Boarding practices


I’ve done a search on here, but I couldn’t find anything.

As a frequent flyer, all over the place, I have noticed that a plane is ALWAYS boarded from the left side. Can anyone shed some light on this? Why do we do that??


because it’s standard. As mentioned below AA did have DC-3’s with right hand side doors. However, they only had doors on one side anyway.


Because that’s the side the doors are on!


Indeed, if that’s what OP was asking. Wasn’t always that way, American (for one) specified RH passenger doors for its DC-3s and some Convairs. The Martins only had rear central doors and steps under the tail.

Pretty soon everyone standardized to LH, I’m not aware of any jets with a RH option although some did have tail stairs (111,727). The theory is that since the commander sat on the left he could watch the boarding process, which is only significant when not using an airbridge, and doesn’t work anyway for those few airplanes with a rear door (ATR, DHC-7).


On larger jets, doors are on both sides of the aircraft.
As my revised remarks above indicate, it’s a standardization thing.


On many aircraft the door on the right side in the front (R1) is smaller than the main L1 door. It’s primarily used for catering.


I disagree with this. Take the 737 as an example. The 4 main doors are all the same size. The R1 door is the same size as L1. It does open to a smaller area than the L1 though because the galley is there.


Check out the 737 and other air-crafts right front door. That’s where the pantry and beverage/snack storage is located resulting in a narrower passage way. Also, standard docking practice is employed.


I really don’t have any solid proof to back this other than traditionally aircraft have been built with a left side passenger door (of course with exceptions). This might be carryover from the maritime use of a portside and starboard side. Avaition has borrowed things from sailing, this might be another of those.


All commercial aircraft have auxiliary exits, and they are there more for emergency evacuation than catering or other uses. With the entry of the jet age, and the use of jetways at airports, I’m guessing someone had to make a decision about standardization. How difficult would it be if some airplanes were designed to use the right doors, but only some airports had jetways set up for right doors?

Here is another question, why do 757s sometimes use the L2 door in the middle of the cabin instead of the usual L1. I have boarded a 757 through L1, then deplaned out of L2.


At ATA we did this to expedite boarding. There wouldn’t quite be the log jam in the cabin because some of the line went to their seats to the left as opposed to everyone going to the right.


Think about the infrastructure that would be needed at the airports around the world if aircraft could not use a very high percent of the gates at those airports. While there was more flexibility in the days of the DC-3, few aircraft today carry their stairs with them (regionals being the main exception)