There may be no commercial flights to Antarctica, but AFF member JohnM recently came pretty close! Each summer, Qantas operates a small number of sightseeing charter flights over Antarctica. Departing from Australia early in the morning, the 12-hour flight returns to Australia in the evening after 4 hours of flying over the Antarctic continent.
Tomorrow it’s up at sparrow’s and out to PER to board QF2906 for a day trip to Antarctica. Scheduled departure is 0800 and return 2030. That should fill in the day quite nicely – especially as I decided to go the fabled Ice Class (B747 front cabin, window seat pairs). I am reliably led to believe that we only live once…
For the special occasion our member was seated in “Ice Class”, in the nose of the Boeing 747 aircraft operating the scenic flight. As well as a comfortable seat, Ice Class came with full Qantas Business class catering.
It is possible to see the spectacular Antarctic icebergs on board two of Qantas’ regular commercial flights – QF63 from Sydney to Johannesburg, and QF28 from Santiago to Sydney. Depending on the weather, these south-tracking daylight flights often overfly Antarctica for at least a couple of hours. But for the full experience, it would be difficult to beat an Antarctic scenic flight!
As JohnM explains, this was no ordinary flight. There were three Antarctic experts on board to provide commentary and answer questions. The flight deck even broadcast a conversation with staff at Casey Station over the PA. The atmosphere on board was also much more relaxed than normal.
An aspect that I found very interesting was the very relaxed nature of the day. Unlike a normal flight, there were no people wanting to sleep or work that had to be tippy-toed around. During the 4h over the ice as you might imagine no trolleys were brought through but pax were free to get snacks from the galleys and bottled water was brought around. The crew also had some opportunities to do a little viewing and take photos. So there was a real fun atmosphere.
Of course, the real highlight of the day was the views over Antarctica. And judging by JohnM‘s photos, they were rather spectacular!
After reaching Casey and dropping to 10000ft, we circled around a few times then headed W along the coast in spectacularly clear skies, weaving and banking to take in the views in a pretty leisurely style. Apparently we provided a great sight for the 78 people at the base (plus 7 at Wilkins airfield). Over-winter staffing is 24 people.
Although not everyone on board was lucky enough to sit by the window, it seems that fellow-passengers were considerate and allowed everyone ample opportunities to see the sights below.
Qantas operates a number of charter flights to Antarctica each summer, with prices starting from $1,199.
See this compelling trip report – including the spectacular photos – HERE.