If you’re a frequent flyer, chances are you’ve noticed that right before takeoff or landing, a flight attendant will walk through the aisles and check to see not only that seatbelts are fastened and tray tables are stowed away, but that window shades are also raised. This may be a bit of an inconvenience if you’re hoping to get as much sleep as possible on the plane and don’t want the sun shining in your face, but the cabin crew isn’t making the request to give you a good view or to keep you awake. There’s actually a very good, if unsettling, reason for having all the window shades up when a plane is taking off or landing.
Having the window shades up allows the flight crew to better see outside in case of emergencies — and in case they need to evacuate the plane. Most plane accidents occur during takeoff or landing, which is why your flight attendant takes the opportunity to have you pull up your window shade right before then. Doing so will allow them to assess an emergency situation more accurately and determine the right exit route for you and your fellow passengers. That sun shining in your face also serves a purpose; flight crew are trained to evacuate a plane in 90 seconds or less and they need your eyes to be properly adjusted so that you get off the plane as fast as possible. It’s also the reason they’ll dim the lights in your cabin when it’s dark outside. So the next time you’re settling in for a long flight and you’re asked to pull up your window shade, you’d do well to follow the flight attendant’s instructions and not do anything to make them hate you.