Airbus is offering dimmable windows on its A350 with the first to be delivered net year.
Boeing trademarked this feature with its 787 Dreamliner but reactions have always been a mixed bag. While enjoying the “gadget” quality of the individually dimmable windows, many passengers loathe the widespread practice of forcing the passengers to sit in darkness even on day flights, as cabin crews at many airlines “calm” their customers by darkening the cabin.
Others complain that the electrochromic windows don’t 100 percent block out the sunlight if needed, the dimming itself is too slow or the darkened windows are generating a lot of heat if exposed to direct sunlight.
Boeing and US supplier Gentex, traditionally delivering automatic-dimming rearview mirrors to the automotive industry, stress the lower maintenance costs and higher efficiency versus the traditional roll-up window blinds.
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But not every airline agrees and a vocal opponent is Emirates’ President Sir Tim Clark, who says dimmable windows are even more maintenance-intensive.
Airbus will deliver the first A350 equipped with dimmable windows in 2022 to an airline that also operates the 787 and wants to offer an even product.
Emirates’s Clark says he has “not yet seen the dimmable windows on the A350 but for our A350s we have ordered the same ATG foldable electric window shades that we have on the A380s and Boeing 777s.”
They are installed only in the windows of the premium cabins, and Clark seems to be so convinced he endorses the product on the manufacturer’s website: “The ambiance is beyond what I had envisioned. We receive constant raves from our customers.”
In Toulouse, Airlineratings had the opportunity to see the Gentex windows to use on the A350 test aircraft on the ground. The two small, square operating buttons are slightly on the minuscule side and not even easy to spot, while the darkening indeed seems quicker.
“Now that the technology has matured, we are happy to offer this solution to our customers,” says Ingo Wuggetzer, Airbus VP Cabin Marketing. “Our standard on the A350 will continue to be the mechanical window shades, while electronically dimmable windows are an option.”
Airbus and Gentex claim that the technology has advanced. It uses an electrochromic gel encapsulated between two thin glass panels that darken or lighten in response to electricity, according to Gentex.
A low-voltage electric current induces an electromagnetic reaction causing the gel to darken, explains the manufacturer. When asked for a statement, Airbus copy-pastes the manufacturer’s press text word by word, not disclosing its origin. It claims: “Compared to previous designs, the latest electronically dimmable windows darken twice as fast and become 100 times darker, effectively eliminating more than 99.999 percent of visible light.”
Soon, passengers will be able to compare earlier window dimming on 787s, having been in service for some time, with the newest generation on some A350s.