Your Opportunity To Flightsee Around Antarctica On Qantas

Filed Under: Qantas, Travel

While many of us can claim to have visited six continents, the seventh continent (Antarctica) is a bit tougher to reach.

A while ago there was an opportunity to bid Starpoints for a cruise to Antarctica, though that was on fairly short notice, and also ended up selling for a lot of Starpoints. Then there are some crazy cool expeditions to Antarctica, including staying at the world’s southernmost hotel, though they’ll cost you $70,000+ per person.

Of course there’s some middle ground as well, as there are cruises to Antarctica that are more reasonably priced.

Anyway, if you’d like to get a general taste of Antarctica without actually setting foot on the continent, Qantas operates some cool charter flights every year that I think are worth pointing out.


Qantas Antarctica charter dates

This season, Qantas is operating four flights around Antarctica out of three Australian cities, all of which last ~12 hours:

  • Depart Melbourne on December 31, 2016
  • Depart Perth on January 26, 2017
  • Depart Sydney on February 5, 2017
  • Depart Melbourne on February 12, 2017


What will you see from these Qantas charter flights?

Each of these flights lasts around 12 hours, and around four hours are spent flying over the Antarctica Treaty area, with 2.5-3 hours spent flying over the actual continent. The flights leave Australia in the morning and return at night, so you’ll be flying over Antarctica midday (not that it really matters in Southern Summer).

You can check out the Facebook page for these charters to see more pictures from passengers who have taken the flights in the past.

How does seating work on Antarctica charters?

It goes without saying that window seats on this flight are in highest demand, so they’ve created many seating options and price points around that. Many of these seating options include changing seats halfway through the flight, to maximize the views everyone gets.

So, what’s the pricing like? It varies slightly by charter, but to use the Perth flight pricing as an example (the pricing is in AUD, so it’s a bit less in USD):

  • Economy Class Center: $1,199 (the two center economy seats for the entire flight
  • Economy Class Standard: $1,999 (seats over the wing, though you switch seats during the flight)
  • Economy Class Superior: $2,299 (rear economy seats, since you’ll have a better view from there)
  • Premium Economy Class: $3,299 (switch seats during the flight)
  • Business Class Center: $4,299 (a fully flat business class seat, but in the center section)
  • Business Class Deluxe: $7,499 (a window or aisle seat, and switch halfway through the flight)
  • Ice Class: $7,999 (business class seats in the nose of the plane, which have the best views)


If you’re a miles & points enthusiast, unfortunately this flight isn’t eligible for mileage accrual, since this is a charter flight and isn’t operated as a Qantas flight. Beyond that, since the origin and destination airports are the same, I guess you could say the flight would earn no miles even if it were eligible. 😉

Ice Class on the Qantas charter flights

Bottom line

I think it’s so cool that Qantas does these charter flights every year. As you can see, they’re not cheap — while 1,200AUD for center seats isn’t bad, you’re also not really getting much of an experience there. Spending 2,300AUD+ for good seats isn’t an insignificant amount of money for 12 hours of flying in economy.

I’m sure this will interest some people, and the people who have taken these flights in the past seem like they really enjoyed the experience. As much as I’m an aviation geek and a sucker for good views, I think I’d rather spend that money towards a cruise to Antarctica at some point, so I can actually visit the continent.

Has anyone taken one of these Antarctica charter flights, or plan on taking one in the future?

  1. What’s the point of paying for a center seat? It’s a widebody, how can you look outside the window from the middle of the plane? What a waste of money.

  2. I think it’s a waste of money. Its like saying ‘I visited New York City’ because you flew over the top of it one time. It would be such a tease. I can understand the appeal of actually going on an expedition there because that is an adventure and you would actually be seeing things up close but paying thousands of dollars to sip champagne looking out the window and then saying ‘ive visited Antarctica’ is not for me.

  3. You have to do the cruise at some point. It is pricey ($12-16k/person) but absolutely the most fantastic trip you could go on. I did One Ocean’s Antarctic Circle cruise last year and easily the highlight of my travels so far.

  4. $1,199 for a 12 hour flight with no view that takes you back to where you started.

    Uh? What’s the point of that?

  5. Bunch of negative Nancies on here. The strategy is to book the cheapest middle seat, and get up as quickly as possible to find a window in a galley or exit row. The site specifically says all communal areas are free game.

    I would looooooove to do this, but something about not setting foot on Antarctica cheapens it a bit for me.

  6. These excursion flights, to an area where the weather can change drastically in no time at all, make me a bit uncomfortable. I remember when Air New Zealand was operating a series of ‘sightseeing’ flights to Antarctica, the 14th of which – in zero visibility – flew into the side of Mount Erebus, on 28 November 1979. All 239 passengers and 20 crewmembers aboard the DC10 were killed.

  7. I’d just say that the Perth flight is actually something people who live there are super passionate about. The company who put it on (it’s obviously not Qantas after all) donate a significant portion of the profit to a charity called Telethon which aims to help fund research and better lives of sick children. So whilst it’s not cheap, you get to see something immensely cool and feel good about consuming a planes worth of free booze because they support a charity with this flight.

  8. Really want to take one of these flights. It’s nice that you actually switch seats but, even more so, is they have lecturers/scientists/explorers on board that explain to you what’s you are seeing and what’s going on.

  9. I have been lucky enough to have done one of these flights, and still remember it as one of the highlights of my life, there are no words that can descibe the sheer beauty of Antartica from the air.

    A few points, seats are swapped halfway through the flight, eg. Two window seats swap to aisle and outer middle seat. You are free to walk around the cabin, as you are over the ice for at least 3 hours, and it is a party atmosphere on board, everyone is friendly and enjoying the experience. Everyone lets other passengers get some window time and photos galore, there is only so much ice you can look at in 3 hours. The air in Antartica is 3 times clearer than the mainland, no pollution, and you can see the razor sharp edge of the mountains. The plane goes to a lower altitude over the ice, and you can see huge glaciers everywhere, mountains and sea ice and icebergs, we even flew over a French base. As the air is clear, you feel ike you are literally on top of the ice. Qantas have about 26 different routes they can select from, do they choose a route which provides the best weather conditions for each trip. They also have people on board who provide talks about the continent.
    My recommendation is to purchase the two centre seats, friends have since done this, and they had the best experience for a reasonable cost.

  10. For ice class I better be getting an eight ball of cocaine. At least it will keep me awake the entire flight, but I may get chatty and want to talk to the peons in back who saved up for years to *fly* around Antarctica! Ugh POOR!

  11. My dad and I took a 10 day cruise in Nov 2011 from Ushuaia to Antarctica for $3800/each, and while I doubt you can find that price today, I bet if you look hard enough you can find something for $5k-$6k.

    In our 10 days we spent 2 days each way crossing the Drake Passage, and 6 cruising around the Antarctic Peninsula making about 2 landings a day (will vary depending on weather).

    Find a boat with less than 100 passengers as that’s the limit of how many can go ashore at one time, and if you’re going all the way down there you don’t want to not make it on land or waiting in line for people to return so you can go.

    Graeme, Thanks for the great review of flight like this, and the suggestion for middle seats. It does sound like a blast and I’m sure you’d meet some incredible people even if it is overpriced for most seats in my opinion.

  12. Yes, as Matt says, leaving from Argentina is a lot cheaper than Australia or New Zealand. You can get last minute cruise deals between $3500-5000. For 10 days that’s not horrible. About half the regular price.

  13. Qantas has been operating flyover flight for years, but it’s flyover, not actually visiting. You won’t be able to experience the most amazing experiences in Antarctica. When we did Antarctic cruise with Ponant early this years, all the most fond memories are things we experience physically. Like standing on a floating ice sheet, watch and hear glacier falls into the sea, getting chase by sea lion pups, having penguins come up to you and poke your pants with their beaks, zodiac cruising between and go under icebergs, get really up close and personal with the whales, standing in a king penguin colonies of 40k pairs and hear their sounds and smell. None of these experiences will be there with flyover flight, and after the flight, you still have not set foot on Antarctica. I never understand why some people take the flyover flight, especially you can’t even say you’ve been to Antarctica, you can only say you’ve flown over it.

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