Ever wondered why we board planes on the left-hand side?

Kristine Tarbert

It’s something most of us do every single time we travel and yet has anyone ever stopped to think about why we always board planes from the left-hand side?

Whether it’s via the jet bridge from inside the terminal, or using the tarmac and stairs at the front or the rear of the plane, you’re pretty much always entering from the left.

Now a discussion on online forum Quora has finally enlightened us all as to why this might be.

Why do we always board planes from the left? Photo: Getty

A former US air force pilot explained it all has to do with how planes pulled up to the terminals in the early days, saying the pilot – seated on the right side – needed to be able to see.

"Early airports were set up so that aircraft could taxi in front of the terminal and stop to discharge passengers," he wrote.

“Some early transports had right-side doors into the passenger cabin, but the logic of the pilot's field of view prevailed.”

Historically pilots used to park parallel to the terminal. Photo: Getty

He also says it’s about stopping passengers from wandering around busy areas, especially if things like refuelling and baggage loading are going on at the same time.

“For safety reasons, passenger movement is kept on one side while fuelling is carried out on the other,” he says.

Another expert had a different take on the matter saying it all stemmed from ships having a port (left) and starboard (right) side.

“The port side was the one you would embark and disembark from, so most airplane and jetway designers followed the same convention,” commercial pilot Andrew Stagg wrote on the site.

Senior aviation consultant at To70 confirmed that most modern planes keep passengers on the left, and servicing on the right.

The plane is generally serviced on the right. Photo: Getty

He agrees it stems from the historic practice of parking parallel to the terminal.

"With the captain sitting on the left and often the pilot tasked with taxi duties, parking with the left side closest to the terminal is easiest to judge for the captain,” he told The Independent.

"Nowadays, aeroplanes have standardised this historic habit. Aeroplanes are fuelled on the right, bags are loaded on the right and most of the cleaning & catering vehicles also park on the right-hand side."

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