Why You Always Board a Plane From the Left

There are a lot of things we take for granted in flying. We assume the pilots are competent, the security screening is thorough and if they serve fish in economy, you probably better skip it. But have you ever wondered why you always board a plane from the left? Even though all planes have doors on the left and right side, boarding is always on the left.

Here’s Why

Of course as with everything in life, the answer has a couple of components. First and foremost when airports were first being built it was decided that it would make sense to standardize how they operated. This included everything from call signs and air traffic control to how a plane taxis, parks and boards passengers.

Pilots wanted to be able to better judge how far their wings were from terminals or other obstacles when they taxied in so they liked the idea of parking with their wings to the left of the building. They had a better view of their wing tips this way. And of course this was back before jetways were invented when airlines used moveable stairs. However pilots still needed to maneuver their planes into the right spot and fender benders have always been discourage in aviation.

This decision also created another rule, which determined that cargo and catering and most crew servicing is done from the right side of the plane whenever possible. This meant that deplaning passengers and fuelling trucks stayed apart.

And There is a Historical Precedent

In nautical terms port is the left of a ship and starboard is the right. The term starboard is actually derived from steerboard which was like a rudder and was always placed on the right of a ship. The steerboard helped in literally steering there ship, hence the creative name. Becasue the steerboard was always on the right-hand side, ships could only dock on the left or port side. 

Many nautical conventions and terms were ported (never mind the pun) over to aviation in the early days of commercial flying.

So there now you know why you always board a plane from the left. But please do the flying public a favour and don’t bore the passenger next to you with this trivia on your next flight from Boise to Cincinnati. Better yet, use that time to think about your life choices if you’re flying from Boise to Cincinnati. 

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