Update: Why Do Airplanes Dim Lights?

Ever Wonder Why Airplanes Dim Lights On Takeoff?
image from T+L- Vicki Beaver/ Alamy

Last week I wrote a post which asked a very good question related to flying. It was something that I never really thought about before. The post was written due to an article that I came across from Travel + Leisure.

The post was about: Ever Wonder Why Airplanes Dim Lights On Takeoff?

I thought the answer given in the T+L article made a lot of sense. After seeing a tweet (from a flight attendant) that disagreed with the article, I started to think a bit more about the topic.

Here is the tweet:

At first I searched online for information about laws related to airplanes dimming the lights during takeoff but didn’t find anything useful.

I then had a big “duh” moment- Why not contact a friend of mine that is a purser with a major U.S. airline! I met Don at a travel event and figured he would be the perfect person to ask to help clarify the debate.

Here is what Don had to say about dimming the lights during a flight.

Cabin lights are adjusted to maximize cabin visibility during certain times of day for the crew during our preflight, boarding and again during landing according to our duties (seatbelt checks etc).

We dim the lights for passenger comfort once our duties are complete. The only times the lights are on full bright and remain on full bright is during emergency preparations for the crew during emergency landings. All other phases of flight is just the comfort factor. Also, we have no rules that says window shades must be up during takeoff and landing. Some crew members ask exit row passengers to raise them for safety sake. But nothing is written in stone, it’s┬ájust a request.

So what I took from this info is that lights are dimmed during a flight mainly for comfort and shades do not have to be raised based on any law, at least in the United States.

If any of you have more details or information to add related to this topic, please share with us in the comments below.

4 thoughts on “Update: Why Do Airplanes Dim Lights?

  1. I was an F/A for 27 years, so here goes. Lights are lowered or close to off especially for night flights for 1 main reason. Night Blindness. If the cockpit door was to open on approach with the cabin lights on it would affect the Pilots ability to see out the windshield. Did you ever try to drive at night with the interior dome light on? same thing………………window shades up on landing, here’s why. We started that back at TWA in the 80’s when a 727 at BOS was starting engines and the overwing CPU flared up. CPU was a power generator used for cabin electricity/power when engines were not running and away from gate power. Passengers panic and screamed. The F/A’s in the back of the plane were not able to see the flareup out of the emergency door windows…. passengers windows were down along that side as it was an early morning flight, sun coming up and everyone was sleepy. F/A could not evaluate outside conditions (the 1st thing you do before opening the door/slide, evaluate outside)((you don’t want to have an open door/slide leading to a fire). Panic ensued and the opened the door and activated the slide. Bad idea, why, CPU flare up is common on 727, not an evacuation worthy incident. Now you have a fully deployed slide, flight is now cancelled, thank you. Raising the window shades helps F/A’s evaluate outside conditions/ help determine what exit doors are safe to open (if needed) in an emergency. Most doors will be unusable in most accidents. Any other questions, just ask. Got lots of stories many xxx rated too.

    1. Thanks for sharing this info! I’m wondering if some of these things have changed in more recent years. When was your last year as a FA? The reasons you state do make sense but these days the cockpit door would more than likely never be open due to security issues.

      1. Mike, my last year was 04 and the Kelvar doors were installed domesticly industry wide (result of 911) by then. Cockpit doors prior to 911 were made to be easily kicked opened. It was not unusual to see a door open or even come apart on takeoff or landing. Why were they so flimsy you ask? Because if a plane crashed on impact/landing the fuselage would be mangled/crushed and the cockpit door would be unable to to open for pilot escape. If pilots cannot open mangled cockpit window and use rope to slide out they are toast (literally)…..So why nowadays have the window open/ lights off? Maybe the F/As are old farts (I’d still be there if AA didn’t screw over all of us) who were trained that way years ago. Why lights off in the day? To standardize safety procedures. Would love to see TBB on your blogroll.

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