Pressing Your Flight Attendant’s Buttons

With a sunny and hopefully unmistakable new design for its flight attendant call button, Boeing illuminated passengers on which button to press

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When Boeing revealed its new “Sky Interior” cabin for 737 airliners last October, most of the talk was about the design’s spaciousness and natural light. But when the public saw the cabin for the first time last week at the Paris Air Show, in a 737-700 built for Air Berlin, the focus was on a couple of tiny buttons. Specifically, the reading light and the flight-attendant call button.

They’ve been redesigned—and it’s about time.

The side-by-side placement of the two buttons has vexed fliers for a generation, and Boeing hopes that separating them and giving them different looks (the new call button is blue) will clear up the confusion. Many passengers avoid using the reading light for fear of accidentally calling the flight attendant, explained Boeing’s Blake Emery to Reuters.

But the change probably won’t settle another debate that has raged for decades: Is the call button just for emergencies? And who says my empty drink doesn’t qualify?

One camp holds that the buttons are there to be seen, not used. “Basically, you never want to press the call button,” says one flight attendant. More than a third of passengers fired back in a USA Today survey that surly, unresponsive fight attendants were their number one complaint. Most people agree that since the terrorist attacks of September 2011, safety is a big part of the flight attendant’s job, but passengers still want their blanky, and they want it now.

So, while Boeing’s new design may illuminate which button to press, we’re still in the dark about when to press at all.

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