Flying between the USA and Europe

Interesting facts and useful resources before planning a trip across the Pond

News Flying with RocketRoute December 15th, 2020

Many of us want to travel as we have in previous years, but there are new and sometimes very complicated rules that should be followed. Especially when flying from the US to Europe. The article highlights a few interesting facts and useful resources that may help before a trip across the Pond.

Westbound vs Eastbound tracks

The airspace of the North Atlantic (NAT), which links Europe and North America, is the busiest oceanic airspace in the world. Direct Controller Pilot Communications (DCPC) and ATS Surveillance are not available in most parts of the NAT Region. Aircraft separation, and hence safety, are ensured by demanding the highest standards of horizontal and vertical navigation performance/accuracy and of operating discipline. 

As a result of passenger demand, time zone differences, and airport noise restrictions, much of the North Atlantic (NAT) air traffic runs into two major alternating flows: a westbound flow departing Europe in the morning, and an eastbound flow departing North America in the evening.

The main goal of these flows is to concentrate most of the traffic in one direction, with peak westbound traffic occurring between 1130 UTC and 1800 UTC and peak eastbound traffic occurring between 0100 UTC and 0800 UTC, both at 30°W.

The video below shows that almost 80% of traffic crossing the Atlantic Ocean passes through the Shanwick Oceanic Area Control Centre (OACC).

North Atlantic Skies (2014) from NATS on Vimeo.

Controllers collate the airlines preferred routings and create the Organized Track System (OTS), a set of routes using GPS positions. There are usually 6 or 7 of these routes every day. These tracks are given designators like Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, etc. All flights planned to cross this area must use the OTS. The image below shows a westbound route from London Heathrow to New York J.F. Kennedy airport on a NAT track Alpha.

How can I avoid quarantine on arrival?

“I want to fly from the US to Europe, is it possible now?” “How can I avoid quarantine on arrival?” These and many more questions are pulsing in the heads of all travelers nowadays. Yes, traveling has become a bit more complicated but there are various solutions.

First, decide which country you want to visit in Europe and what information you need to look for.

Secondly, check official sources of information from the European Union.

The European Council has reviewed the list of countries for which travel restrictions should be canceled.

Australia, Canada, Georgia, Japan, New Zealand, Rwanda, South Korea, Thailand, Tunisia, Uruguay, China (subject to confirmation of reciprocity).

Since the USA is not on this list, you might be interested to learn that there are some countries that allow direct flights from the US for “business purposes”. Such as Austria, Belgium, Bosnia, Croatia, Denmark, Italy, Montenegro, Netherlands, Serbia, and Spain. Because there is freedom of movement within the Schengen zone, it is more likely for a traveler to be able to get into another country of a Schengen, if they can get into the first one in the Schengen zone.

Thirdly, make bookmarks, and check the latest updates before the departure.

How to use Re-open EU

Re-Open EU is an official website of the European Union, which contains every detail about traveling in a particular European country. It includes info and stats about health situation, travel restrictions, coronavirus measures, and other useful data.

Below is a screenshot of the home page. To discover country info, select a country and press Go! button.

On the right panel click on the Map icon, and then the Globe icon. This will open a page with relevant info for all travelers from outside the EU.

Switch between countries by clicking on the map or by selecting them from a drop-down list in the top left corner.

Bonus: How to find the latest Covid-restrictions

Check NOTAMs here or here. Important information for pilots.

Check the TravelBans website, which has more than four thousand published restrictions for over 240 countries. They also have a subscription to the latest updates for a particular country.

Check the OpsGroup website. Valuable information for travelers and flight planners.

Further reading

North Atlantic Operations and Airspace Manual

Auto Addition of NAT Track Messages

North Atlantic Route Chart

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