A transatlantic flight is any flight that takes off from one coast of the Atlantic Ocean to the other.

Transatlantic flights usually last between 5 and 8 hours, with flying from Europe to North America usually taking 5 to 7 hours, while flights from North America to Europe lasting 6 to 8 hours.

The most popular transatlantic flights are between North America and Europe, with New York City to London being a particularly popular route.

Despite being extremely safe overall, transatlantic flights experience higher turbulence than most other flights due to the jet stream. 

What is a Transatlantic Flight?

A transatlantic flight is a flight that involves traversing the Atlantic Ocean.

Most transatlantic flights are between North America and Europe.

For example, New York City to London is one of the most popular transatlantic flights.  

These flights can be multiple hours in duration. Some will involve stopping or refueling at some destination along the way, which is known as a technical stop.

But the final destination is always either side of the Atlantic Ocean.  

Length of Transatlantic Flights

Most transatlantic flights last only 6 to 8 hours. But the exact duration of a transatlantic flight depends on the route and destinations.

Transatlantic flights from North America to Europe take between 6 and 8 hours, and a flight from Europe to North America takes between 5 and 7 hours.

Transatlantic flights can be longer or shorter than 6 to 8 hours depending on the wind patterns, the aircraft’s altitude and speed, as well as the number of stops along the way.

Examples of Transatlantic Flights

These are three of the most popular transatlantic routes: 

  1. New York (JFK) to London (LHR) taking 8 hours. 
  2. Los Angeles (LAX) to London (LHR) taking 10 hours and 30 minutes.
  3. New York (JFK) to Paris (CDG) taking 7 hours and 15 minutes.

Transatlantic Flights Are Very Safe

Transatlantic flights are extremely safe.

There are over 2,500 transatlantic flights daily with historically few incidents.

Most transatlantic flights experience no more than 10 minutes of turbulence, since the planes used for transatlantic flights cruise at a high altitude. 

Meals Are Served Onboard

Most transatlantic flights serve meals.

The exact type and timing of the meal depend on the flight, class, service, and length of the flight.

Shorter transatlantic flights usually offer a light meal or a snack, like sandwiches.

Longer flights will offer full meals, including breakfast, lunch, or dinner. 

Expect Worse Turbulence

Transatlantic flights typically suffer from worse turbulence than other flights.

This is due to disruption from jet streams.

Pilots often try to fly north or south of the jet stream to avoid it, even if it results in a longer flight time. 

Make Sure You Get to the Airport Early

It’s best to arrive at the airport three hours before your transatlantic flight’s scheduled departure time.

These three hours give you enough time to check in, drop off your luggage, and go through security.

Percentage of Flights That Are Transatlantic

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) reports that transatlantic flights make up 15% of global air traffic.

This makes transatlantic flights one of the busiest air travel corridors in the world.

But the exact percentage of air traffic across the Atlantic Ocean varies over the year.

First Transatlantic Passenger Flight

The world’s first transatlantic passenger flight was completed on June 3, 1939.

The British airline Imperial Airways flew from Newfoundland, Canada, to Foynes, Ireland.

The flight took 16 hours to complete with an S.26 G-class flying boat, and was a one-time experiment to prove transatlantic air travel’s feasibility. 

First Commercial Transatlantic Flight

The first commercial transatlantic flight took place on October 4, 1958.

The BOAC (British Overseas Airways Corporation) flew a de Havilland Comet from London’s Heathrow Airport to the John F. Kennedy International Airport (named Idlewild Airport then).

The de Havilland was the world’s first jetliner, and it took a little over 7 hours to make the flight. 

First Solo Transatlantic Flight

The first person to complete a solo, nonstop transatlantic flight was Charles A. Lindbergh on May 21, 1927.

Lindbergh flew a single-engine monoplane called the Spirit of St. Louis from Roosevelt Field in New York, and landed in Paris 33 and a half hours later.

Amelia Earhart was the first woman to complete a solo, nonstop transatlantic flight on May 20, 1932, in a single engine Lockheed Vega 5B.

In conclusion:

  • A transatlantic flight involves crossing from one side of the Atlantic Ocean to the other.
  • Most transatlantic flights take place between Europe and North America. One of the most popular transatlantic flights is between New York City and London.
  • Transatlantic flights are extremely popular. Nearly 15% of all international air traffic consists of transatlantic flights.
  • Despite crossing an ocean, transatlantic flights are very safe.
  • The world’s first transatlantic passenger flight was completed in 1939.
  • But the first commercial transatlantic flight took place several years later, in 1958. 

Ella Dunham, a Freelance Travel Journalist and Marketing Manager, boasts an impressive career spanning eight years in the travel and tourism sectors.

Honored as one of "30 Under 30" by TTG Media (the world’s very first weekly travel trade newspaper), a "Tour Operator Travel Guru" and "Legend Award" winner, Ella is also a Fellow of the Institute of Travel, a Member of the Association of Women Travel Executives, has completed over 250 travel modules, and hosts travel-focused segments on national radio shows where she provides insights on travel regulations and destinations.

Ella has visited over 40 countries (with 10 more planned this year).