Antarctic sightseeing flights, operated by Antarctica Flights on chartered Qantas Boeing 787 Dreamliners, are proving popular this summer. Operating during daylight hours, passengers on these flights are treated to close-up views of the Antarctic icebergs. But another Melbourne-based tour company is now pioneering a different type of Antarctic scenic flight, the first of which is scheduled to take off in 2021.
Quo Vadis Holidays is now selling tickets on its inaugural “Southern Lights Flight”, scheduled to take place on the evening of 25 September 2021 (in just under a year from now). The Qantas Boeing 787 will depart Melbourne around 8pm, before flying 3.5 hours south to a latitude of around 65 degrees south. The plane will then zig-zag above the clouds for up to 90 minutes, before returning to Melbourne at around 5am the following morning.
Full Qantas international service will be provided on board, including dinner and beverages. There will also be an astrophysicist on board to provide commentary.
At 65 degrees south, you would normally have quite a good chance of seeing icebergs. But as this flight will take place during the night, it’s instead designed for spotting a natural phenomenon that takes place in the sky – the southern lights or Aurora Australis.
Unfortunately there’s no guarantee that the southern lights will be visible, but the flight is timed specifically around the equinox to maximise the chances. The tour company says that there is a 80-90% chance of seeing the lights.
It will also be a bit harder to get a good view with the naked eye from within an aircraft cabin, although the lights will be dimmed to maximise viewing opportunities.
I did once happen to see the northern lights on board a commercial flight in northern Canada. The lights on that nighttime Westjet flight were dimmed for several minutes, and we were able to see the lights during that time, although this was only possible with the lights completely switched off. I’m sure we would have had a better view from on the ground, but planes do have the advantage of being above the clouds if it happens to be an overcast night. With Antarctica’s first commercial airport not due to open until 2040, viewing from the ground is not practical in this instance anyway.
Tickets on the chartered southern lights flight aren’t cheap, starting at $4,380 for a pair of two Economy class seats by a window. Passengers must purchase a minimum of two seats, but larger groups can purchase additional aisle seats for $1,490 or $990 each (depending on the seat location). Premium Economy seats are available from $8,980 for a pair of two seats and Business class costs $13,980 for two seats. At those prices, you’d hope that the southern lights are clearly visible!
While this flight will be the first of its kind in Australia, similar charter flights have taken place in New Zealand in recent years with mixed reviews.
What do you think – does this sound like a worthwhile opportunity or would you rather save your money? Let us know in the comments!