Looking down the aisle a of empty passenger jet.
Getty Images

Why Do Airplanes Dim the Lights for Takeoff?

Lowering cabin lights and raising window shades are standard safety measures during takeoff and landing—the most critical moments of every flight. But what purpose do they serve? As it turns out, the dim lighting is a precautionary measure that allows passengers’ eyes to adjust more quickly during an emergency evacuation. As Chris Cooke, a pilot with a major domestic carrier, puts it: “Imagine being in an unfamiliar bright room filled with obstacles when someone turns off the lights and asks you to exit quickly.” The raised window shades bring natural light into the cabin, just in case it’s needed.

Melanie Lieberman is the Assistant Digital Editor at Travel + Leisure. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram at @melanietaryn.

This article originally appeared on TravelandLeisure.com

All products and services featured are based solely on editorial selection. TIME may receive compensation for some links to products and services on this website.