This coming New Year’s Eve may well be a little
different for some. Qantas has decided it will use one of its
Airbus A380 aircraft to operate a unique sightseeing flight to
Antarctica – the first commercial flight by an A380 over the south
polar region, and the only aircraft permitted to do so on New
The flight, organised by Melbourne-based
Antarctica Sightseeing Flights, will originate in Sydney and fly
via Melbourne to reach Antarctica. Passengers will be over the
“ice” at midnight and be the first in the world to see the light
of the new year.
The chartered A380 will fly figure-eight
patterns above the breathtaking polar terrain for up to four hours
before heading back to Melbourne and Sydney.
Antarctic flights are also planned for the southern summer – a
second A380 service direct from Sydney on 24 January and a Boeing
747-400 from Melbourne on Valentine’s Day, 14 February. All
flights will be operated by senior Qantas pilots, with the captain in
command having previously operated Antarctica sightseeing flights.
The New Year’s Eve flight to Antarctica will be under the command
of Captain John Dennis, who has flown more than 40 of the 85
previous Boeing 747 flights to the ice. He will be accompanied by
two other senior pilots for the inaugural A380 journey.
“Antarctica is the world’s coldest, driest and windiest continent,
and the fastest, most comfortable way to view it is from the air,
which maximises viewing but leaves not a single footprint,” said
Antarctica flights founder Phil Asker, whose company has operated
85 Antarctic flights from Australia since 1994, all with Boeing
747 aircraft chartered from Qantas.
“Not only will we offer
the unique opportunity for New Year’s Eve travellers to farewell
2009 and welcome 2010 flying low and slow over the breathtaking
Antarctic landscape – we will offer the bonus opportunity to make
aviation history aboard the first commercial flight by an A380 to
the south polar region.”
flights do not land in Antarctica. On a typical flight, the first
icebergs are seen approximately three hours after passing over
Hobart. The most frequently-used route then takes the aircraft
over the polar icecap, the South Magnetic Pole, the French
scientific base at Dumont d’Urville, rugged coastal cliffs,
massive glaciers and finally the spectacular Trans-Antarctic Range
before returning to Australia.
On board, experts deliver
commentary and stories of their own experiences in Antarctica, and
stroll through the cabin throughout the flight to speak to
Videos are screened about Antarctic life and
history and a camera on the flight deck gives passengers a pilot’s
eye view, via the cabin entertainment screens, of takeoff and
landing in Australia and of the polar landscape ahead. There is
even a jazz band moving through the cabin during the New Year’s
All flights include two full international meals
plus snacks and drinks.
The Qantas Airbus A380 fleet is
configured to seat up to 450 passengers with eight different
seating options available for Antarctic flights.
Sydney and Melbourne for the New Year’s Eve flight ranges from
A$999 for an Economy Class Centre seat to A$6,299 in First Class.
Passengers from other Australian destinations, or from overseas,
can also buy competitive air fares to Melbourne or Sydney to join
the New Year’s Eve flight or one of the other Antarctic
The inaugural A380 sightseeing flight from
Melbourne to Antarctica on New Year’s Eve will take about 11 ˝
hours and cover some 9,500 kilometres, including up to four hours
above the Antarctic terrain. Sydney direct flights to Antarctica
take up to 12 ˝ hours.
Under strictly controlled conditions,
the aircraft can descend to a minimum of 3,077 metres (10,000
feet) above sea level or 615 metres (2,000 feet) above the highest
terrain within 180 kilometres. At all times, the aircraft is in
contact with the Qantas operations centre in Sydney, and with air
traffic controllers in both Australia or the US research base at
McMurdo Sound in Antarctica.
Approval has been secured for 19
Antarctica flight routes, with final selection based upon weather
details obtained immediately before departure from Australia.
During the flight, the captain in command can request a change of
course to maximise viewing opportunities.
guidelines apply for sightseeing flights over
Although the Antarctic sightseeing
flights are operated by Qantas, the flights are private charters
and cannot be purchased through Qantas reservations.
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