On airplanes, I like to look out. But not everyone wants the window shade to be up.
At this point, it could help to think like an economist. But first, the facts.
The Airplane Window Shade Debate
We could divide fliers into dark and light advocates.
The people on the dark side are screen users and snoozers. They have work to do, movies to watch, and games to play. They hope to sneak in a nap before they land. Whether using media or sleeping, for them, glare is a problem.
Those who prefer the light like to look outside. They might want to read with natural rays rather than the overhead light. And sometimes for safety, the crew needs raised shades in certain rows.
Who is right? There are no airplane window shade rules. American says it prohibits attendants from electronically taking over a passenger’s window shade while United has no policy. On some Boeing 787 flights from Asia to North America, attendants reputedly electronically darken all windows and keep them that way unless a passenger asks for control.
The real problem might be that each of us is doing our own thing. We used to see the same movie at the same time on a mounted screen. But now, we are making many more individual decisions. The result has been more conflict over when to recline and whether to lower a shade.
One remedy though could be tradition. It has been an unspoken rule that the person in the window seat controls the shade. Occupying a middle seat gives you power over the armrests. And, the aisle person has a some space for long legs and moving. Yes?
Our Bottom Line: Economic Systems
If nothing else works, as always there is an economic solution. We just need to look at the three basic economic systems.
Nobel laureate Ronald Coase told us that voluntary negotiation can resolve a conflict. For a shade dispute, one person could feel it is worth $10 to keep the shade down and the other could be willing to pay $20 to have it up. By settling on an amount between $10 and $20, everyone could be happy. (I know, few of us would be willing to pay.)
Other solutions leave us with less choice. Since most new planes have electronic shades that attendants can control, the airline can make the decision.
Here, we can say that, as always, the person sitting nearest the window can decide.
Where are we? Those of us who sit in the window seat wield more power than we might realize.
My sources and more: Thanks always to the WSJ Middle Seat column for alerting me to interesting airline issues. Then, if you want to read about new airplane window technology that eliminates shades, do take a look at this Wired article.
Our featured image is from Pixabay.