United Airlines has dropped a policy that urged passengers to lift their window shades for takeoff and landing as an extra but not federally mandated safety measure after just two years.
One of the main reasons for removing the policy, according to a memo to flight attendants and crew, was that it was the only major U.S. carrier requiring customers to lift their window blinds for takeoff and landing.
Window shades are not required to be open during taxi, takeoff, or landing in the United States, which is unique.
In practically every other country in the world, precaution is required, although in the United States, some airlines advise passengers to keep their window shades lowered from the moment they board until they deplane at their destination.
Window shades must be open during so-called ‘critical periods’ of flight, according to safety regulators in other nations, because this is when an emergency situation is most likely to occur.
Passengers can function as the flight crew’s eyes by opening the window blinds and reporting anything wrong that the flight attendants and pilots couldn’t notice.
Passengers have reported major concerns in recent years, such as ice formation on the wings or even engine fires, that would have gone unnoticed if all the window blinds were down.
With a series of announcements before takeoff and landing in March 2020, United Airlines chose to proactively request that passengers lift their window shades for taxi, takeoff, and landing.
United was the only major U.S. carrier to urge passengers to lift their window blinds for takeoff and landing, which was unusual.
Unlike on foreign airlines, however, the request was only that, and flight attendants were not required to enforce the regulation.
“When every second counts, open window shades allow Flight Attendants and passengers to immediately see outside, assess conditions, and identify hazards,” notes the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA-CWA) which represents United’s crew members.
United’s voluntary move on the subject had been applauded by the union, which had been campaigning for a change in FAA rules for years.
“The moment an evacuation is necessary is not the time to waste precious seconds opening window shades,” the union, which isn’t happy with United’s decision to yet again amend its window shade policy, noted.
“If it raises the level of safety, it is difficult not to ask, what is the harm?” the union asked in a recent note to its members.
On hot days, United’s policy will remain the same: passengers will be required to lower their window shades at the end of the flight, but they will no longer be asked to raise them for takeoff and landing.
Passengers in the exit rows, on the other hand, will be encouraged to open their window shades for taxi and takeoff by flight attendants, albeit this is not a requirement.