Overhead Light On During Overnight Flights

For many passengers, the opportunity to get some modicum of rest is while seated aboard an airplane during an overnight flight — and if those passengers are able to sleep despite conditions which are typically less than favorable, all the better…

Overhead Light On During Overnight Flights

…but when a person seated nearby decides to turn on the overhead light — to read a book or a magazine, for example, as he or she is otherwise unable to sleep while seated aboard an airplane — is that considered rude or acceptable? What about if the passenger is hungry and decides to dine on a meal or a snack during a time when no one else is eating?

The answer may not be so obvious. Some airplanes are equipped with overhead lights which seem to be designed to blind people, as they are so bright — this is typical on newer or refurbished airplanes — while others can barely light up the immediate seat area at all.

Also, people seated nearby may not be bothered by the illumination of a nearby overhead light — but if they are sensitive to light in an otherwise dark cabin, should they have been prepared for the flight with eyeshades?

Summary

Having the overhead light illuminated nearby typically does not bother me whenever I try to fall asleep aboard an airplane — no matter how futile is the attempt — unless it is so bright that it can be considered rather unbearable. I then might consider politely asking the person when he or she will no longer need the light on.

I often feel a tinge of guilt when I turn on the overhead light in an otherwise dark cabin during an overnight flight — even if it is only for a few minutes because I dropped something on the floor, as one example…

…so I was curious as to what you thought is the proper etiquette as to when — and for how long — an overhead light aboard an airplane during a flight should be on.

Photograph ©2016 by Brian Cohen.

12 thoughts on “Overhead Light On During Overnight Flights”

  1. Mark says:

    I don’t understand the point of this post. Yes, you lay out the situation. Late flight. Ramifications of light. Great. But, what’s the point? Totally confused.

    1. flyguy1 says:

      ditto

  2. NB says:

    The overhead light is not a problem – after all, it’s directional not ambient and it’s steady not flickering. The problem is the tv screens and iPads which emit bright and flickering light which is extremely disturbing. Personally, I believe those should be banned rather than books.

    1. gilam says:

      Exactly. Your comfort is the absolute first priority and therefore any entertainment device should be banned. Also while we’re at it we might as well prohibit talking, eating, or any other activity that bothers you.

      It’s not like you can bring eyeshades or just close your eyes. Clearly that’s too much effort.

    2. gilam says:

      Exactly. Your comfort is the absolute first priority and therefore any entertainment device should be banned. Also while we’re at it we might as well prohibit talking, eating, or any other activity that bothers you.

      It’s not like you can bring eyeshades or just close your eyes. Clearly that’s too much effort.

  3. iv says:

    I hate any light when I’m sleeping especially on a plane. I like the cabin pitch dark with the twinkling starry light show.

  4. Levy Flight says:

    Yes, curious chain of consciousness this post. If asking whether this an issue, well this is why the gods gave us eyeshades. I get more bugged by flying over Greenland on a daytime flight and all the shades are down. Not mine,

  5. dayone says:

    Etiquette posts are like pulling the pin on a grenade. Just wait for the explosion.

    And there is never anything wrong with briefly turning on an overhead light.

  6. Jon says:

    I read quite a bit on planes. I have several very compact reading lights that I use for reading in dark cabin without having to use the overhead light on my seat mate. The reading lights clip on to your jacket /shirt, angled down to your book / laptop etc. Many different models out there & cheap.

  7. Doc Fried says:

    I have actually had a United flight attendant asked me to turn off my overhead light because it was disturbing other flyers twice. Once on a flight from HNL to Den in first class, and once on the only long haul flight I’ll ever take on them DEN to SYD in premium economy. I was shocked since I was wide awake and quietly reading in a window seat.

    1. Rob says:

      As one to another, you must be an American ! Not respectful of others space and being.
      You do not own the airplane. Your $1,000. seat is peanuts to a multimillion dollar aircraft.
      I suggest you fly NETJETS…..and you will be more able to control your surroundings.

    2. Samuel says:

      I ACTUALLY had a fellow pax sitting near me who left the light on during a flight. All the other Pax were resting or asleep and this guy was not respectful of others.
      Maybe he was American like me ! I wanted to tell him to try NETJETS as then one can adjust the aircraft as they see fit. The experience is much better than FC in any carrier.

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