Why you board a plane on the left side

You know you’ve al­ways been cu­ri­ous

Reader's Digest Asia Pacific - - Contents - BY BROOKE NEL­SON


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.

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