Why Flights From the West Coast to the Northeast Are Routing Through Florida

Apr 12, 2019

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Typically flights between the West Coast and the Northeast are going to take a fairly predictable route across the country. After all, as we learned in school, the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. And shorter routes typically mean faster flights and less fuel burn than going a roundabout way.

However, due to winds, some flights will take very different routes. One notable example is the world’s longest flight between Newark and Singapore. As illustrated and explained by FlightRadar24, Singapore Airlines took exceptionally different routes in the first few days after the re-launch of the route.

Courtesy of Flightradar24.com

While that’s an extreme example, strong winds have affected cross-country flights here in the United States. In February 2018, dozens of Virgin America flights had to divert for fuel due to strong headwinds. And we’ve seen other times when flights will take a very northern route to avoid a strong jet stream or an especially southern route to catch the jet stream.

However, on Friday evening, cross-country flights are going to have a very different reason for routing south. Due to severe weather across the East Coast, flights from the West Coast to the Northeast will have to route through Florida. This situation was first caught and shared by Ethan Klapper on Twitter:

Why the crazy routing? The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)’s Aviation Weather Center shows two areas of severe convection that are significant enough to warrant a SIGnificant METeorological Information (SIGMET). Plus, there’s a broad area of turbulence stretching across the Midwest that flights will want to avoid:

Rather than letting airlines try to “shoot the gap” between the two systems, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is routing flights south around the troubled area.

The FAA Air Traffic Control System Command Center is currently showing two air traffic control advisories: FCAA08 and FCAOB1. Any flights that planned to fly above 12,000 feet across these two advisory lines may be affected by these advisories.

Both advisories are active between 1900 UTC (3:00pm ET) and 0200 UTC (10:00pm ET), meaning its going to affect most eastbound cross-country flights for the remainder of the day Friday.

While the advisory doesn’t start until 3pm, the re-routing is already beginning for flights that are expected to cross the troubled area after that time. The first flight that we see affected by the new routing is American Airlines’ flight 2 from Los Angeles (LAX) to New York’s Kennedy (JFK) — which is already taking a very different route from the two other American Airlines LAX-JFK flights currently in the air:

Courtesy of Flightradar24.com

Delta’s cross-country flights are also taking divergent routes depending on when they departed. The most-recent Delta departure is flight 1675 from LAX to JFK, which is embarking on the southern route.

Courtesy of Flightradar24.com

It’s not just flights from LAX that are affected. There’s current three flights in the air from Las Vegas (LAS) to New York. Delta flight 1593 took a very standard route while United flight 2337 and Delta flight 1620 are playing follow the leader on a southern route:

Courtesy of Flightradar24.com

Currently, the two FAA advisories are predicting either a 109 minute or 23 minute delay, depending on which advisory the flight is affected by. While that’s an annoying delay for all passengers, those connecting from a cross-country flight to a transatlantic might end up missing their connection.

Since airlines can blame weather for this delay, the airline might not cover lodging, ground transportation and meal expenses if the delay causes an overnight layover. Thankfully those passengers that heeded TPG advice to book with a card that offers solid trip delay and cancellation insurance should be covered.

When I got stuck in Japan for four extra days due to a typhoon, the Citi Prestige Card trip delay protection reimbursed $1,000 of my expenses. Other cards with solid trip protection include the Chase Sapphire Reserve, the Chase Sapphire Preferred CardCiti / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard and the Citi Premier Card.

Featured image posted to Twitter by Ethan Klapper.

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