The Atlantic Ocean And Air Travel: Everything You Need to Know

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Flight routes and patterns are determined by several factors, including weather, wind speeds, and the location of airports. Passengers from North America to Europe believe that planes must fly over the Atlantic Ocean to reach their destinations. But do planes actually follow this route?

Planes fly over the Atlantic Ocean. Aircrafts flying across the ocean typically take off and land from airports on either side of the Atlantic. Many flights between North America and Europe or Asia cross the ocean daily.

The rest of this article will explain why planes do not fly in a straight line directly over the Atlantic Ocean, how long transatlantic flights take, and what causes planes to fly in a curved pattern.

Onboard My Flight Over The Atlantic Ocean
Onboard My Flight Over The Atlantic Ocean

Do Planes Fly Over the Atlantic Ocean?

Flying over the Atlantic Ocean is a great choice for both pilots and passengers. Not only does it offer stunning views, but it can also be a quicker and more direct route than flying over land.

Why Do Planes Not Fly Directly Over the Atlantic Ocean?

Planes do not fly in a straight line directly over the Atlantic Ocean because of the curvature of the Earth. The shortest distance between two points on Earth follows a curve called an ellipse. Planes can also encounter strong winds that would push them off course.

Additionally, the flight pattern is curved because it represents the path of the aircraft as it flies around the world. The Earth’s shape causes the aircraft to appear to fly in a straight line, but it is actually following a curved path.

As planes move forward, they can also encounter different pockets of air at different speeds. These can cause the aircraft to veer off course. During transatlantic flights, trade winds blow from east to west across the ocean, which would push a plane off course if it was flying in a straight line. For this reason, planes must cross the Atlantic Ocean in a curved path.

Furthermore, turbulence can also affect a plane’s flight path. Turbulence is not only an uncomfortable experience for passengers, but it can also affect a plane’s flight path. Most turbulence is caused by air moving around mountain ranges or large bodies of water. As the air hits these obstacles, it is forced to move up and over them, which creates pockets of turbulent air.

While it may seem like planes are constantly changing direction, pilots are expertly navigating these conditions to ensure a safe and smooth journey for passengers.

Virgin Atlantic Flight across the Atlantic Ocean
Onboard my Virgin Atlantic Flight across the Atlantic Ocean

How Long Does It Take To Fly Across the Atlantic Ocean?

The average time it takes to fly across the Atlantic Ocean itself is roughly 3.5 hours. While 3.5 hours may seem like a long time, it’s quite fast, considering the distance involved.

It takes about seven hours to fly from New York to London on a direct flight. But if you’re flying from the west coast of the United States, it can take up to nine hours. And if you’re flying to Asia, your transatlantic flight can take more than 12 hours. So how long does it really take to cross the Atlantic and get to your destination by plane?

The answer depends on a few factors:

  • Where are you traveling from? Think about your starting point and destination airports. The closer they are to each other, the shorter your flight will be.
  • What’s your final destination? If you’re flying into a major city like London or Paris, there will be more traffic and congestion than if you’re flying into a smaller city.
  • What’s your flight schedule? If you’re flying during the daytime, there are more planes in the air, and it can take longer to get from one side of the Atlantic Ocean to the other. Early morning or late night flights are shorter than those during the daytime. 
  • Which airline are you flying on? Some airlines are faster than others when it comes to crossing the Atlantic.

Is There a Lot of Turbulence Flying Over the Atlantic?

Turbulence while flying is often thought of as something that occurs when crossing the ocean, specifically when flying over the Atlantic. But is there really more turbulence when flying over the ocean?

Planes flying over the Atlantic can experience more turbulence. Turbulence is primarily caused by air currents created by the Earth’s rotation. These air currents are strongest over the oceans, so you may feel more turbulence when flying over the Atlantic.

While turbulence can be annoying, it’s usually not dangerous. The pilots are trained to handle it, and the aircraft is designed to withstand it. So sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride.

Why Do Planes Fly in a Curved Pattern?

Planes fly in a curved pattern because the Earth is not a perfect sphere. Additionally, wind patterns around the world are not always consistent, so flying in a straight line would cause planes to constantly adjust their course. Flying in a curved pattern also helps planes conserve fuel.

They Follow the Shape of the Earth

Most people think of the Earth as a perfect sphere, but it actually isn’t. The Earth is an oblate spheroid, which means it’s slightly flattened at the poles. Planes have to fly in a curved pattern to stay on course.

It’s More Fuel-Efficient

Traveling in an arc is more fuel efficient for planes. When a plane flies in a straight line, it has to keep going faster to overcome air resistance. But when it flies in a curve, the air resistance pushes the plane forward, helping it conserve energy.

Wind Patterns Can Be Inconsistent

Planes constantly adjust their flight paths due to the wind. The wind is not a consistent force, and it often changes direction and speed. These constant changes cause planes to fly in a curved pattern, and pilots must account for the wind when flying the plane.


Due to the curvature of the Earth, planes flying across the Atlantic Ocean must fly in a curved pattern. Transatlantic flights typically take between five to twelve hours, and the curved flight pattern is due to several factors, including wind speed and direction.

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