Why you board a plane on the left side
You know you’ve always been curious
WHETHER YOU’RE A FIRST-TIME FLYER
or an experienced jetsetter, we’re willing to bet there are plenty of air travel questions you’ve always had. For example, what’s the deal with that triangle sticker on the wall near your seat? And why do you always get stuck sitting beside someone who snores?
But amid all of these mindboggling mysteries, you might have failed to notice something rather important: the side on which you board the plane. No matter where you’re travelling, you will always embark and disembark from a door on the left-hand side of the aircraft.
What’s the deal? There’s a method to this madness, it turns out. First of all, doing so directs foot traffic away from the ground crew on the right-hand side, who are fuelling up the plane and loading luggage.
What’s more, the pilot usually sits in the left-hand seat. So, back in the day, “it was useful for the pilot to be able to judge wing clearance from the terminal building and to put the aircraft door in front of the terminal doors” if it was on the left side, notes a former Air Force pilot.
Yet another explanation has its roots in nautical tradition. Thanks to the placement of the ‘steerboard’ – the rudder-like part on the righthand side of a boat – passengers had to board from the boat’s left side, also called the port. Aircraft designers followed the same convention, says Andrew Stagg, a commercial pilot.
The only time you won’t embark or disembark from the left-hand side? When you’re flying in small, two-seater planes. But for the most part, commercial flyers will get the left-side treatment.