Home Travel Why Planes Don’t Fly Over The Pacific Ocean

Why Planes Don’t Fly Over The Pacific Ocean

by SharonKurheg

Have you ever seen the flight patterns of flights from Japan to the United States? They never go directly across the Pacific Ocean to get to, say, San Francisco. They take a curved pattern that brings them, if not over Canada, then near it.

JALMap.gif

PC: JAL

The same goes for fights between, for example, Los Angeles and Beijing – they take an upward curve route that hugs Canada, Alaska, Russia, etc., before reaching its destination in China.

So what’s up with that? Why don’t planes fly over the Pacific Ocean?

Well, of course, SOME planes fly over the Pacific. Lots of them, really. I mean, there’s no way you can get to Hawaii from anywhere else without flying over the ocean. Flights between the U.S. & Australia or New Zealand go directly over the Pacific waters, too. But if you’re more north and plan to fly somewhere that’s more north? It definitely looks like a roundabout way of getting there, doesn’t it?

In a nutshell, it all has to do with saving time, saving fuel, distance, safety, and a few other factors. Watch this:

 

Of course, the “rules” for this have changed somewhat since most planes aren’t flying over Russia or Ukraine right now. But until that all started, yeah…pretty interesting, huh?

Want to comment on this post? Great! Read this first to help ensure it gets approved.
Want to sponsor a post, write something for Your Mileage May Vary, or put ads on our site? Click here for more info.

Like this post? Please share it! We have plenty more just like it and would love it if you decided to hang around and sign up to get emailed notifications of when we post.

Whether you’ve read our articles before or this is the first time you’re stopping by, we’re really glad you’re here and hope you come back to visit again!

This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary

9 comments

rick b November 5, 2019 - 1:01 pm

plenty of them fly from SE Asia straight to West Coast going EAST, but not going West. This has to do with jetstreams. They catch the jetstream going TO America, but avoid it and follow the great circle going FROM America. That’s why flights coming back home are often 1-2hr faster. Check out some flightaware tracks to/from HKG or SIN

Reply
Colin King November 11, 2019 - 12:05 pm

The shortest routes are called great circle routes. The best way to understand the great circle is to stretch a rubber band over a globe – you will see that although between 2 points the band is straight the band describes an arc on the Globe.

Reply
Stogieguy7 November 5, 2019 - 1:29 pm

What rick b said, I’ve tracked plenty of flights that cut right across the open Pacific in order to take advantage of an eastbound jet stream. Great circle is shorter and is less likely to find a westbound flight fighting a 100+ knot head wind than you’d find a mid-latitudes over the ocean.

Also, every single nonstop flight between Australia/New Zealand and North or South America flies over an incredible expanse of Pacific Ocean. Especially the Santiago or Buenos Aires to A/NZ flights.

Reply
JEN October 21, 2020 - 4:15 am

Have you ever looked at this from the point of view of a azimuthal equidistant map like the one the UN uses? It will blow your mind!

Reply
PDT February 7, 2021 - 10:13 am

Actually, I’ve twice flown directly across the Pacific from NRT to JFK, bypassing Great Circle Route when really strong jet stream in the winter. And we still arrived early!

Reply
No drop in the ocean | Matouring May 29, 2021 - 6:55 pm

[…] Read more courtesy of YourMileageMayVary.net […]

Reply
NR October 10, 2021 - 11:18 am

Wow, this was really interesting. Never knew so many factors was involved in this. I was just simply looking at the globe in my mind and thinking it doesn’t make sense…(not knowledgeable at all about these things. 😁)

Reply
Robert July 31, 2022 - 2:50 am

Your post is that the world is round?

Reply
SharonKurheg July 31, 2022 - 7:14 pm

Yes. And thank-you for reading it 😉

Reply

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: