For most Americans, international travel will likely be a write-off for the rest of 2020. From Canada to Europe, many of the world’s countries just don’t want us until we clean up our pandemic response. But, it’s not too early to start thinking about ticking off your bucket list in 2021. If Antarctica has proven an elusive destination for you, maybe next year will be your year. One unique flight promises to take you there without actually taking you there.
Qantas and Antarctica Flights have announced the return of their exclusive Antarctic sightseeing flights. New this year, passengers will board a state-of-the-art Boeing 787 Dreamliner bound for the White Continent. The trip takes over 12 hours from takeoff to touchdown and returns to the same airport from which it departed. As on most long-haul flights, passengers will enjoy two full meals, plus free snacks and bar service. The in-flight entertainment is, of course, heavy on educational films about Antarctica and polar wildlife.
Three hours after liftoff, the edges of the polar continent slowly come into view. The plane spends at least four hours flying over Antarctica in long figure-8 patterns to ensure that everyone onboard is provided with stunning views. Every passenger is ticketed with two boarding passes. Midway through the flight, an announcement indicates that it’s time for passengers to switch seats: Window to aisle and vice-versa. Passengers are also encouraged to get up and move around the cabin as they like so they don’t miss anything.
It’s billed as “the world’s most unique scenic flight.” It’s unique in that it’s essentially a “flight to nowhere.” But, it’s also a way for destination counters to tick one of the world’s most wild and isolated destinations off their travel to-do list — sort of. It’s a surprisingly popular option, as Qantas and Antarctica Flights have helped passengers do just that for more than 26 years.
The 2020 season kicks off in November and carries through until February 2021. Flights depart and return from Australia’s most popular cities, including Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, and others. Prices among the six classes of service vary widely, starting from around USD $860 (AUD $1,199) for an Explorer Economy Class seat without a window up to USD $5,755 (AUD $7,999) for a Business Class Deluxe ticket. In light of the pandemic, the airlines are, of course, taking extra precautions and implementing stringent cleaning protocols to protect passenger safety.
If “merely” flying over the White Continent doesn’t sound exciting enough, check out five legit alternative ways to tick Antarctica off your bucket list.