Question about route this Virgin flight took


Disclaimer- I am in no way as experienced as many of you here, but I do try and follow this board. I rarely post, but mostly lurk. I like to follow aviation because I think the more I learn, the better I’ll feel about flying.

Maybe this fascinates only me. Very possibly. Yesterday I flew to Chicago on Virgin America Flight 232- … /KLAX/KORD

The flight was pleasant and mostly uneventful, just a few minor bits of turbulence. Nothing for someone even like me to get worked up over. What sustained bits of bumps we encountered was about an hour before landing. If it wasn’t for the flight deck telling the attendants to get in their seats for landing, we never would have known there were pilots on board, it could have been computer flown the entire way. Since Jet Blue for some reason discontinued flying to Chicago from either Long Beach or LAX, we’ve taken Virgin and they always seem (to me, anyway) to take some unusual routes. So finally my question- the zigs and zags we took once were commenced the descent, why would the plane do that? Rather than take a relative straight line, we seemed to be turning right and left all the way into O’Hare. It seemed much more frequent and pronounced in the air than it might look on the chart. Were they stalling to save time to wait and get in line for landing, or what? Or am I just reading too much into something ordinary?


More than likely s turns for spacing.


Delay tactics to increase spacing between the Virgin flight and the flight ahead.


Yes, it was likely S-turns for spacing, visibility was all weird yesterday afternoon/evening in Chicago as that weird fogbank rolled in.

BTW, JetBlue stopped flying LGB-ORD because it lost money. All their Chicago routes lose money, although BOS-ORD does the least bad and at least it doesn’t use a ton of aircraft time like LGB-ORD did.

I was able to get an ORD-LGB one way, on a friday night in the spring for $120 on the day of departure once. That speaks to how poorly they did on that route.

Also, it’s unlikely that Virgin America makes money on LAX-ORD either, but they probably do better since they at least offer a somewhat competitive schedule on the route and have better ancillary revenue. The problem with the route is that you have UA and AA taking all the loyal high yield traffic and Spirit siphoning off all the low yield traffic, so it’s hard to offer something in between and get better than Spirit-level revenue.


Interesting. Thanks for all the responses, I appreciate it.


Not to beat a dead horse, but this was our return flight. Spacing again? … /KORD/KLAX


Perhaps weather… spacing, maybe. More well qualified folks are here that can address enroute spacing issues…


Yeah, those storms were likely limiting the number of airways that could be used through that region, causing more traffic than the available airways usually handle, so the aircraft had to do some turns to properly space themselves in.


Or, the pilots were allowed to deviate from their planned routes to avoid the larger cells.

Controllers in the higher air traffic center airspace have much more tools to guarantee separation: speed adjustments, altitude or route adjustments. They might vector off an airway to build some miles in trail in a tighter spot.

S-turns or vectoring for spacing is more common closer in to the airport, where the approach or tower controller has a much smaller airspace to work with.

So, I think those large turns out near Vegas were thunderstorm avoidance.


Ah yes, I forget that the radar image we see is just one point in time, and the storms may not have been where we’re seeing them when the aircraft passed them.


Again, thanks all.