I wish I had grabbed a screenshot, but last night I was tracking a JAL flight from NRT to DFW, and it basically headed straight east from Japan - no great circle route. I have to wonder how much that will add in terms of time and fuel cost - not to mention ETOPS planning…
Did the route rules change for more aircraft models this year? I noticed a few aircraft doing that more direct east-west crossing on Feb 15 (before the Ukraine situation escalated). (2nd image below is all day HFDL tracking).
This week at any given time, there are multiple aircraft doing the direct Pacific crossing. The first image below is right now, B787s, A350s, A330s. ICN-SFO, TPE-LAX, China Airlines route unknown, China Eastern. (I don’t think China is too worried about anything, so I’m not sure this is about keeping distance from eastern Russia). Seems like more airlines are opting to use this route because they can.
Maybe it’s just a coincidental jet stream thing then? I compared the reported actual flight distance (6,700 miles) to the great circle mapper at 6,400 miles.
An extra 300 miles probably isn’t the end of the world, but it is an extra 45 minutes or so of flight time and more than 1,000 gallons of extra fuel burn.
Doesn’t seem like they would do it on purpose without a compelling reason.
Edit: I bet that’s it. I just found a map of the jet stream, and there are currently winds blowing straight east off of Japan at 150mph+. FR24 says that the average time for that flight is 10 hours 55 minutes. This flight did it 2 minutes faster, at 10:53, despite going 300 miles further.
Looking at the same flight on FlightAware, they have the flight at 6902 miles, which is 500 extra miles. If they did that in ~11 hours, they were rocking along at >625mph as an average ground speed.