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Home > Airways > What are common air routes over the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans?
What are common air routes over the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans?
Flying - Airways
Monday, 07 January 2008 20:01

Hello Capt Lim,

I don't get fearful when flying over land but when flying over the larger oceans, it is more stressful for me, although my fears are somewhat irrational. However, I was wondering what are the common routes over the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans? How far from a landing strip are most commercial jets at any given time? For example, if my plane left Charlotte, North Carolina for London, would it go straight over the ocean or would it head up the East Coast and over Iceland, Greenland, and then toward the British Isles? What would be the route for a trip from San Francisco to Tokyo?

Thank you for your great website.

Howie Schaffer,
Takoma Park, MD, USA.

Hi Howie,

Please read an almost identical question in my previous FAQ. Most airlines would endeavor to use the shortest routes between 2 points. These are Great Circle routes and appear curved on the map in the TV screens on board most modern airliners today.

Across the Atlantic, because of the high volume of air traffic between the USA and Europe, there is a system of Airways with special defined separation to permit more aircraft to fly at different directions at specific times of the day. These Airways are not fixed but change every 12 hours to cater for weather and the jet stream flow. So I am unable to describe precisely your routing.

Thus your flight from Charlotte to London would most likely see the airplane heading North East to the south of Greenland and Iceland, then South East to the British Isles, appearing like a curvy route. Similarly, from San Francisco to Tokyo, the plane would fly North West towards the Pacific Ocean, then South West to Tokyo.

Have a pleasant curvy flight on your next journey :-) !

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Hello,I took a flight from Berlin to miami and the route was terrifying becasue the pilots took a route pretty much directly over the atlantic thru bermuda,etc.I was monitoring it on the touch screen on my chair and it was far from any land.It was my understanding that flights needed to be closer to land in case there was an emergency and we all didnt have to go swimming in the atlantic. Wish someone woud clarify this problem I have with the air Berlin route.
sam lombardi , 07 Dec, 2012
Why do airplanes fly over water to mexico ?
I have a big fear of flying, especially if it's going over water. I have 3 kids and I worry that if something were to happen I wouldn't want to see my children drown, or in pain. Is there any alternative routes to fly to mexico without going over the water?
Bibi , 22 Mar, 2014

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