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The Top 10 Most Turbulent Flight Paths In The World (Bumpiest Flight Routes)

It’s easier than ever to take to the skies, hop across the Pond, and live the Transatlantic lifestyle you’ve always dreamed of – albeit with a few bumps along the way. The flight path between New York and London is among the world’s busiest – and most turbulent flight routes in the world. If you’ve landed on this article you must be wondering what some of the most turbulent flight routes in the world are. Here is the top ten.

Turbulence is one of the trickiest components of commercial flights to tackle. On the one hand, it is something which modern airlines do their best to mitigate or outright avoid, but on the other hand, it’s also sometimes unavoidable, and when it hits, it can really rock the boat (or flight cabin).

What’s more, not all turbulence is created equal. Certain flight paths are more susceptible to turbulence due to conditions ranging from weather to how well-traveled the area is. As stated, the flight path between London and New York is among the busiest and most important in the world.

For passengers of commercial flights on both sides of the Atlantic, however, it can also be one of the roughest rides turbulence-wise. So, what flight routes typically feature the most turbulence, and what is behind the turbulence that rattles these flights in the first place?

Listed below are ten of the most turbulent flight routes and areas in the world. No matter if you are a first class, business class, or economy traveller, turbulence doesn’t differentiate and there will be no escape from it…

1. New York to London

Google Maps - New York City to London
Editorial Team Google Maps – New York City to London

Let’s start with our leading example. What makes flight from New York to London and vice versa one of the worst flight routes for turbulence? There are a few factors at play in earning this famous Transatlantic flight path such a dubious distinction.

One of the things which can cause turbulence for a flight is bad weather. New York has its fair share of storms, but it’s London who takes the cake here. Strong winds, rain, and the potential for the weather to change in minutes make flying into London difficult.

If you think that your flights have felt a bit more turbulent of late, you aren’t wrong. As changes in the global climate continue to occur, the conditions for turbulence – specifically a rise in warm air, choppy waters, and greater clear-air turbulence – rise too.

Then there’s the fact that traveling over certain bodies of water can result in a greater potential for turbulence, and the North Atlantic is one of the most turbulent trans-oceanic flight areas.

2. Seoul to Dallas

Google Maps - Seoul to Dallas
Editorial Team Google Maps – Seoul to Dallas

While the flight path from New York to London may seem obvious, chances are you don’t think of a flight from Seoul to Dallas in the same light. That said, while it may not be as frequently traveled as that Transatlantic point of comparison, this is nevertheless a bumpy ride.

Some of the culprits are the same as in the London/New York example. For one thing, a flight from Seoul to Dallas involves flying over a large body of water. For another, air pockets are seemingly more frequent than ever.

There are reasons for that being the case, and they aren’t good. The University of Reading predicts a 149% rise in severe turbulence due to climate change, so the frequency of air pockets is only going to increase.

3. Flights Near the Equator

Map of Southeast Asia
Editorial Team Map of Southeast Asia

What do Bangkok, Hong Kong, Cancun, and Singapore have in common?

They all share turbulence woes owing to their status of being hot weather hotspots around the equator. One of the biggest causes of turbulence is adverse weather conditions, and one factor which can cause some of these blustery issues is when cold and warm air come into contact. 

Warm air in particular can pose a threat for planes as far as turbulence is concerned, which is why many of the world’s most turbulence-stricken airports and flight paths lie in areas close to the Equator, where the weather is naturally warm year-round.

What’s more, some of these areas feature another problem which can lead to turbulence – thunderstorms. The rough air produced by a thunderstorm can lead to the kind of cabin-shaking experience every passenger dreads.

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4. Flights into Monsoon and Hurricane Hotspots

Miami, FL. Typical summer afternoon thunderstorm rolling in from the Everglades
Editorial Team Miami, FL. Typical summer afternoon thunderstorm rolling in from the Everglades

Miami and Mumbai may be located on opposite sides of the globe, on different continents and oceans, and in different hemispheres, but they share the distinction of being among the worst sufferers of turbulence.

What’s more, they share the reason why – monsoons and hurricanes. While the Southern Hemisphere gets the former and the Northern Hemisphere suffers through the latter, both batter airports in warm water areas around the globe.

Weather conditions are one reason, so it should come as no surprise that monsoon and hurricane hotspots qualify. The same weather conditions that batter Miami, New Orleans, Dallas, and other cities in “Hurricane Alley” in the Gulf of Mexico affect monsoon-hit areas such as Mumbai, Singapore, and much of Southeast Asia.

5. London to Johannesburg

Google Maps - London to Johannesburg
Editorial Team Google Maps – London to Johannesburg

This is another long flight path involving London and a huge expanse, albeit over a land mass instead of ocean this time.

There are many factors which work to make this one of the roughest flight paths on our list, not the least of which being that, even though it involves traversing huge swaths of land, there’s still plenty of trans-oceanic travel involved.

What’s more, it isn’t just any old body of water that is being traversed, but water near the Equator which, as stated above, can be a recipe for warm weather-induced turbulence. In addition, there is still the cool air and London’s own naturally stormy climate to deal with.

And then we get to the land masses themselves.

Mountainous terrain can force otherwise smooth pockets of air upward, buffeting planes. Combine London’s climate, Africa’s mountains, the Atlantic, and warm weather, and it’s no wonder why this is one of the bumpiest flight routes in the world.

6. Flights into Reno, Nevada

Reno-Tahoe International Airport, Reno, Nevada
Editorial Team Reno-Tahoe International Airport, Reno, Nevada

Las Vegas may get all the glitz and glory as far as Nevada cities go, but it’s Reno which makes our list – though travelers there probably wish it didn’t.

Reno’s inclusion is interesting insofar as it seems to “fly in the face” of a couple of precepts on this list. For one thing, while Nevada isn’t as flat of a state like Nebraska, it isn’t as rocky as the Rocky Mountain territory of neighboring Colorado either. 

What’s more, while Nevada isn’t completely devoid of adverse weather, it doesn’t have nearly the kind of bad reputation in that regard as other states in the Continental United States.

So what is behind Reno’s status as one of the rockiest rides in the Continental US? The answer lies in the fact that the area is prone to rough air pockets, making this one of the bumpiest air routes upon landing.

7. London to Glasgow

Google Maps - London to Glasgow
Editorial Team Google Maps – London to Glasgow

Given the fact that London’s infamously foul weather has already landed it twice on this list, it should not be too much of a shock to see it pop up yet again, especially regarding travel to another city in the British Isles.

The political climate between London and Glasgow may be becoming “turbulent” for completely different reasons, but it has nothing on the natural turbulence which plagues air traffic between two of the British Isles’ most populous cities.

The windy, rainy, uncertain weather conditions which strike the UK and make London a turbulent place to fly into are doubled here, making this one of the worst flight routes for turbulence in Europe.

8. Flights over Mountainous Regions

Andes Mountain Region South America
Editorial Team Andes Mountain Region South America

As stated above, one of the biggest causes of turbulence is rocky mountainous terrain, due to the fact that it can cause air to be forced upward. 

So, which are the worst mountainous offenders for turbulence? Among the rockiest rides turbulence-wise are flight paths that take passengers over the Andes in South America, the Rocky Mountains in North America, and the Alps in Europe.

And as if the UK needed more turbulence trouble, the Pennies across Northern England make the list too.

9. Trans-Asiatic Flights

Hong Kong International Airport
Editorial Team Hong Kong International Airport

This is where some of the factors which we have already begun to list in other categories begin to converge. One of the most frustrating things about turbulence is the fact that it can arise from a variety of different causes, and these can intersect.

Take Trans-Asiatic flights, for example. We have already seen that there are many factors which can affect flights to major Asian airports such as those in Bangkok, Hong Kong, and Seoul.

Warm weather, rough waters, mountainous areas, being near the Equator – these can all cause rough flights. While flying into an Asian airport can lead to one or more of these occurring, staying within Asia for the duration of your flight increases the chances of many or all of them happening.

10. Trans-European Flights

Mountain regions of Europe
Editorial Team Mountain regions of Europe

The same holds true for flights across Europe. While the Equator obviously is not much of an issue here, Europe has its fair share of both warm and cold fronts as well as plenty of jet streams, all of which can cause lots of turbulence.

It is also home to some geographical and weather conditions which are prime fodder for turbulence. From the Alps to the mountains of Spain to those warm and cold fronts coming into conflict, Europe has it all – and it all can cause turbulence.

And lest we forget, Europe gets a boost in this regard thanks to poor London, Glasgow, and their myriad weather-related turbulence woes, all of which increase the chances of flights to and from the UK being a bumpy ride.

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