Wanted on a charge of murder, Brett Matton (Guy Madison), a war veteran, has fled the country to Spain, where he has been living for two years and is engaged to wed Jean Gurney (Virginia Mayo), a former showgirl. FBI Agent Stafford (George Raft) arrives in Spain to arrest Brett and bring him back to the U.S.
On their commercial flight to New York, the passengers include Jean, who bought a ticket at the last minute, and Lord Leverett (George Macready), a man deranged by his daughter's death. Leverett brings aboard a chemical poison hidden in his bag.
The handcuffed Brett is given a few minutes by Stafford to explain to Jean about his past life. His story is that two men killed a bartender, knocked him out and placed the gun in his hand. Certain he would never get a fair trial, Brett ran away. A minister on board marries Brett to Jean with the agent's permission. Brett steals a pistol from a partner of Stafford's who is asleep. He tells Jean,to avoid going to jail, he intends to hijack the airliner to Canada, landing in Montreal, at an airport he knows.
The poison leaks from Leverett's case, emitting toxic fumes, and causing a fire in the cabin, killing the pilots and navigator. Former combat pilot Brett is asked to fly the aircraft. He must make an emergency landing on water and without a radio, which Leverett has damaged. Brett ends up shooting Leverett, although a grateful Stafford still insists on being given the gun.
Brett takes pity on the dying passengers and lands the jet. Authorities on the ground inform Stafford that another man is being charged with the bar murder and Brett will be cleared.
The film was the first production from Inter-Continent Films and Inter-Continent Releasing, two companies formed by Benedict Bogeaus and James R. Grainger. They announced a series of films, including Jet Over the Atlantic, The Gold Bug, Shoot Out!, Early Autumn and The Glass Wall.
Principal photography on Jet Over the Atlantic took place from April 27 to early June 1959 in Mexico City.Jet Over the Atlantic marked George Raft's final major appearance in a film. His role was limited and a visibly ill Raft required oxygen on the set. The film was notable in Ilona Massey's return to films after a 10-year absence, and as Guy Madison's last American film.
Jet Over the Atlantic was primarily a B film relegated to the bottom half of double bills. With television stars Ilona Massey and Guy Madison in featured roles, the film was one of a cycle of late-1950s films that had the feel of a television episode. Reviewer Bosley Crowther of The New York Times merely called the film, "a melodrama in which George Raft, Guy Madison and Virginia Mayo get caught aloft in a crippled plane... by some miscarriage of justice they all get down alive" Later reviews focused on the inadequacies of the script, casting choices and low production values, dismissing the film as woefully inadequate as either a thriller or disaster film.