A windowless airplane? Not so crazy

Even a confirmed window seat fan can see the appeal of an aircraft with virtual windows.

Kent German Former senior managing editor / features
Kent was a senior managing editor at CNET News. A veteran of CNET since 2003, he reviewed the first iPhone and worked in both the London and San Francisco offices. When not working, he's planning his next vacation, walking his dog or watching planes land at the airport (yes, really).
Kent German
2 min read

I could never give this up completely, but I could see having a virtual view.

Kent German/CNET

I'm forever a window seat guy. I love to fly in any form, but one of the most calming things I can do is stare out the window of an airplane with all distractions put away and watch the Earth go by. I once spent an entire flight from Boston to San Francisco just looking outside.

That said, color me curious about the prospect of a windowless commercial airliner. It may sound crazy, but Tim Clark, president of Emirates, suggested in a recent podcast that the globe-hopping airline is open to the idea. Instead of real windows, passengers could gaze at virtual windows with images projected from outside via fiber-optic cameras.


Now arriving: a windowless plane? 

Kent German/CNET

Wild suggestions for the future of air travel are usually the domain of Ryanair CEO Michael O'Leary (yes, the guy who floated the idea of paying to use the loo), but Emirates is the airline that brought showers to the sky. Promises aside, what's more important is that the technology for virtual windowless planes exists. 

Emirates has already installed virtual windows in redesigned and ultra-posh first class suites on its new Boeing 777-300ER aircraft. Zach Honig of The Points Guy praised the virtual windows when he tried one of the suites late last year.

As Honig knows his airline amenities, I'll trust his word the technology is legit. Emirates isn't alone in mulling a windowless plane either. Spike Aviation is designing a supersonic business jet that would skip windows in favor of broadcasting the scene outside onto the entire wall of the cabin.

Watch this: Watch Boeing's 737 MAX 7 complete its first test flight

As much as I like the window, I could see this working. Here's how:

  • Shutting out bright sunlight would be easy, saving you from fumbling with a shade or the Boeing 787's (cool) electronic dimming feature.
  • Hopefully, you'd be able to change the view to see not only out of your side of the plane, but also from across the aisle. Never miss a thing!
  • As Honig says, the camera delivers greater clarity then a standard window.
  • That pesky wing would never get in the way and you'd never get stuck in one of those dreaded "window" seats where the row skips a real window.

Of course, I'd have to see them for myself to render a firm opinion. Still, this window seat guy is excited to see what happens.