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“Buckle up folks, It’s gonna be a bumpy ride.”
Turbulence scares many passengers. The jolts, bumps, drops, shaking, and rumbles can be concerning.
As an airline pilot, I have experienced every type of turbulence possible. After 3500 hours in the air, I hardly notice it anymore. However, most passengers, who only fly a few times a year, notice every bump.
My experience flying has taught me when and where the worst turbulence will be. As a captain, my job is to create the safest and smoothest ride possible for my passengers and crew.
But, despite my best efforts, experience has taught me certain flights will always be bumpy. It is hard to say for certain which flights will be bumpy. However, some routes are prone to bumps.
In the next section we will go through some of these routes that are known for having the most turbulence.
But if you want first to know what flight turbulence is and most importantly is it dangerous, read my detailed guide on the subject here.
1. New York to London
This flight connects two of the largest cities in the world and millions have traveled on it. Many of these passengers have felt some serious turbulence as it often passes through the jet stream.
Turbulence from the jet stream is tricky because a pilot can’t see it looking outside, it is known as “clear air turbulence.”
Other flights that travel between the United States and Europe commonly experience turbulence over the Atlantic Ocean.
2. London to South Africa
This route spans over 6,000 miles. It is an impressive journey that is known for turbulence. The flight crosses the equator in the middle of Africa.
It crosses the region known as the “intertropical convergence zone.” Its location moves north or south depending on the season.
This zone is famous for big thunderstorms. Pilots will make sure to avoid the thunderstorms, but even flying near thunderstorms results in turbulence.
3. Flights into Singapore
Singapore’s Changi airport is breathtaking. It is a modern design beautiful airport full of live plants and water features. You will likely notice this beauty after stepping off your bumpy flight.
Singapore lies nearly directly on the equator. Hot weather and storms create frequent turbulence.
Especially during the day, flights into and out of Singapore are frequently turbulent.
4. Flying Near Hurricanes and Typhoons
Hurricanes have high winds, rain, hail, and thunderstorms. Pilots are careful to avoid the worst weather and fly around hurricanes and typhoons.
However, even flying hundreds of miles away from a hurricane the wind and storms can still cause turbulence.
During hurricane season in the United States, or typhoons in the Western Pacific, passengers can expect a turbulent flight anytime they are traveling near or around a hurricane, tropical storm, or typhoon.
5. Monsoon Season Flight Routes in South Asia
The monsoon season lasts from June till December. South Asian countries including Vietnam, Thailand, Pakistan, Laos, Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan experience monsoon weather.
Monsoons are known for strong winds and heavy rain. The rainy conditions often cause storms and the wind impacts all flights that pass through this area.
6. Flights into Denver
I love flying into Denver airport. It always has stunning views of The Rockies. However, all pilots and Denver passengers are familiar with the bumpy flights on takeoff and landing.
The wind typically blows in from the west, right over the tall mountains. The air starts swirling and flows all the way to the airport which is on flat ground. This creates high winds and bumpy conditions.
Like all other mountainous areas, it is smart to buckle up before landing.
7. Flight Routes over Europe
Europe has a diverse combination of seas, mountain ranges, weather systems, and elevations. All of these combine to move air around in an unpredictable manner.
Flights over the alps often experience mountain wave turbulence. Flights near the Mediterranean frequently encounter thunderstorms.
Cold air coming from the north mixes with humid warm air from the south. This creates all types of storms and weather in the middle of Europe. If you are traveling between European cities or starting a trans-continental flight from Europe you should expect the possibility of turbulent conditions.
8. Flights Along the Andes Mountains
The high peaks of the Andes mountains are unique because they are so close to the Pacific Ocean. Most other mountain ranges exist further inland.
I have heard many stories from travelers about scary turbulence flying into Chile. Pilots take extreme caution when flying into this region.
The Andes are known for intense mountain wave turbulence. The local air traffic controllers help guide planes around the worst spots of turbulence. But, with the massive mountains, any flights over or around the Andes will most likely encounter some turbulence.
If your travels take you through one of these turbulent areas, don’t panic! And definitely don’t cancel your trip yet. There are many complicated factors for determining a bumpy flight.
I have had many smooth flights into areas known for bumpy flights. And I have had bone-shaking flights into typically smooth areas.
That is all part of travel, just like a boat encountering rough seas or a car traveling down a dirt road. It is part of the journey and part of the fun.
Phil McCain is an experienced U.S. airline pilot. He has accumulated over 3500 hours of flight time across the United States, Canada, and Mexico. He is also a flight instructor, industry expert, and passionate traveler. He currently lives in Detroit, Michigan. Outside of the cockpit, Phil loves to read, cook, run, and explore the world around him. Here’s his website.