How Close Can Commercial Aircraft Pass One Another?

I was a passenger aboard a Southwest flight between Omaha and Las Vegas on Wed (4/11) cruising at about 38,000 feet (based on the FlightAware tracker). Another commercial aircraft passed us directly in front of us from the 3 o’clock position. The vertical separation was probably only about 100 to 200 feet and within a couple of seconds of crossing each others flight paths. It was so close that I could see the passenger windows of the other plane very clearly.

In my opinion, this was way too close and appears to have been a controller error. Am I wrong? What is allowed?

It was probably 1000 ft vertical separation, which is standard.

It’s very difficult to accurately judge distances between aircraft. I’ve seen other aircraft from the aircraft I’m flying in that looked close but I knew they were at, the very least, legal minimums even though I could see the windows of the other aircraft clearly.

I’ve been flying professionally for over 20 years, and I’m still amazed at how close 1000 ft can look. Believe me, if the aircraft was dangerously close, your flight crew would have treated you to an evasive maneuver.

The lack of screaming headlines about “Death Averted by Inches” in your local newspaper tells you every thing you need to know.