Qantas’ direct flights from Sydney and Melbourne to London and New York won’t only skip stopovers at the likes of Singapore, Perth and Los Angeles – they’ll also leave the humble window shade behind.
Those pull-down plastic panels will be replaced by electronically dimmable windows which go from clear to black at the touch of a button.
It’s similar to what’s already on the Boeing 787 – indeed, these ‘e-windows’ has been built into every Dreamliner since the jet launched in 2011 – and works the same way.
The windows are actually two thin pieces of glass with a layer of transparent electrochroamatic gel sandwiched between them; that gel changes from light to dark and back again in response to electric current passed through it.
But the Airbus A350 version is far more advanced than Boeing’s, and in fact has only just become available, making its debut early this year on the first Starlux A350.
From clear to ultra-dark
It’s fast – on a flight of Airbus’ own Airspace Explore A350 jet, Executive Traveller found the windows went from clear to black in far less time than on the Dreamliner, and were far more responsive to each gentle tap of an integrated dimmer strip just beneath the window.
Holding that button down quickly steps the A350 windows through the dimming process from clear to black.
And when we say black, we mean it. Forget about that ‘Flushmatic Blue’ of the Boeing 787.
The A350’s e-windows go almost totally black – Airbus and window-maker Gentex call it an ‘ultra-dark’ setting – to the point where it’s impossible to see outside (Airbus claims its A350 windows block out 99.99% of visible light).
Of course, this isn’t a simple binary either-or scenario: putting the dimmable window into a translucent setting anywhere along the range lets some natural light in, but without the glare and intensity of even a partly-open window shade.
Gentex also claims the A350 windows block infra-red waves from entering and warming up the cabin.
And as on the Boeing 787, cabin crew are able to control the windows from the front of the plane, over-riding passengers’ individual per-window settings.
It’s the high-tech equivalent to walking though the cabin and asking passengers to either raise or lower their window shades, especially to avoid inconveniencing fellow travellers who might be trying to sleep.
No sunrise on Project Sunrise flights?
A Qantas spokesperson confirmed to Executive Traveller that the Project Sunrise A350s – the first of which will arrive towards the end of 2025 – will all sport this same window tech.
And while Project Sunrise is named for the two sunrises which passengers could see on their marathon journey from one side of the globe to the other, it’s arguable that the last thing you need on these 18-22 hour flights is a blast of bright sunrise beaming into the cabin at the oddest of hours.
While natural light is welcome at the appropriate time, Qantas intends to help travellers’ body clocks overcome jet-lag with the aid of LED lighting schemes throughout the cabin.
Gentle transitions through a range of scientifically-tested colours and intensities will resync circadian rhythms, alongside an inflight menu designed to encourage wakefulness and sleep across a revised schedule designed for these non-stop flights.