Today’s reader mail comes from James O’Connor, in Glasgow, Scotland. James asks, ” I have just realized that I always board my flights from the front left door. Do all planes board from the left side? If so, is there a rationale for this?”
James, the answer is “mostly yes.” Today all commercial airliners board from the left side. Some aircraft do not always board from the front door though. Many airlines board their Boeing 757s, 767, 777s from the “2L” door, or the second door back on left side. Boeing 747s are often boarded from more than one door at once, as are Airbus A380s, which board both the upper and lower decks, but always on the left side.
The only modern commercial aircraft I am aware of that boarded from the right side was the first commercial jet airliner, the De Havilland DH 106, The Comet. The Comet was the first commercial production jet aircraft. The Comet could be boarded from either the first left or first right door, with some airlines choosing to configure their aircraft for the right door to be the primary boarding and deplaning door.
As modern gates and jet bridges were implemented at airports around the world, aircraft boarding doors were standardized to the left side, with jet bridges only being configured for the left door of an aircraft. If you look at a commercial airliner you will notice the lower cargo doors are on the right side, this is no coincidence. Cargo doors and aircraft galley’s are on the right side of the aircraft so an aircraft can be served by baggage tractors, cargo container lifts, baggage belts, catering vehciles, etc, without interfering with jet bridges, or in some cases air stairs, that allow passengers to get on and off the aircraft.
The left door as the primary boarding side of an aircraft has its roots in the original form of long haul over the water travel … sea vessels. Passenger gangways on ships are on the left side of the ship, the “port” side.
While we’re discussing things aviation has taken directly from its maritime connections are the aircraft wing beacons. The colored beacons on an aircraft’s wing tips use the same colours as sea vessels, with red lights on the port side and the green lights on the starboard side.
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