I take several international flights a year.

I find that traveling with the window shade open helps keep me from feeling claustrophobic and, simultaneously, viewing the outdoors (even through a grimy window) is soothing.

Most travelers seem to require that the window shades should be closed, even on long day time flights. I simply feel incarcerated when fully closed into a dark tube. Passengers and flight attendants have become quite aggressive about demanding the shades be completely closed for hours.

How can I find a seat that allows me to look out the window? Buying a first class ticket won't help in this case.

  • My tip. Choose the side of the aircraft facing away from the sun. You should be able to work this out from the direction of the flight and flight timings, or see sunflight.net
    – Berwyn
    Jul 16, 2016 at 16:24
  • Looking for flight operated using a Boeing 787 might be a solution. The plane has no shades, but electronically tinted windows, which you can set the tint level to still see out but keep out bright daylight. On the flip side, the flight crew can override the individual controls and tint a whole section so dark you can't really see out.
    – Carl
    Jul 17, 2016 at 4:18

5 Answers 5


Much like the passenger who wants to recline their seat, the right belongs to the person with the controls - in this case the window seat person. - however, that person should still be a considerate human being.

If you want a look outside, that's fine. However if passengers next to you are trying to sleep - on an overnight flight where you experience a horizon sunrise shining in, then it's best to not keep it open for hours at a time.

If you want a seat that 'allows' this, obviously on a full plane you're likely to always have seat mates, but I've found often you can move to a row with fewer people. Also on some planes, at the back by the toilets there's an exit door with a window, I've used that to look out of sometimes, as it doesn't disturb other passengers. I've heard of people have staff move them on from there though, so your experience may vary.

Also remember that even if you have no seatmates, on a dimmed-cabin flight, one open window at sunrise is really noticeable to almost everyone around you - it's really, really bright!

Rule of thumb - if the cabin lights are off that usually indicates it's the designated 'sleeping time', and you should probably keep shades closed for most of this time.

Generally, if you want freedom to get up and walk around, you pick an aisle seat, and if you want the control of the window and window view, you pick the window. However, consideration applies - and if a fellow passenger asks you to please close it, unless there's something you're really really wanting to look at, it's worth closing. To be a nice person, if for no other reason. However, in your case for claustrophobia, you could also explain it to them, or just simply refuse - or perhaps offer to put a blanket over you and the window to try and reduce the light hitting them.

  • 5
    Caveat: instructions from the crew trump everything else.
    – fkraiem
    Jul 16, 2016 at 7:03
  • The problem with the "designated sleeping time" idea is that cabin attendants don't pay much attention to the needs of time zone adjustment. Flights from the US West Coast to London can arrive midday or later. Exposure to natural daylight during the London morning would help me adjust to the new timezone. Similarly, I prefer to stay awake during the long afternoon on westbound flights, so that I'll be ready sleep when I get home in the evening. That is harder with dim artificial light than it would be with natural daylight. Jul 16, 2016 at 15:18
  • @PatriciaShanahan agree fully, although personally I can never sleep on planes anyway so it's just movie time for me.
    – Mark Mayo
    Jul 16, 2016 at 15:21

This is a bit more work, but once onboard (or you've flown the airline's plane type before), identify a seat where the window is set back closer to your seat, or is slightly behind the seat in front of you. That is, you're trying to identify one where it will be partially blocked and won't interfere with your seat mates as much. If you're not in that row, see if there's a person without a companion there and if he or she would switch rows with you.

Because both seats are windows, your odds of swapping are better than average.

Another solution is whether you can keep it partially open. I seem to remember that Emirates' A380 shades open from the top, so you can still get a good view without opening the shade completely.


This may sound a bit harsh, but if people need darkness to sleep when traveling, it is up to them to ensure that. Eyemasks are the common technique.

If I'm at a window then I will have it open or shut as I want. That's why I have the window.

If I'm at the aisle I'm there so I can gain the benefits an aisle seat gives me.

And of course cabin crew instructions override all others.

  • 1
    I've been on plenty of Asian flights where cabin crew instructed to close all window shades as soon as they were cleared to get up after take-off until preparing for landing. And no, they were not to be discussed with. So this is more of a comment than answering the question.
    – mts
    Jul 16, 2016 at 18:04
  • Even when the cabin crew orders the shades closed you might get away with opening them a bit, as long as you wait till those wanting to sleep have had time to settle in.
    – Willeke
    Jul 16, 2016 at 18:22

Buy or otherwise obtain an inexpensive sleeping mask, still in its packaging. Then, you can have the following conversation:

"Would you mind putting down the window shade?"

"Actually, I would. I suffer from terribly from claustrophobia and I get nauseated and start vomiting if the shade is down."

"Oh, but I'm trying to sleep."

"Huh. I know, here use this." and give him the sleeping mask.

Now you have put yourself out for his convenience and solved the only problem he claims to have. Since it's brand new, he cannot complain about its hygiene. Only a real piece of work would persist, but if he does, suggest he ask the stewardess to move him.

  • "Hi, I'm trying to watch a movie, but I can't see the screen due to the glare from the window" ;)
    – Berwyn
    Jul 16, 2016 at 16:21
  • Bad luck, I paid extra to get this window seat and I need the shade open.
    – Willeke
    Jul 16, 2016 at 18:21
  • 2
    "Well, I'm sure the glare will not be nearly as distracting as the sound of my constant vomiting." Jul 16, 2016 at 20:02

If you go to some air focused boards, you will be told basically, if you have the window seat, the shade is yours to control and no one really can make you close it.

However, please be aware that the bright light is a nuisance to many passengers who are trying to sleep, watch a video or who are in a direct line from the window.

If claustrophobia is the problem have you considered an exit row or bulkhead aisle? Even in the main cabin, there is quite a bit of space around you. It's also much easier to get up and roam around, though don't do that too much or you'll be in the FA's way.

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