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From the window of an airline, one is more likely to see a plane travelling in the opposite direction, than one flying in the same direction.

Are planes travelling in the opposite direction more likely to be found on the right or the left? That is, are opposite airways given a left/right arrangement?

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  • $\begingroup$ There is no general rule for this. It will vary based on weather, prevailing winds, terrain, how busy the airport is, whether there's a conflict in the area, etc. $\endgroup$
    – 0xdd
    Jun 7 '19 at 21:54
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Your best bet is flying across the Atlantic, where the Strategic Lateral Offset Procedure (SLOP) is used.

This is where the pilot flies a offset to the route, either 1 or 2 NM, always to the right, chosen randomly (or based on surrounding traffic/TCAS), and is kept from the ATC (no radar coverage, although that is changing with satellite ADS-B).

As shown below, you have a chance to see another plane above/below from either side depending on the pilots' flip of coins.

enter image description here
Source; adapted

Regarding two-way airways elsewhere and with the navigation paradox, where flying accurately is ever increasing, it will be a slim chance except for a crossing traffic (not same airway).

If in a holding pattern, the standard turn is right turns, so the right side gives a better look "inside the track," unless the pattern is non-standard to the left.

enter image description here
Source: Mid-Atlantic Race!!! Virgin Atlantic A340 vs Norwegian 787 Dreamliner

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  • $\begingroup$ When "your" aircraft is right of the centerline, being on the left side gives the best view of all oncoming traffic. Won't be especially close, but could be a fairly steady stream of them. Although that won't help if the eastbound tracks aren't where the westbound tracks are. SLOP is used beyond just the NAT, though, so I'd go with the left side as the best bet, unless you expect (standard) holding. Then go with right side. $\endgroup$
    – Ralph J
    Jun 7 '19 at 23:59
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A partial answer to my own question...

The jet-streams over the Atlantic mean that traffic flying west from northern Europe to north America will seek a path further to the north than traffic coming in the opposite direction.

So there at least, there is more likely to be passing traffic on your left than on your right. That's an arrangement imposed by high-altitude wind patterns rather than by fiat of course. Moreover, the distances between the tracks mean that while the traffic might be there, there's no guarantee of actually seeing it.

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