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The World’s Most Turbulent Flight Routes

Nashville to Raleigh-Durham was the country's most turbulent flight, on average, last year

January 15, 2024

Photo: Courtesy of Damian Karpiński / Unsplash

Turbulence during a flight can be difficult to predict, and passengers usually have little control over it. However, some flight paths are more prone to bumpy rides than others. If you’re a nervous flyer, you may want to steer clear of the following flight routes, known to be the most turbulent in the world.

Turbli, a website that provides accurate turbulence forecasts, recently published a list of the world’s most turbulent flight routes, categorized by region. Nervous flyers in the United States can breathe a sigh of relief as no North American route made it to the global top ten. However, those traveling from Nashville to Raleigh/Durham may not be pleased that this route was the most turbulent flight on average in North America last year.

The study

Turbli analyzed data from 150,000 flights worldwide, both short-haul and long-haul, all of which were active as of December 2023. Average turbulence was calculated at each flight’s cruising altitude by measuring the eddy dissipation rate (EDR), the rate at which kinetic energy from an aircraft dissipates in the atmosphere.

Photo: Courtesy of Niklas Jonasson / Unsplash

With an average EDR of 14.728, flights from Nashville International Airport (BNA) to Raleigh-Durham International Airport (RDU) were found to be the most turbulent in the U.S. and North America. This was followed by flights from Charlotte (CLT) to Pittsburgh (PIT) with an average EDR of 14.582 and Denver (DEN) to Puerto Vallarta (PVR) in Mexico with an average EDR of 14.535.

The most turbulent flight routes in North America in 2023:

  1. Nashville (BNA) to Raleigh/Durham (RDU)
  2. Charlotte (CLT) to Pittsburgh (PIT)
  3. Denver (DEN) to Puerto Vallarta (PVR)
  4. New York (JFK) to Raleigh/Durham (RDU)
  5. Warwick (PVD) to Syracuse (SYR)
  6. Atlanta (ATL) to Dulles (IAD)
  7. Pittsburgh (PIT) to Raleigh/Durham (RDU)
  8. New York (LGA) to Portland (PWM)
  9. Boston (BOS) to Syracuse (SYR)
  10. Boston (BOS) to Philadelphia (PHL)

Turbulence is a completely normal part of flying, and in most cases, it is completely safe. However, severe turbulence can cause injury to both passengers and flight crew, so it’s important to follow instructions and fasten your seatbelt when told to do so.

According to the latest data from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), 17 serious injuries were caused by turbulence in the U.S. in 2022, four of which involved passengers, while there have been 163 turbulence-related injuries since 2009.

In almost all cases, turbulence is caused by external atmospheric conditions surrounding the aircraft, many of which can not be predicted and thus avoided by pilots. This includes flying through pockets of rising and falling air, which often happens when flying over mountains and other large objects.

Photo: Courtesy of by Paul Berry / Unsplash

This kind of turbulence, known as mechanical turbulence, is quite common and is reflected in the fact that most of the world’s most turbulent flight routes are over mountainous areas, such as the Himalayas, Andes, or Alps.

The world’s most turbulent flight route last year is a prime example. Santiago (SCL) in Chile to Santa Cruz (VVI) in Bolivia flies directly over the high Andes. This two-hour route—operated by Chile-based LATAM— had an average EDR of 17.568.

The most turbulent flight routes in the world in 2023:

  1. Santiago (SCL) to Santa Cruz (VVI)
  2. Almaty (ALA) to Bishkek (FRU)
  3. Lanzhou (LHW) to Chengdu (CTU)
  4. Centrair (NGO) to Sendai (SDJ)
  5. Milan (MXP) to Geneva (GVA)
  6. Lanzhou (LHW) to Xianyang (XIY)
  7. Osaka (KIX) to Sendai (SDJ)
  8. Xianyang (XIY) to Chengdu (CTU)
  9. Xianyang (XIY) to Chongqing (CKG)
  10. Milan (MXP) to Zurich (ZRH)

Interestingly, most of the most turbulent flight routes are short-haul. One of the ten most turbulent routes globally and in North America is over 1,000km – Denver to Puerto Vallarta and Santiago to Santa Cruz. However, some long-haul routes are prone to turbulence, too, which can be even more daunting for frequent flyers due to the longer duration spent in the air.

The most turbulent long-distance routes (over 4,500km) in 2023:

  1. Tokyo (NRT) to Kathmandu (KTM)
  2. Tokyo (HND) to New Delhi (DEL)
  3. Tokyo (NRT) to Dhaka (DAC)
  4. Seoul (ICN) to New Delhi (DEL)
  5. Tokyo (NRT) to Mumbai (BOM)
  6. Cape Town (CPT) to Sao Paulo (GRU)
  7. Abu Dhabi (AUH) to Shanghai (PVG)
  8. Dubai (DXB) to Shanghai (PVG)
  9. Dubai (DXB) to Wuhan (WUH)
  10. Doha (DOH) to Hangzhou (HGH)