Airbus Will Begin Offering Dimmable Windows

Filed Under: Misc.

At CES 2020 in Las Vegas today, an interesting announcement was made that impacts the Airbus passenger experience.

Airbus will start offering dimmable windows

Gentex Corporation, which is a supplier of electronically dimmable windows for the aerospace industry, has revealed that Airbus will begin offering the latest generation electrochromic windows on their aircraft.

As many people may be aware, Boeing is known for offering this on the 787 Dreamliner.

Details are fairly limited, with a promise of more info about the roll-out to be revealed this spring. So we don’t yet know if this will be something that Airbus will install as a standard on some (or all?) aircraft, if this well be an option that airlines can decide on, or what.

Gentex says that this new technology will allow passengers to selectively darken the windows while still viewing scenery outside. These dimmers will eliminate the need for window shades, and also incorporate a heat control solution that blocks infra-red energy from entering the cabin from outside, lessening the dependence on air-conditioning systems.

These latest generation windows will feature high-speed transition between clear and dark, and will also offer an ultra-dark low-end transmission. Compared to previous designs, the latest windows will darken twice as fast and become 100 times darker, eliminating 99.999% of visible flight.

Those are some impressive improvements.

Will we soon see dimmable windows on all A350s?

My issue with Boeing 787 dimmable windows

Many people like the window shades on the 787 and find them to be cool, though personally I strongly dislike them (this is actually one of the reasons I prefer the A350 to the 787):

  • Many times the crew will just “lock” the window setting on dark for the entire flight, meaning there’s no way you can look outside
  • Even when in the darkest mode, I find that it’s still somewhat bright, and worst of all if you’re on the side of the plane of the sun, it can get hot
  • The dimming happens slowly, which sometimes makes it tough to figure out if you’re controlling the window shades correctly or not

All 787s feature dimmable windows

Bottom line

On the surface I’m not a fan of this development, at least based on how these window shades are currently implemented. However, with the latest generation window shades, it sounds like many of my concerns are addressed.

Assuming the window shades can dim more quickly, and get darker than they currently get, then I’m not opposed to this development.

It’ll be interesting to see if this becomes a standard option across all Airbus planes, if it’s something they’ll just feature on the A350, or what.

What do you make of Airbus adopting the latest generation dimmable windows — are you a fan, or no?

Comments
  1. Recently had a flight with one of these. I liked it for the most part. When it went dark for me it was pitch black during daytime. I dunno maybe its different if the sun is directly lined up with the window or something but I didn’t experience any issue with it. I agree the transition is too slow so a faster transition would be better or some sort of indicator that lets you know the dimmer is working. It would be obnoxious if flight crews locked the windows setting for the entire flight (instead of just takeoff/landing). What they hell is the point of having a window seat if they are going to do that?

  2. There is nothing worse than buying a window seat on a daytime flight and having the windows locked to full darkness. by the crew

  3. I hate the way the crew, especially on UA, lock the windows to dark on a day flight. Like Ben, it’s one of the reasons why I dislike the 787 as compared with the A350. I just hope that this is implemented in a better way.

  4. I’ve taken a few 787 flights on UA and never had the crews lock the windows. Additionally, there’s a big difference between the initial generation of windows installed on the first 787’s vs. what’s being delivered today. The current generation (not even the new ones referenced in this article) actually go completely dark for me even in daylight.

  5. I prefer premium window-shades such as used by Qatar Airways in Business Class on their A350 or British Airways in first class.

    Though I have to admit that the electronically controlled windowshades on the dreamliner have come a long way by now. There is clearly a difference between the first 787-8s of the line and more recently build 787s.

  6. While I don’t really care much in this matter, I do like to quote from my seatmate few years back that struck me forever when he found out crews can lock the shades.

    “Finally a way to deal with those idiots, I need to fly 787 exclusively”.
    “They have to realize, the rest of the plane voted dark, if you can’t keep yourself in line and keep bringing up freedom and equality bull**** soon you will end up with a totalitarian system to fix these idiots just like this 787”

  7. It’s amazing—AMAZING— that it blocks 99.999% of visible light, but the difference between that and 99.9% is less than 0.1%. It is not “a hundred times darker”, unless you are math-impaired. It is only 0.1% darker.

  8. It would be nice if US airlines would add exterior cameras to their IFE systems so that you can get a view outside of the aircraft regardless of what seat you are in.

    The vast majority of passengers either close the windows when they get on the plane (if they were open) so they can watch a screen of some sort or never open them if they were closed upon boarding – which happens much of the time in warm, sunny climates.

    Having flown on foreign airlines that offer camera views, I would say that more people use the exterior camera view for taxi/takeoff and landing than there are windows open on typical US flights, esp. if IFE systems are present.

  9. Other problem — you can’t close them partway to block out sky and still look at ground.

    I hate them

  10. It’s amazing—AMAZING— that it blocks 99.999% of visible light, but the difference between that and 99.9% is less than 0.1%. It is not “a hundred times darker”, unless you are math-impaired. It is only 0.1% darker.

    You’re the math impaired one. We are blocking 99.9% of the light. Now we would like 1/10 that amount of light to get through. 99.9% x 1/10 = 99.99% of the light blocked. Now we want 1/10 of that light to get through. 99.99% x 1/10 = 99.999%. 1/10 x 1/10 = 1/100. 1/100 = 100x times darker.

  11. Just came back from New Zealand on NZ and they also lock them to dark during most of the flight. The return flight was a daytime flight, yet they locked the windows on dark. Add their purple cabin lighting and you feel seriously messed up on their flights. The 787 is one of my least favourite planes and NZ made it worse.

  12. Hello All- United is notorious for locking the windows dark. American to a lesser extent. However, every time I asked them to release the control, they did. They can allow each individual window to be controlled without locking every window on the plane

  13. At the risk of being pedantic, the windows are not dimmable, the dimmable element is an additional pane on the inside in the same way as the standard transparent pane you currently see.

    Therefore these could well be offered as a retrofit in the aftermarket and not an Airbus standard fit. On the basis of customer feedback let’s hope not too many airlines select it.

  14. @Eskimo, who says the whole plane votes dark? Not me and many others on a day time flight. Sitting in a dark coffin ignoring the beauty of flight is retarded.

  15. Have any airlines retrospectively added blinds to the 787?

    I really don’t like the sun side of the 787 didn’t the day, Airbus shouldn’t follow this cheap Boeingskate approach.

  16. Not a fan of the crew “darkening and locking” the window blinds. (and I’m a dedicated window seat kinda guy!)

    May as well develop aircraft with no windows at all – cheaper, stronger and more aero…..

  17. I hate them. It gets super hot during late afternoon flights in summer. On the older 787s, the electrochromic layer is starting to wear out. U can see streaks/lines/cracks forming within them in dark mode, allowing traces of light to pass through.

  18. What an AWFUL development. One less good thing for Airbus. Hopefully at least they will not install the software that allows idiotic cabin crews on power trips to override individual customer controls.

  19. I am with @Eskimo on this one. Some of us are stressed out professionals wanting sleep and quiet. Flights are the only place on earth I cannot reliably take calls.

    Come on dudes and dudettes – the silent majority has spoken. There are many airlines configured in Economy only without 787s for sight seeing flights!

  20. “It’s amazing—AMAZING— that it blocks 99.999% of visible light, but the difference between that and 99.9% is less than 0.1%. It is not “a hundred times darker”, unless you are math-impaired. It is only 0.1% darker.

    You’re the math impaired one. We are blocking 99.9% of the light. Now we would like 1/10 that amount of light to get through. 99.9% x 1/10 = 99.99% of the light blocked. Now we want 1/10 of that light to get through. 99.99% x 1/10 = 99.999%. 1/10 x 1/10 = 1/100. 1/100 = 100x times darker.”

    Neither of your maths add up. Both of you assume that the cabin has no internal lighting at all (emergency, fasten seat belt and reading lights) and all the ambient light enters through the windows.

  21. “1- Even when in the darkest mode, I find that it’s still somewhat bright, and worst of all if you’re on the side of the plane of the sun, it can get hot
    2 – The dimming happens slowly, which sometimes makes it tough to figure out if you’re controlling the window shades correctly or not”

    THANK YOU. These are my two biggest pet peeves of the 787.

    Flying, say, Etihad, from Abu Dhabi to the USA during a daytime flight, the A rows get pretty darned hot, even with the dimmer on the darkest setting.

    And I won’t even get started on the speed/delay of the dimmers. Confusing and horrible. I’m excited about the new technology Airbus is introducing.

  22. Oh no. I really hate when the crew locks it. And this is the main reason i dislike the 787s… Almost every carrier i flown with lock the windows.

  23. I really don’t like the idea of shades being locked, but I do usually appreciate shades being closed on long haul flights. With the exception of the direct PER-LHR route, flying between Europe and Australia is a 24+ hour journey, often changing aircraft and moving between terminals somewhere in Asia or the Middle East. Depending on airline, routing and connections, one or both flights will be in daytime and it can be an exhausting trip if you don’t get some sleep.

    These days I’m often doing these trips in premium economy or economy without the cosy duvet, fluffy pillow and flat bed to aid some snooze time. Instead, I rely on a dark, cool cabin that at least tries to be conducive to rest. I often use an eye mask when I want to sleep (and ear plugs too), but it’s still noticeable if sun is streaming into the cabin, so I like the shades all closed.

    Aside from sleeping, with the shades closed it’s also easier to see the seat-back screens and on long haul, many passengers are relying on watching movies to pass the time. This is especially true in Y where the screens are smaller and with lesser definition than in the premium cabins.

    All that said, there’s been plenty of times I’ve begrudged being “put to bed” in the middle of the day, regardless of which cabin I’ve been in, so I do appreciate both sides. Shades up or down is certainly a perennial topic of debate on many of the frequent flyer forums I visit.

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