This is why you always board on the left side of an airplane

Whether you're a first-time flier or experienced jet setter, we're willing to bet there are plenty of air travel questions you've always wondered. For example, what's the deal with those triangle stickers above your seat? And why do you always get stuck sitting beside a baby, or worse: a snorer?

But amidst all of these mind-boggling mysteries, you might have failed to notice something rather important: The side on which you board the plane. No matter where you're traveling, you will always embark and disembark from a door on the left-hand side of the aircraft. What's the deal?

Related: Get through an airport quicker

12 PHOTOS
12 tips that can get you through the airport as quickly as possible
See Gallery
12 tips that can get you through the airport as quickly as possible

Apply for TSA PreCheck status

Signing up for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry can help save you valuable time, as you can keep your shoes, belts, and light jackets on as you go through security. You also don't have to remove your laptop or any liquids from your bag. 

It will help get you through an expedited line over Thanksgiving weekend as well as each time you travel afterward, making it a valuable investment.

Check in ahead of time.

Give yourself as few tasks to do at the airport as possible. Instead of waiting to pick up your boarding pass, check in ahead of time, either online or on your phone.

You can go paperless at most airport and use an electronic pass on your phone to board.

Download your airline's app.

American Airlines, Southwest Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, and British Airways are just a few of the airlines that have developed mobile apps to give travelers real-time information on flight delays and gate changes.

That way, if your gate has changed and you're short on time, you’ll know before you even get to the airport.

Wear slippers.

If you're going to have to take your shoes off at security, make them easy ones to remove.

Slippers are a good choice because they'll keep you warm and cozy on your flight without taking too much time to remove at security.

Buy a TSA-approved laptop bag.

Certain laptop bags are specially designed to be approved through TSA security, meaning you won't have to take your laptop out separately when passing through.

Simple cases like this one from Case Logic ($27) are perfectly reasonable. 

If you're bringing gifts, leave them unwrapped.

If you're exchanging gifts over the holidays, ship them ahead of time to avoid having to take them through the airport. Or if you're going to bring them with you, leave them unwrapped, as TSA agents may have to unwrap them.

"Wrapped gifts are allowed, but we recommend waiting until you land to wrap them," it says on the TSA's official blog. "If there's something in the gift that needs to be inspected, we may have to open it … It also slows down the line for everybody else when we have to do this."

Pack shoes foot-to-toe at the bottom of your bag.

Packing your shoes in the bottom of your bag will help to put some weight on the wheels of your luggage and make it easier to remain balanced, especially if you're rushing to your gate. 

Arrive early.

This one seems like common sense, but make sure you leave yourself more time than usual during holiday travels. Brian Ek, a travel expert for Priceline.com, told Fox News that he encourages fliers to arrive at least two hours before their domestic flight and three hours for international flights that are leaving early in the morning or late at night.

For normal business-hour flights, he recommends giving yourself another 30 to 45 minutes, just to be on the safe side. 

Keep a bag of essential items ready to go.

Skip the time it would take to transfer your shampoo into a 3.4-ounce bottle and have a bag of toiletries ready to go.

Grab samples of your favorite products, or get travel-size toiletries and store them in one bag so you can simply grab it and go each time you pack.

Have a booking app set up on your phone.

Canceled flights are an unfortunate reality when traveling during the holidays. To help ensure you get the best place to sleep if this does happen, have a booking app set up on your phone so that you can make last-minute hotel reservations or rent a car.

If your flight does get canceled, take advantage of your time and start calling the airline over the phone while you wait in line.

Look for lines toward your left.

According to CNN, looking for lines toward your left side can help you spot the one that's shorter. Studies show that Americans are more likely to turn right than left when entering a building. 

If your flight is delayed, relax at an airport lounge.

Even if you're flying economy, it doesn't mean you can't access airport lounges. Most lounges sell day passes so that anyone can experience last-minute pampering and relaxation. 

You can also get a Priority Pass, which gives you access to more than 1,000 airport lounges around the world. 

Finally, check your credit card to see whether or not it gives you lounge access. Some, like American Express Platinum, have access to Delta and Centurion lounges. 

HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

There's a method to this madness, as it turns out. First of all, doing so directs foot traffic away from the grounds crew on the right-hand side, who are fueling up the plane and loading luggage.

What's more, pilots usually sit in the left seat. So, back in the day, "it was useful for the pilot to be able to judge wing clearance from the terminal building and to put the aircraft door in front of the terminal doors" if it was on the left side, a former U.S. Air Force pilot said on Quora.

Yet another explanation has roots in nautical tradition. Thanks to the placement of the "steerboard"—the rudder-like part on the right-hand side of a boat—passengers had to board from the boat's left side, also called the port. Consequently, "most airplane and jetway designers followed the same convention," according to Andrew Stagg, a commercial pilot.

The only time you won't embark or disembark from the left-hand side? When you're flying in small, two-seater planes. But for the most part, commercial fliers will always get the left side treatment. Just don't forget to say this one word to your flight attendant when you board.

[Source: Travel+Leisure, The Independent]

The post This Is Why You Always Board on the Left Side of an Airplane appeared first on Reader's Digest.

Related: Odd things that have happened on flights

26 PHOTOS
Most bizarre things flight attendants have seen
See Gallery
Most bizarre things flight attendants have seen
Poo smelly enough to land a plane

The BBC reports that in March 2015, a British Airways flight from London to Dubai was forced to turn around because of a "smelly poo."

Abhishek Sachdev, who was on board the flight, told BBC, "The pilot made an announcement requesting senior cabin crew, and we knew something was a bit odd. About 10 minutes later he said, 'You may have noticed there's a quite pungent smell coming from one of the toilets.' He said it was liquid fecal excrement. Those are the words he used."

A BA spokesperson said the situation posed a health and safety problem because only half the air is recycled and cleaned on an airplane.

Passengers were put up in a hotel overnight since the next available flight was 15 hours later, according to the BBC.

Emotional-support marsupials

Toilet abuse

"A passenger stood on top of the closed toilet and defecated," a flight attendant with 30 years of experience told Business Insider.

Dangerously impatient passengers

In 2014, a passenger on a China Eastern Airlines plane who said he wanted to "get off the plane quicker" deployed the emergency slide after the aircraft landed at Sanya Phoenix International Airport.

The incident caused the aircraft to be delayed for two hours and reportedly cost about $16,000 in damage.

In April, a United Airlines flight attendant pulled the same stunt.

Exploding e-cigarettes

In March, a Delta Air Lines flight was delayed at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport after an e-cigarette belonging to a passenger ignited on board the flight.

While battery-powered portable electronic smoking devices are permitted on planes as long as they're not checked, the lithium ion batteries in e-cigarettes have shown a propensity to ignite if they are damaged.

Spiders on a plane
Strange item requests

A flight attendant with the pen name Betty writes in her online series "Confessions of a Fed-Up Flight Attendant" that the strangest things people have asked her for on planes are actually fairly ordinary items — what's surprising is what some of these items would be used for.

Items requested include tweezers for pulling thorns out of a passenger's butt; a pen to clean ears with; a screwdriver "to take the seat apart"; and a cup, lid, straw, and knife "to make a catheter."

Strange announcement requests

A flight attendant with three years of experience told Business Insider that she's gotten her fair share of strange announcement requests.

"One gentleman was angry, and he asked me if I could make an announcement over the PA. When I asked him what he wanted me to announce, he he said, 'somebody in this vicinity is passing gas, and I need them to stop,'" she said.

Another passenger asked her to make an announcement asking a neighboring passenger to give up the armrest.

Whatever this is 
Animals left on planes

More than 700 international cabin-crew members told Skyscanner in 2013 about items they found on flights after passengers disembarked.

Animals accounted for several of the more unusual items on the list, including a falcon, dried fish, a frog, a tortoise, and a parrot.

People who make soup with the airline water

In response to the Quora question "What are the weirdest things flight attendants have seen in their line of duty?" former flight attendant Heather Wilde said she's seen her fair share of things many people would consider weird.

Among the strangest were people who made soup using the airline water. "Guys, the water lines haven't ever been cleaned — ever," she said.

Flying pigs
Virtually undetectable turbulence

"One of the weirdest things I experienced was clear-air turbulence. I was bounced between the ceiling and the floor twice and broke my foot in two places when the bar cart landed on it," a flight attendant with 27 years of experience told Business Insider.

The worst place to put a baby
Uncomfortable 'cat-cidents'

"I know more than one fellow flight attendant who has had the uncomfortable situation of having to tell a woman that she can't breastfeed her ... cat! You read that right: Breastfeeding. A. Cat. And this isn't an isolated incident," Betty wrote.

She says the cat feeders' responses are always the same: "I'm just feeding my 'baby.'"

In-flight laundry
Unfortunate accidents

Betty writes that passengers tend to get more inebriated on flights to Las Vegas. In his drunken state, one passenger passed out while he was in the restroom, fell backward, and ended up on the floor with his fly still down and his privates exposed.

After much debate among the attendants about what to do, "they finally decided to get the long metal tongs that we use to serve bread in first class to move the exposed body part back into his pants! He didn't feel a thing," Betty wrote.

'Ambien zombies'

From streaking down the aisle totally nude to falling like an axed tree, when passengers consume an unfortunate mix of Ambien — which people take to sleep on planes — and airplane cocktails, it makes even the most normal people do very bizarre things, Betty says.

"These folks are sleeping, which means they think they are at home and safe in their beds. When they are home and safe in their beds they think it is perfectly acceptable to take off all of their clothes," Betty wrote.

Alas, this is not acceptable behavior on a long-haul international flight.

Pee hazards
A severe fear of flying

"I had a woman run to the front of the plane and throw herself in my closet. (She thought she was going to bathroom.) She then curled up in the fetal position in the closet and started sucking her thumb. She later told me that she forgot to take her anxiety medicine before flight," a flight attendant with 30 years of experience told Business Insider.

Balancing acts
States of undress

"One passenger attempted to board the plane wearing a raincoat and no pants," a flight attendant with 40 years of experience told Business Insider.

In-flight workouts
Sandwich thieves

"Never say never. Weirdness will always outdo itself if you challenge it," a flight attendant with 21 years of experience told Business Insider.

"For example, a passenger stole a sandwich off the galley counter. It was a crew member's, who bought it at the airport. They'd taken a bite and left it on the counter (with a little lipstick around the bite mark) to assist someone. When the crew member came back to the galley, it was gone.

"The crew member later found the thief eating it at their seat. When asked how they could just take a used sandwich with lipstick on it, they shrugged and said, 'I was hungry.'"

So many feet! 
A bloody mess

"I haven't seen this, but I did have flight attendants tell me about blood dripping from the overhead because someone was bringing in a goat's head from a Caribbean island. That was before TSA and all their security procedures were put in place, of course," Annette Long, a flight attendant with 13 years of experience, told Business Insider.

HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

Read Full Story