Australian oneworld member Qantas is already operating 4 Airbus A380s, and is awaiting two more for delivery in late 2009. Now Qantas is offering a very special experience aboard this very special aircraft: Sightseeing flights above the all-white, mysterious Antarctica – the world of endless ice and snow. Now a few hundred travelers will have the chance to take a very special look at it from above, from the warm and luxurious flight deck of a Qantas A380 – the largest passenger jet ever flown.
Qantas will operate three sightseeing flights over Antarctica during the Southern summer with its new A380. It is partnering with Antarctica Sightseeing Flights of Melbourne once again, with whom they have previously provided similar special flights aboard Boeing 747-400s. The idea originally came from New Zealand, where Air New Zealand provided similar flights in the ’70s, until November 28, 1979, when one of its McDonnell Douglas DC-10‘s tragically crashed into Mt. Erebus on Antarctica. It took many years before Qantas paired up with Croydon Travel in 1994 for their first scenic Antarctica flight. They have safely operated 85 flights over the 15 years taking more than 30,000 people to experience the world’s ‘last great wilderness’ during this one and a half decade. In contrast to the 30,000 people flown above it, this continent has given birth to only one human in 1978 and has only around 1,000 researchers living on its soil year-round (but nobody is registered there).
The first A380 flight is scheduled for takeoff on December 31, 2009 from Melbourne, the second on January 24, 2010 from Sydney. There will be third Antarctic flight on February 14 from Melbourne, but with a Boeing 747. The New Year’s Eve flight will be under the command of Capt. John Dennis, who has flown more than 40 of Qantas’ 85 747 flights to the ice, and both others will be commanded by a senior Qantas Captain who had flown at least once to Antarctica. The most frequently used route takes the aircraft over the icecap, the South Magnetic Pole, the French scientific base at Dumont d’Urville and finally the spectacular Trans-Antarctic Range. Approval has been secured for 19 Antarctic flight routes, with final selection based upon weather and viewing opportunities.
All flights include two meals with the on board experience enhanced by a panel of experts, including world accredited Antarctic scientists, glaciologists, explorers, adventurers & mountaineers. On to top of the view from the windows, the on board entertainment system would show the live picture of the panorama from the cockpit. The passengers of the “New Year’s Eve Midnight Sun Party Flight” will be the first to see the sun in 2010– as it will be full daylight at 12.01am over the ice – and the flight will feature dancing in the aisles to the music of a live jazz band.
The flights take about 3 hours to reach the first icebergs of Antarctica, followed by four hours flying above the continent and another 4 to reach Australia again – totaling an average flight time of between 11-13 hours. When over Antarctica the plane flies at approximately 10,000 feet above sea level as this altitude provides excellent viewing while still respecting the wildlife habitats at sea level. The aircraft flies in long sweeping ‘figure 8s’ over various points of interest to allow the spectacular sights to be viewed from both sides of the aircraft. Passenger will be given two boarding passes and will have to switch seats half-way through the flight. This means that all passengers (except the ones flying in Economy Centre or Business Centre seats) will have a window seat at least for half of the flight. Given that there is no dark at night over Antarctica during the Southern summer time, it doesn’t really matter which half of the flight you have the window seat. The seatmap is available here.
Fares for this unforgettable experience start from AUD999 (USD899) for the Economy Class Centre seats and go up through 6 other seat-types to the First Class seats for AUD 6,299 (USD 5,667).