Why We Board Airplanes from the Left?


“From which side do passengers usually get on the plane?”

The answer to this question is easy and clear: “Usually on the left side of the Airplane.”

Well, let’s change our question a little bit.

“Why do passengers usually get on the plane from the left side?”

As it is known, aviation has a very short history in the history of humanity. About 100 years ago, the concepts and terms needed in the crawling periods of aviation were inspired by the relatively more developed maritime industry as of that date. Many terms and rules used in aviation today are adapted from maritime.

Words such as captain, navigation, onboard are just a few of the things that come to mind from the very start.

You can think about what this has to do with passengers getting on and off the plane. But the job is not that trivial. As it is known, the left side of the ships is called “port” and the right side is called “starboard” (steer board).

The basis of this distinction lies in the steering wheel oar located on the right side of very old boats. Boats approached the left side of the pier so that the rudder paddle would not get caught between the pier and the boat.

Therefore, the passengers and crew on the boat used the left side of the boat, namely the pier side for boarding and getting off.

This practice has been so settled over the years and was convinced that the ships continued to dock at the port from the left side, although the steering system was developed and centered on the back of the boat.

And, as we mentioned above, the aviation industry was affected by the maritime industry continued this practice.

In early times, before the passenger boarding bridges began to be used, the aircraft would berth parallel to the terminal building with the left side close to the terminal.

The aircraft’s captain sitting on the left side in the cockpit also enabled him to have a better view and awareness when parking from the left side.

First Operational Boarding Bridges

What made the tradition of passengers getting on and off the planes on the left side permanent was the passenger boarding bridges, which were first used at airports in the USA (American Airlines at San Francisco in 1959). (airporthistory.org)

While designing passenger boarding bridges, the tradition was also followed and the left side of the aircraft, namely the pier side, was taken as basis for the landing and boarding of the passengers.

After that stage, all regulations and instructions regarding airports, airplanes and loading-unloading processes were prepared accordingly.

So nowadays, the passengers are getting in and out a plane from the doors on the left side, perhaps in a way that is no longer possible to change.


On the other hand, the right side of the aircraft, the starboard side, is called the “service side”. While the passengers get on and off the plane from the left, services such as cargo, fuel oil and catering are carried out through the doors on the right side of the plane, except in extraordinary situations.

Aren’t there any passengers boarding the plane on the right? Of course, sometimes it happens. Passengers who need special assistance and who will get on the plane with a wheelchair or stretcher, pass through the right-hand doors to the plane, again, using special vehicles.

As a result, it is strange but real, the fact that the rudder paddle on the first boats developed by mankind was placed on the right side, might been effective in determining the side of the passenger planes in modern times and moreover the shape of the operation of the aircraft on the ground.

Why We Board Airplanes from the Left?

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