flights. And sometimes I also get to see the landing gear retracting and coming down like in a Fokker F27 or F50.

Rxm
Rxm

Jetstar Airways - Qantas Frequent Flyer

14 Jan 2017

Total posts 59

If airlines really want improve passenger comfort and reduce inconvenience design seats so they don’t recline backwards into the person behind. Light from open window shades can always be countered by putting on eye shades. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

25 Sep 2013

Total posts 1272

"Instead of the long-standing window shade over which passengers have total control"

Technically, flight attendants can still direct you to draw your window shades and a failure to comply with a reasonable and lawful direction (such as this) is an offence.

05 Mar 2015

Total posts 339

Flight attendants can still tell you what to do but technically the passenger retains 'control' the shade, an FA can't press a button from some control panel in the galley to raise or lower the shade, I think we are splitting hairs here.


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