Airbus A350 Getting Dimmable Windows In 2022

Airbus A350 Getting Dimmable Windows In 2022

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At CES 2020, it was revealed that Airbus eventually planned to introduce dimmable windows in its aircraft cabins. This week the European aircraft manufacturer has revealed more details about the plans, and not everyone will be a fan.

Airbus will start offering dimmable windows

During this week’s Airbus Summit 2021, the aircraft manufacturer has revealed that Airbus A350s delivered in 2022 and beyond will feature dimmable windows. This is part of an overall change to the aircraft manufacturer’s signature Airspace cabin design, and it would bring the Airbus A350 in line with the Boeing 787 in this regard, as the latter plane has long (controversially) offered that.

The new window shade technology is designed by Gentex Corporation, which is a supplier of electronically dimmable windows for the aerospace industry. With these latest generation electrochromic windows, passengers will no longer have to manually push the window shade up or down, but rather can adjust their window shade setting by the push of a button.

Gentex states 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 light.

Airbus A350s will soon get dimmable windows

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 Boeing 787s feature dimmable windows

On the plus side, it seems that the dimmable window technology from Airbus addresses some of my concerns — the dimming will happen much more quickly than on the 787, and at the max setting, the dimming will be much darker.

However, it doesn’t address my biggest concern, which is airline crews trying to dictate window shade settings. Personally I love sitting in a window seat for the view, but unfortunately some airline crews take it upon themselves to “lock” the dimmers at the darkest setting, to make the cabin as dark as possible. While some airlines have told crews to stop doing this, it still happens.

Bottom line

Airbus A350s will be getting new dimmable windows as of 2022, as part of an overall update to the Airspace cabin design.

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 a little less opposed to this development.

To any airlines getting this technology, please emphasize that crews shouldn’t be controlling window settings for the entirety of the flight.

What do you make of the Airbus A350 getting dimmable windows?

Conversations (33)
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  1. Jackie Guest

    I just flew on a 787 with AA from AMS to DFW. While the novelty of the blue-hued dimming windows seemed cool for the moment, I was on the wrong side of the plane for the journey and the sun was very bothersome the whole trip. The window heated up A LOT and it was very bright even on the darkest setting. Since first class wasn't full, I grabbed an extra pillow and stuffed it...

    I just flew on a 787 with AA from AMS to DFW. While the novelty of the blue-hued dimming windows seemed cool for the moment, I was on the wrong side of the plane for the journey and the sun was very bothersome the whole trip. The window heated up A LOT and it was very bright even on the darkest setting. Since first class wasn't full, I grabbed an extra pillow and stuffed it in the window. Don't these aircraft manufacturers care that blue light is what keeps us awake? It's the worst for trying to sleep.

  2. Kyle Guest

    I agree with Juan for the same reasons mentioned. Flew CDG to DFW on the 787 for the first time a few months ago. While the transition was slow (my one frustration), I was able to still see outside while on its darker setting yet not disturb the rest of the cabin. Fortunately, the windows were not locked and I could adjust as I pleased throughout the flight. I look forward to flying the 787 again soon!

  3. Andy Guest

    Hi there,

    Excellent news and nice article.
    From a crew point of view, controlling the windows is extremely important. The reason why we sometimes block the windows is because the flight goes from NIGHT to DAY and when the majority of the passengers are sleeping, we don’t want the passenger to be woken up by sunrise. A simple clear window in the cabin will disturb many other customers.

    For safety reasons we also block...

    Hi there,

    Excellent news and nice article.
    From a crew point of view, controlling the windows is extremely important. The reason why we sometimes block the windows is because the flight goes from NIGHT to DAY and when the majority of the passengers are sleeping, we don’t want the passenger to be woken up by sunrise. A simple clear window in the cabin will disturb many other customers.

    For safety reasons we also block them to CLEAR tor take off and landing.

    Whilst I understand your concern, our actions are usually dictated by the majority of passengers and their behaviour onboard.

    1. Chris Guest

      Do you work for AA? AA already told its FAs to knock off locking the shades. And crews are locking the shades during daytime flights as well, so your reasoning, as sound as it sounds at first, doesn't seem to correspond to other crews' reasons.

  4. Azamaraal Guest

    All this nonsense about bringing eye shades misses the point completely.

    Wide open blinds when overnight flight in the Arctic with full sunlight prevents other passengers from:
    - sleeping
    - watching any screen activity (movie or?)
    - reading without sun in your eyes

    There is usually nothing to see but clouds or ice/snow. What is the big thing about looking out a window. Take a bus or a cruise and you can...

    All this nonsense about bringing eye shades misses the point completely.

    Wide open blinds when overnight flight in the Arctic with full sunlight prevents other passengers from:
    - sleeping
    - watching any screen activity (movie or?)
    - reading without sun in your eyes

    There is usually nothing to see but clouds or ice/snow. What is the big thing about looking out a window. Take a bus or a cruise and you can see anything up close. At 40,000 feet there is nothing to see.

    It seems it is the 'me' generation all over again. If 'I' can't have everything I want I am going to have a temper tantrum until I get my way.

    1. Tim Dunn Gold

      there are clearly other people that pay a whole lot more attention and actually do see something.

      As long as airlines have windows, people like you need to accept that people are free to open them when they want.

      Or perhaps a cargo plane is a better option for you.

    2. FakEskimo Guest

      @Tim: As soon as there are controlled window dimmers people like YOU need to accept that they are blocked at dark mode so that the majority can sleepy

    3. Chris Guest

      You're not addressing when the cabin crew darkens and locks them during a DAY flight.

      I also don't understand the phrase "nonsense" as it refers to eye shades. It's a simple, overwhelmingly effective solution to the problem, not just from windows but also from reading lights, IFE screens, and anything else. Like others, I have a difficult time falling asleep if my room isn't blacked out, much less if there's bright sunlight in the cabin....

      You're not addressing when the cabin crew darkens and locks them during a DAY flight.

      I also don't understand the phrase "nonsense" as it refers to eye shades. It's a simple, overwhelmingly effective solution to the problem, not just from windows but also from reading lights, IFE screens, and anything else. Like others, I have a difficult time falling asleep if my room isn't blacked out, much less if there's bright sunlight in the cabin. Eye shades work perfectly, and people whose clocks are not exactly the same as mine, or who want to watch TV, or use their reading lights, can do so and it doesn't bother me. It's the complete opposite of nonsense; in fact, I can't think of a better solution

    4. Chris Guest

      And I've never had a problem watching IFE or reading if someone's window is open. I don't know where your experience comes from, but books and IFE screens in the past decade all work great with natural ambient light.

  5. Tim Dunn Gold

    automatic dimming windows would be far less of an issue if airlines had external cameras that can be viewed on the IFE. Given that some airlines have had them for years, it is hard to understand why others are so reluctant to allow ALL passengers to have a window if they want. I have seen spectacular scenery - both night and day - flying over some of the most remote parts of the earth and,...

    automatic dimming windows would be far less of an issue if airlines had external cameras that can be viewed on the IFE. Given that some airlines have had them for years, it is hard to understand why others are so reluctant to allow ALL passengers to have a window if they want. I have seen spectacular scenery - both night and day - flying over some of the most remote parts of the earth and, on some airlines, via the IFE.
    The argument that something might happen that airlines don't want passengers to see is bogus given that more and more airlines have gate to gate Wifi which connects the outside world with what is happening on the plane.

    The bigger part of the Airbus improvement is the improved heat reduction on the windows. I have sat on the window of many long flights on the sunny side of the airplane (not even on the window) and have been very warm.

    1. Chris Guest

      I like external cameras but honestly, the scope and size and dimensionality just doesn't compare to looking out a window. That said, I think it would be nice for everyone to have the option of watching.

  6. Eskimo Guest

    Finally somebody is posting using a same name :)
    I guess life is too hard and you have too little self esteem, so you have to use a pseudonym to hide behind a pseudonym.

    All those interaction with @Chris here is a different Eskimo, not that I care. Just please be considerate and try not to confuse others too much.
    @Eskimo replying to each other would be funny but confusing. (did I just open a can of worms?)

    1. Eskimo Guest

      Who do you think you are?

    2. Eskimo Guest

      I guess I'm famous now, LOL. Always nice to have fans and some impersonators.

      I can probably say I finally made it on the internet. Especially when someone is actually impersonating you online.

      I'm honored, and thrilled. Thank you the other @Eskimo.

  7. Allen Guest

    There's always that one person who gets freaked out every time there is a little turbulence and opens the shade, flooding the cabin with sunlight. I'm not sure what they are expecting to see, but *shrug. So I can understand why FAs dim the shades, particularly on long-haul flights when it is light outside. It gives you a chance to sleep and acclimate yourself to the destination time zone.

    However, I agree with wearing an eye mask - it's a simple fix.

  8. Juan Guest

    I like the dimmable windows. Flew from LAX to DFW on an AA 787 and was on the sunny side of the plane. I had the setting at the halfway point throughout the flight. It was dim enough that it didn't bother my seat mates, but bright enough that I could still see outside the window.

    Normally it's just all or nothing with traditional window shades (or I guess having it open halfway?), and the dimmable windows offer a nice alternative.

  9. TM Gold

    I love dimmable windows and I hate cabin crew that take this away from you. I have yet to find a single valid argument against them beyond them not being dark enough for direct sunlight, though as Ben points out, the newer technology should improve this. If it's daytime and you're trying to sleep, the onus is on you to ensure you have whatever it takes to make your sleep comfortable. That means bringing your...

    I love dimmable windows and I hate cabin crew that take this away from you. I have yet to find a single valid argument against them beyond them not being dark enough for direct sunlight, though as Ben points out, the newer technology should improve this. If it's daytime and you're trying to sleep, the onus is on you to ensure you have whatever it takes to make your sleep comfortable. That means bringing your own eye mask, earplugs, pillows, sleeping aids, etc... If it's nighttime, window shades vs dimmers doesn't make any difference because the minimum interior cabin lighting is always brighter than the pitch black sky outside.

  10. stogieguy7 Gold

    The idea of the cabin crew being able to lock the dimmer on "dark" actually gives me a little claustrophobia. I want to be able to control the damn window if I am seated there! And I'm not a jerk about it. If it's supposedly sleeping time, I will only open it enough to see a bit but try not to annoy others. But I love the million dollar view you get from up there,...

    The idea of the cabin crew being able to lock the dimmer on "dark" actually gives me a little claustrophobia. I want to be able to control the damn window if I am seated there! And I'm not a jerk about it. If it's supposedly sleeping time, I will only open it enough to see a bit but try not to annoy others. But I love the million dollar view you get from up there, it's one of the perks of flying.

    When I read this story, it doesn't make me happy because of the potential for control freak abuse on the part of certain crew members who may feel overly empowered and entitled to dictate their minutia to others.

  11. Emily Guest

    Awesome. I love being able to dim the windows just so to be able to see outside without flooding the cabin with light and disturbing everyone. I understand that not everyone finds eye shades comfortable to sleep with. I have often requested the FA on flights to allow me control to keep my windows at the penultimate dim setting. Except once on American Airlines, the FAs have gladly obliged.

  12. Taylor Guest

    I hate this change and don't like the electronic window dimmers for all the reasons you mentioned. This seems like yet another case of unnecessarily replacing a perfectly good low tech solution with technology just for the sake of using more technology.

  13. Chris Guest

    I asked two separate flight attendants to please unlock the shades last week; they locked them on dark PHL-AMS during the entire daytime flight (I was seated in Business). They refused.

    My flight attendant did not use a single word in his interactions with anyone, just pointed at the menu, pointed at my wine cup, pointed at the tray when he wanted it, pointed at headphones when he came to collect them, etc. Later,...

    I asked two separate flight attendants to please unlock the shades last week; they locked them on dark PHL-AMS during the entire daytime flight (I was seated in Business). They refused.

    My flight attendant did not use a single word in his interactions with anyone, just pointed at the menu, pointed at my wine cup, pointed at the tray when he wanted it, pointed at headphones when he came to collect them, etc. Later, after their very cursory service, I used the bathroom and noticed them playing on their phones in the galley area.

    I am against giving these losers more tools to make the flight any less welcoming.

    1. Eskimo Guest

      PHL-AMS: Are you sure it’s a daytime flight? Flight leaves at 07:35 p.m. and arrived at 08:40 a.m

    2. Chris Guest

      Sorry, wrong direction: AA203, AMS-PHL. I did not have coffee this morning.

    3. Matt Guest

      Same on my AMS-DFW flight, last month. Lazy as f**** FAs.

    4. Eskimo Guest

      @Chris: it reads like you are just opening the shades so everybody stays awake so the crew has to work?

      I am sure you didn’t mean it that way.
      As a counter example, I was flying from FRA to ORD on the afternoon flight 3:45 p.m. (with a takeoff at around 04:15) last Sunday or so. The plane was >80% full I think. After dinner the entire cabin was dark. (A350 with manual blinds,...

      @Chris: it reads like you are just opening the shades so everybody stays awake so the crew has to work?

      I am sure you didn’t mean it that way.
      As a counter example, I was flying from FRA to ORD on the afternoon flight 3:45 p.m. (with a takeoff at around 04:15) last Sunday or so. The plane was >80% full I think. After dinner the entire cabin was dark. (A350 with manual blinds, no announcement was made. A lot of connecting American passengers that came from Italy or Greece or France. They probably all started early in the morning and were tired.)
      The point I am trying to make: I think most people want to sleep on an airplane. They fly Business Class because they are on a business trip (and not because they are av geeks) and just want to relax or sleep or work. Or they fly in coach and prefer not to see the misery.

      I had/wanted to work a little bit but didn’t want to be the one a** opening the blinds - so I just had the two lights on.

      What I like about the crew controlled automatic blinds is that it can be dimmed less (let’s say level 3 out of 5) without bothering fellow passengers. If you open an old school blind for only an inch, the entire cabin notices it.
      FA should never be allowed to block it on
      level 5 because they want the entire cabin to be pitch dark - maximum level 3 e.g.. There should be a protocol with defined levels by the airline for each flight pair depending on departure and arrival time and time difference.

      And in case you’re wondering: yes, I am not the real Eskimo.

    5. Chris Guest

      Lucky wrote an article in May about the memo AA sent to FAs about futzing with the shades (basically saying to knock it off), and I actually agreed with the premise -- not that it made much impression on these FAs. I noticed on my (day) flight on my trips to the lav that most people were not sleeping. Personally I could have used a nap - like you said, started the day early -...

      Lucky wrote an article in May about the memo AA sent to FAs about futzing with the shades (basically saying to knock it off), and I actually agreed with the premise -- not that it made much impression on these FAs. I noticed on my (day) flight on my trips to the lav that most people were not sleeping. Personally I could have used a nap - like you said, started the day early - but honestly I wanted to stay up. I did, but without the sun, I think it made for a longer transition when I got home. There are options for those who want to take a rest and need dark. There really aren't options for the opposite, when they lock the shades at dark.

  14. Kory Guest

    Just flew last week in J on a KLM 787-9 from SFO-AMS. When we were over Greenland I happened to be awake and a flight attendant came up to me and said we can see the northern lights. However despite that one flight attendant trying to help me, the window shades were locked dark so I had no way of being able to see the northern lights. Huge bummer as I’ve never seen them before but it has been a must see item on my list.

  15. Eskimo Guest

    I love listening to loud music in MY apartment and to to feel the Beat and bass.
    As it turns out, I am not alone in the building. Therefore I am considerate of neighbors and do not turn up the volume to maximum in MY apartment.

    Same on an airplane: Even though it is MY window and even though I love sunshine all night long, I am considerate of other passengers and leave the...

    I love listening to loud music in MY apartment and to to feel the Beat and bass.
    As it turns out, I am not alone in the building. Therefore I am considerate of neighbors and do not turn up the volume to maximum in MY apartment.

    Same on an airplane: Even though it is MY window and even though I love sunshine all night long, I am considerate of other passengers and leave the window blind shut.

    The advantage with a centrally controlled dimming is that the FA can lock it when 97,83% of the passengers prefer a dark cabin.

    1. Chris Guest

      I'm not saying this to be sarcastic. But it's literally amazing what the included sleep mask/eye shades/whatever will do on such a flight. And probably even more comfortable if you bring your own, even packed with your masks. I literally flew for years before I realized what a 180-degree difference it makes. There is literally no need to worry about whether the shade is open or closed if you want to sleep. On the other...

      I'm not saying this to be sarcastic. But it's literally amazing what the included sleep mask/eye shades/whatever will do on such a flight. And probably even more comfortable if you bring your own, even packed with your masks. I literally flew for years before I realized what a 180-degree difference it makes. There is literally no need to worry about whether the shade is open or closed if you want to sleep. On the other hand, there is literally no solution for those who want or need sunlight and for whom the shades are locked dark.

      That said, I think you're overestimating the percentage of customers who want a dark cabin. Yes, you're referencing a 'night' flight, but at some point, those following good protocol for time acclimation will need sunlight. And this ignores all the day flights when the crew locks the shades.

    2. Eskimo Guest

      …okay…I am being sarcastic when I say that I could listen to loud music to feel the beat because my neighbors could wear earplugs.

      But isn’t that a little bit the same?

    3. Chris Guest

      IMO, not unless the earplugs also blocked the sensation of the bass would it be equivalent. That said, I find loud conversations on airplanes incredibly annoying, especially at "night" or night equivalent, but use the ear plugs or noise cancelling headphones to block them, which seems to be a reasonable solution when sharing the public space for X hours.

    4. Chris Guest

      And :oops: for the overuse of "literally." :/

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Matt Guest

Same on my AMS-DFW flight, last month. Lazy as f**** FAs.

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Kory Guest

Just flew last week in J on a KLM 787-9 from SFO-AMS. When we were over Greenland I happened to be awake and a flight attendant came up to me and said we can see the northern lights. However despite that one flight attendant trying to help me, the window shades were locked dark so I had no way of being able to see the northern lights. Huge bummer as I’ve never seen them before but it has been a must see item on my list.

2
Juan Guest

I like the dimmable windows. Flew from LAX to DFW on an AA 787 and was on the sunny side of the plane. I had the setting at the halfway point throughout the flight. It was dim enough that it didn't bother my seat mates, but bright enough that I could still see outside the window. Normally it's just all or nothing with traditional window shades (or I guess having it open halfway?), and the dimmable windows offer a nice alternative.

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