This week I’m writing all about seats. To start with, I thought I’d talk about one thing I do on every long-haul flight. If I am on a widebody aircraft, I always sit on the left-hand side.
Whenever you board an aircraft, have you ever noticed the jet bridges are always on the left? Why is that?
It’s because the right-hand side of the aircraft is being used by the ground crews. Catering & special cargo are always loaded on the right. On a wide-body aircraft with one jet bridge, you with board through either door 1L – right up at the front, or 2L – slightly further back, usually behind Business class.
The boarding process varies by aircraft, airline and airport. But I have never, ever boarded from the right.
However, the boarding process doesn’t make a great deal of difference in seat selection. It’s actually all about the disembarking process.
The big reason I choose seats furthest left is for the slightly speedier exit you can get. If you’ve been on a 10+ hour flight, most of the time you just want to get off by that point. You’re itching to get to your hotel or final destination. Because a wide-body aircraft has two aisles, the left-hand aisle always has an advantage over the right. That’s because when you disembark, most of the time it is through a single jet bridge. Again, usually at door 1L or 2L. As everybody stands up and shuffles towards the front of the plane, the right-hand side ends up in a choke point as they have to cross through one of the galleys to exit.
What you often see is the left-hand side passengers flowing forward and out of the door, with anyone who was on the right coming off much later.
You might think, well a couple of minutes doesn’t make a difference. And sometimes you’d be right… but there’s been a number of times at US airports for example, where this has been a good strategy. I disembarked at Las Vegas once and was one of the first 5 passengers off the plane. I had Global Entry, so transiting passport control was easy. But for the other 180+ people who did not have global entry, they found themselves in a very long line waiting to speak to the one customs & border control agent who was checking passports. In the USA, passport control is not a quick thing for non-US citizens! I estimate that the people who got off last were probably waiting a good 2-3 hours before they were finally free to continue their journey.
The lesson here is simple… the left-hand side gives you a tiny edge for getting out of that tin can faster. It’s a small edge, I will admit. But if it helps me avoid a long queue or get to my hotel sooner… I am taking it.
This week I’ll write a number of posts detailing my favourite seats on Virgin Atlantic (my most flown airline). In the coming weeks we’ll also look to add more favourite seat information from guest authors.