World’s most turbulent flights are revealed – and list includes TWO short-haul journeys


Two short-haul flights across Europe are among the world’s 10 most turbulent plane journeys, statistics suggest.

Hour-long hops across the Alps between Milan-Geneva and Milan-Zurich come fifth and tenth, respectively. 

A 1,905km trip between Santiago in Chile and Santa Cruz in Bolivia ranks top.  

That is according to Turbli, a turbulence forecast website which analysed more than 150,000 long-haul and short-haul flight records from 2023 to discover which are the most jarring.

The rankings, illustrated in a set of animated maps by MailOnline, follow the death of a 73-year-old Brit onboard a Singapore Airlines jet rocked by extreme turbulence. 

Around 11 hours after take off from London Heathrow yesterday, the Boeing 777 jet hit an air pocket and sharply dropped 6,000ft in five minutes.

It unleashed mayhem in the cabin, forcing the plane – carrying 211 passengers and 18 crew – to make an emergency landing in Bangkok.

Terrified passengers described how they had little warning to put their seatbelts on before the aircraft suddenly dropped. 

One passenger said people were ‘launched into the ceiling’ as the plane fell through the sky.

Geoff Kitchen, a beloved grandfather travelling with his wife Linda on their ‘last big holiday’, died, Thai officials said. More than 70 others were injured. Seven suffered critical head injuries.

Turbulence is the bane of any long-haul flight – but the natural phenomenon can be far more than simply annoying.

In the worst-case scenario, violent rattling can lead to structural damage to the plane itself and even harm passengers.

Turbulence is the bane of any long-haul flight, but this natural phenomenon can be far more than simply annoying

Turbulence is the bane of any long-haul flight, but this natural phenomenon can be far more than simply annoying

Disturbance is ranked on a scale from ‘light’, which causes slight erratic changes in altitude, to ‘severe’, in which the aircraft is violently tossed about.

Turbli used ‘eddy dissipation rates’ (EDR) to rank the routes. 

EDR measures the intensity of turbulence at a given spot – 0-20 is light, 20-40 is moderate, 40-80 severe, and 80-100 is extreme.

The 1,184-mile (1,905km) route from Santiago, Chile, to Viru Viru International Airport in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, was ranked as the most turbulent in the world, with an average EDR of 17.5. 

Second shakiest is the 210-mile short-haul jump from Almaty in Kazakhstan to its capital, Bishke (EDR 17.4).

Six of the top ten rockiest rides across the globe are routes in Japan and China. Turbli attributes this to high jet-stream activity in these regions disrupting the air.

The worst turbulence in Europe overall was experienced on the 132-mile flight path from Milan to Geneva (EDR 16.3), ranking as the fifth-most turbulent trajectory in the world overall.

Five of the top ten most turbulent routes in Europe took off or landed in Zurich, with mountain wave turbulence coming off the Swiss Alps likely responsible for its heavy presence on the list, according to Turbli.

Routes across the US were less turbulent than the worst European routes, with the most turbulent American leg the 441-mile flight from Nashville to Raleigh scoring an average EDR of 14.7. This wouldn’t break the top ten on the European list.

A passenger onboard a Singapore Airlines jet travelling from the UK described the extreme turbulence that killed a fellow flyer. Pictured: Passengers are seen in the cabin after the incident today, with belongings strewn across the floor and oxygen masks dangling from above

A passenger onboard a Singapore Airlines jet travelling from the UK described the extreme turbulence that killed a fellow flyer. Pictured: Passengers are seen in the cabin after the incident today, with belongings strewn across the floor and oxygen masks dangling from above

After around 11 hours of flying time from take off in London, the aircraft sharply dropped 6,000 feet in just five minutes, causing chaos in the cabin. In pictures of the aftermath, one air stewardess was seen with blood over her face (pictured)

After around 11 hours of flying time from take off in London, the aircraft sharply dropped 6,000 feet in just five minutes, causing chaos in the cabin. In pictures of the aftermath, one air stewardess was seen with blood over her face (pictured)

Geoff Kitchen, 73, suffered a suspected heart attack on the flight, according to a spokesman for Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport, where the plane was diverted and forced to make an emergency landing

Geoff Kitchen, 73, suffered a suspected heart attack on the flight, according to a spokesman for Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport, where the plane was diverted and forced to make an emergency landing

The rest of the ranking for America comprises Charlotte – Pittsburgh (second); Denver – Puerto Vallarta (third); New York – Raleigh/Durham (fourth); Warwick – Syracuse (fifth); Atlanta – Dulles (sixth); Pittsburgh – Raleigh/Durham (seventh); New York – Portland (eighth); Boston – Syracuse (ninth); and Boston – Philadelphia (10th).

Down under, the 450-mile flight from Brisbane to Sydney tops the Oceania table, with an average EDR of 15.3.

If you’re particularly worried about a rough landing or take-off, Turbli has also pinpointed the most turbulent airports in the world.

Number one in the worldwide ranking is Santiago Chile, where the average EDR is 17.1. It attributes this meteorological phenomenon to the surrounding Andes causing mountain wave turbulence.

The rest of the top five in the bumpiest global airports ranking comprises Natori, Japan (second); Wellington (third); Sapporo, Japan (fourth), and Osaka (fifth).

In Europe, Vienna tops the table (EDR 14.8), followed by Zurich, Marseille and Geneva, while in the USA Portland proves the most shaky airstrip to take off from (EDR 15.2), followed by Denver (second); Las Vegas (third); Vancouver (fourth); Salt Lake City (fifth); Prince George (sixth); Calgary (seventh); Quebec (eighth); Reno (ninth); and Seattle (10th).

In the Southern Hemisphere, New Zealand’s Wellington airport is the most turbulent in Oceania, scoring an EDR of 16.3.

The choppy air we feel as turbulence doesn’t have a single cause and comes from a number of different sources, like normal atmospheric wind patterns, or by wakes of other nearby aircraft.

One of the most common causes of severe turbulence is ‘mechanical turbulence’ — which is very common around mountains and other physical obstructions.

If you imagine waves hitting a rock in the ocean, the previously uniform water is now broken up and choppy. When winds hit mountains, the same thing happens, forming what are known as ‘mountain waves’. 

Oxygen masks are seen hanging from the ceiling in the cabin of the Singapore Airlines flight

Oxygen masks are seen hanging from the ceiling in the cabin of the Singapore Airlines flight

A passenger died and 30 others were injured on a flight from London to Singapore this afternoon forcing an emergency landing in Thailand. Pictured: The plane and ambulances are seen on the tarmac at Suvarnabhumi International Airport in Bangkok today

A passenger died and 30 others were injured on a flight from London to Singapore this afternoon forcing an emergency landing in Thailand. Pictured: The plane and ambulances are seen on the tarmac at Suvarnabhumi International Airport in Bangkok today

These broken-up air currents create packets of rolling, turbulent air which can shake planes that try to pass through, says Dr David Birch, of the Centre for Aerodynamics & Environmental Flow at the University of Surrey.

Some of the most violent turbulence is caused by thunderstorms which create huge vertical currents of violent air.

According to the National Weather Service, these currents can cause planes to rise or fall between 600 and 1830 metres (2,000-6,000ft) at a time.

Turbli’s reporting is likely to prove increasingly relevant to jet-setters, as global warming has caused an increase in the severity of turbulence, according to scientists.

Research conducted by the University of Reading indicates that turbulence during flights is on the rise, with severe turbulence increasing by 55 per cent since 1979.

However, you can console yourself with the knowledge that although turbulence may be uncomfortable and scary, it is extremely unlikely to cause your plane to crash.

As a long-haul Dreamliner captain who spoke to MailOnline stated: ‘In terms of what it might do to you, yes it’s unpleasant, nobody likes being bounced up and down like that, or very few people do, but it’s not unsafe… 

‘Aircraft like flying, they don’t like falling out of the sky, and you’ve got to try pretty hard to make them do that.’

MOST TURBULENT ROUTES 2023 OVERALL WORLDWIDE AND IN EUROPE, AMERICA AND OCEANIA

10 MOST TURBULENT ROUTES WORLDWIDE

1. Santiago (SCL) – Santa Cruz (VVI)

2. Almaty (ALA) – Bishkek (FRU)

3. Lanzhou (LHW) – Chengdu (CTU)

4. Centrair (NGO) – Sendai (SDJ)

5. Milan (MXP) – Geneva (GVA)

6. Lanzhou (LHW) – Xianyang (XIY)

7. Osaka (KIX) – Sendai (SDJ)

8. Xianyang (XIY) – Chengdu (CTU)

9. Xianyang (XIY) – Chongqing (CKG)

10. Milan (MXP) – Zurich (ZRH)

10 MOST TURBULENT ROUTES IN EUROPE

1. Milan (MXP) – Geneva (GVA)

2. Milan (MXP) – Zurich (ZRH)

3. Geneva (GVA) – Zurich (ZRH)

4. Marseille (MRS) – Zurich (ZRH)

5. Zgornji Brnik (LJU) – Zurich (ZRH)

6. Nice (NCE) – Basel (BSL)

7. Nice (NCE) – Zurich (ZRH)

8. Yerevan (EVN) – Tbilisi (TBS)

9. Basel (BSL) – Venezia (VCE)

10. Frankfurt am Main (FRA) – Caselle Torinese (TRN)

10 MOST TURBULENT ROUTES IN AMERICA

1. Nashville (BNA) – Raleigh/Durham (RDU)

2. Charlotte (CLT) – Pittsburgh (PIT)

3. Denver (DEN) – Puerto Vallarta (PVR)

4. New York (JFK) – Raleigh/Durham (RDU)

5. Warwick (PVD) – Syracuse (SYR)

6. Atlanta (ATL) – Dulles (IAD)

7. Pittsburgh (PIT) – Raleigh/Durham (RDU)

8. New York (LGA) – Portland (PWM)

9. Boston (BOS) – Syracuse (SYR)

10. Boston (BOS) – Philadelphia (PHL)

10 MOST TURBULENT ROUTES IN OCEANIA

1. Brisbane (BNE) – Sydney (SYD)

2. Port Vila (VLI) – Auckland (AKL)

3. Melbourne (MEL) – Sydney (SYD)

4. Port Vila (VLI) – Brisbane (BNE)

5. Port Vila (VLI) – Sydney (SYD)

6. Port Vila (VLI) – Melbourne (MEL)

7. Brisbane (BNE) – Melbourne (MEL)

8. Brisbane (BNE) – Adelaide (ADL)

9. Brisbane (BNE) – Darwin (DRW)

10. Auckland (AKL) – Christchurch (CHC)

Source: turbli.com. Based on an analysis of 150,000 routes.



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