Both the call button
and reading light button
are on a panel on the inside armrest of your seat.
The two buttons are the same size and same shape
and differ only in their icons and positions on the panel.
The call button icon is a little stylized person
and the reading light icon is a little light bulb.
Of course, in the dark, when you are trying to turn on
the light, you can't see the icons
on the buttons, and when you feel around for the buttons,
the two buttons feel exactly the same. It's only by
their positions on the panel that you could identify them,
assuming you looked at the panel before it got dark and you
remembered their positions. Actually, it isn't
that easy to see the buttons even when it's light because the
armrests are so close to you. Well, that's the way it is in coach.
The second time I pressed the call button by
accident, which didn't make me too popular with the
flight attendant, I had my earphones plugged in (See photo B.)
The earphone jack is right above the light button so
the earphone cord hangs down over
the light button. That didn't make it any easier to
find the light button in the dark!
Ideally, if the two buttons differed by other features besides just their icons and positions on the panel, they would be less confusing. For example, the call button could be a recessed push button and the light switch could be a rocker switch (See Photo C.) This would make it possible to feel the difference between the two buttons and to know which was which, even in the dark.
Modern airplanes have the call button and reading
light buttons on a panel on the ceiling above the
seat. They are larger, lighted, easier to see
and less likely to confuse. The light buttons are also close to the
lights, so it is easier to find them. I've seen people look up at the overhead lights to find a light switch even when the light switch is on the armrest.
Copyright © Michael J. Darnell 2006-2010. All rights reserved.