Qantas Operates 9,100+ Mile Flight Over Antarctica

Qantas Operates 9,100+ Mile Flight Over Antarctica

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I dare anyone to tell me that this flight isn’t ridiculously cool.

Qantas’ Buenos Aires to Darwin flight

Qantas has just completed a one-off flight from Buenos Aires to Darwin, intended to get some Australians back home. While this isn’t a regularly scheduled flight, Qantas has operated a variety of repatriation and one-off flights, given the country’s strict border policies (for example, Brisbane to Fairbanks and Brisbane to Saint Lucia).

This particular flight operated into Darwin so that passengers could quarantine there. There’s some stuff that makes this flight in particular cool. For one, the flight covered a distance of over 9,100 miles, and took 17hr26min. That’s a very long flight, longer than the marathon Perth to London flight that Qantas regularly operated pre-pandemic (that flight is about 100 miles shorter).

The flight operated with flight number QF14, and it was flown by a Boeing 787-9 with the registration code VH-ZNH (this is a nearly three year old plane).

Qantas operated a flight from Buenos Aires to Darwin

This Qantas flight flew over Antarctica

Arguably the coolest aspect of this flight was the routing, as it quite literally flew over Antarctica. While there are lots of flights that take Polar routings, routings over or near Antarctica are exceptionally rare, since there aren’t many city pairs where that’s the fastest way to fly.

Fortunately the flight passed over Antarctica during daylight hours, so hopefully the passengers got to enjoy the view.

Qantas’ routing over Antarctica

Qantas posted messages that the pilots were sharing from the flight deck on social media. Here were some of the live updates:

  • “It’s cold -75C, greetings fm Antartica over the Walker Ranges def no polar bears, all going well, cheers fm QF14 Damien and Alex on deck”
  • “Antarctica behind us absolutely spectacular Great Southern Land next Cheers from Crew QF14”
  • “Approaching 1350 KM west of Hobart at 39000 FT, the Southern Ocean looks beautiful but cold QF14”

Interestingly Qantas has long operated “flightseeing” services to Antarctica, whereby a plane operates a 12 hour flight to & from Australia, with views of Antarctica. While intriguing, it has never struck me as being particularly worthwhile. I think the passengers on this Buenos Aires to Darwin flight got a much better deal — they got from Point A to Point B, and they got views of Antarctica.

Bottom line

Qantas has operated a one-off flight from Buenos Aires to Darwin, which covered a distance of over 9,100 miles. The coolest part of this flight, though, was that it operated right over Antarctica. How cool for the passengers onboard to get that kind of a view — hopefully everyone was awake for it!

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  1. iamhere

    Polar bears are at the North. Penguins are at Antarctica.

  2. Edward Berrocal

    Please someone show this to a flat earther

  3. glenn t

    You need to trace this route on a proper world globe than a flat map for it to make any sense.
    Also there is probably a requirement to overfly some land component rather than an unbroken expanse of ocean.

  4. David

    The old Qantas Syd>BA and return on 747's went south enough to see ice (during the day on the return), but not land - great views across the Andes as well!

  5. Terry

    I flew SYD-JNB one time (it was a new route. A 747 only partially loaded due to weight restriction, I believe the upstairs was closed). It was a day flight so I remember flying along the coast of Antarctica for about an hour, and it was gorgeous - from high up.

  6. Wayne silva

    Did Alan Joyce do this flight? And if so, did he have someone sitting on both sides of him. Did Alan eat coach food.

  7. Roamingredcoat

    Qantas Kicks Off 100-Plane Order Worth More Than $9 Billion https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-10-05/qantas-kicks-off-100-plane-order-worth-more-than-9-billion

  8. Duncan

    Because of ETPOS it couldn't take the shortest route which would have taken it much closer to the pole. Easter Island, Muraroa in French Polynesia, Wellington NZ, Hobart TAS.

  9. Mauri

    If I remember correctly until March 2020 there were regular flights from Santiago and Buenos Aires, to Wellington, Melbourne and Sidney, that used a similar flight path.

    1. Ryan

      Buenos Aires hasn’t been for a while, but yes, Santiago to Auckland Melbourne and Sydney was up to a daily flight on LATAM/Qantas. But as Darwin is much further north and west, the great circle route was much further south on this flight. Not over Antarctic continent, but Occasionally pax could see ice on those older flights in winter though.

  10. Phillip

    QF has been operating Heathrow to both Darwin and Perth multiple times a month recently.

  11. Uri

    Any idea why Darwin and not SYD/MEL which are significantly nearer? Can't passengers connect domestically?
    The route would be more northern and this less interesting.

    I'm also surprised they don't need a quad jet. AFAIK 787 had ETOPS 330, but are there any diversion airports near Antarctica?

    1. Mike C

      Repatriation flights go to the place where the pax will go into quarantine, and Darwin has a big quarantine centre. Passengers have to quarantine in their port of arrival and can only continue to their final destination after their 14 days.

      The only four engine jets Qantas has are its A380s and they are grounded at the moment, and they don't have the range as far as I know. I have no idea what...

      Repatriation flights go to the place where the pax will go into quarantine, and Darwin has a big quarantine centre. Passengers have to quarantine in their port of arrival and can only continue to their final destination after their 14 days.

      The only four engine jets Qantas has are its A380s and they are grounded at the moment, and they don't have the range as far as I know. I have no idea what diversion airfields they would have had. Rio Gallegos in Argentina, Tahiti and New Zealand perhaps? I'm guessing.

    2. Stuart

      @MikeC. I guess if there was a serious need to land at an all costs situation, the ice runway at McMurdo station could work. They regularly land large Lockheed transport/cargo planes there. And an A-319 once landed there for a medical emergency. I'm sure this would be under absolutely dire circumstances - but it's an option I guess. Would be the coolest diversion imaginable!

    3. Mike C

      @Stuart. Yes, cool in all senses of the word! Australia also has an ice runway, I think at Casey Station, and the Antarctic Division operates an A319 there from Hobart. The RAAF has also flown C-130s to Antarctica.

    4. Uri

      AFAIK a 767 had landed in Antarctica, so it's not far from a 787.
      However:
      1. The 767 was especially prepared.
      2. Landing is one thing, providing food and warmth for passengers is another.

      I'm sure there are strict requirements regarding what's a viable diversion airport. But with ETOPS 330 it's possible that they were always within reach of another continent.

    5. Weymar Osborne

      Wasn't the Darwin quarantine center set up so that direct flights from Europe could be operated, therefore avoiding potentially complicated and changing transit rules in intermediate countries? Surely, Sydney and/or Melbourne would have sufficient hotel capacity to handle quarantines for a flight coming from the other direction. Since the distance is shorter and most of the passengers were probably traveling to one of those two cities anyway, it still seems to me that flying to...

      Wasn't the Darwin quarantine center set up so that direct flights from Europe could be operated, therefore avoiding potentially complicated and changing transit rules in intermediate countries? Surely, Sydney and/or Melbourne would have sufficient hotel capacity to handle quarantines for a flight coming from the other direction. Since the distance is shorter and most of the passengers were probably traveling to one of those two cities anyway, it still seems to me that flying to MEL/SYD would have made more sense. That is unless hotel quarantines are for some reason no longer an option and there's something that necessitates using the Darwin facility (but then why would commercial passenger flights still be operating into other cities at all?)

    6. Claudia

      https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-01-15/howard-springs-quarantine-facilities-in-other-states-australia/13058438 this explains a little about why Howard Springs, the Quarantine Centre near Darwin, is used. Basically well spaced rooms, no shared ventilation systems and distant from densely populated urban areas, so less risk of community transmission from staff working there.

  12. JS

    Someone should rub this in the face of the flat earthers.

  13. Steve

    18 hour flight with no air nozzles god forbid...

  14. Joe1293

    Well now they will have 2 week Quarantine in Darwin

    1. Steve

      Wait they still believe that makes a difference, smh.

    2. Mike C

      Yes, they will, but they are all Australian citizens or permanent residents who want to come home. They knew what they were signing up for. And it's not in a hotel room, the quarantine centre there has cabins with space between them. Still not fun, but not claustrophobic.

  15. Jim Napier

    How cool would it have been to be on that flight? Chance of a lifetime! I wouldn't have looked out for polar bears though since they aren't native to Antarctica.

    1. Tee Jay

      The world's been tipped upside down.... ;-)

  16. Dennis

    Awesome! And I agree - these passengers got a way better deal than the so-called Antarctic scenic flights. Does anyone have any ETOPS information for this flight?

  17. Douglas Frost DeNunzio

    The conversation of people taking Qantas Airways happens a few times!

Featured Comments Load all 29 comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

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Mike C

Yes, they will, but they are all Australian citizens or permanent residents who want to come home. They knew what they were signing up for. And it's not in a hotel room, the quarantine centre there has cabins with space between them. Still not fun, but not claustrophobic.

Chris

"def no polar bears" I sure hope not!

Claudia

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-01-15/howard-springs-quarantine-facilities-in-other-states-australia/13058438 this explains a little about why Howard Springs, the Quarantine Centre near Darwin, is used. Basically well spaced rooms, no shared ventilation systems and distant from densely populated urban areas, so less risk of community transmission from staff working there.

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