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Fly Over the South Pole with Qantas and Chimu Adventures

On this "flightseeing" trip, all travelers can access a window to catch a glimpse

by Everen Brown

February 1, 2023

The unique flight grants incredible close-up views of scenery in the South Pole rarely seen by humans / Photo: Courtesy of Antarctic Scenery/Katie Dundas

The South Pole is one of the crown jewels of polar expeditions. It is not an easy place to reach, even today. But Chimu Adventures has opened up this “bottom of the world” destination and, in partnership with Qantas Airways, has created the ultimate day trip: a scenic flight over Antarctica.

While this polar experience is strictly “flightseeing,” it allows passengers to view the South Pole firsthand from the comfort of a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner. Seats are sold in various cabin classes, and all have rotation requirements so everyone can access a window for half of the flight.

Passengers arrived early at Melbourne Airport in Australia for the world’s first Qantas polar flight. The plane departed at 6:17 a.m., climbing to an initial altitude of 33,000 feet. As passengers enjoyed breakfast about three and a half hours into the flight, excitement filled the cabin as ice surrounding Antarctica was visible through the plane’s large windows.

Rare views of Cape Adare, Mount Melbourne, Mount Erebus, Mount Terror, the Transantarctic Mountains and the Ross Ice Shelf were seen. Commentary through the cabin’s public address system pointed out these landmarks, interpreting the experience for passengers unfamiliar with the region.

Close to the seven-hour flight time mark, passengers got their first glimpse of the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station. Two 20-minute circuits were flown around the pole, allowing passengers time to swap seats at this halfway mark. The plane descended to 17,000 feet above sea level at the South Pole station—located on the polar ice cap at 9,301 feet—granting incredible close-up views of scenery rarely seen by humans.

The large 787 windows allowed passengers to snap stunning photos. Chimu’s programming included mini-lectures from various polar explorers onboard, a fundraising raffle, and auction. Then it was time for lunch.

After leaving the South Pole, the plane climbed back to 40,000 feet while flying over Antarctica’s fabled Dry Valleys, the Drygalski Ice Tongue, ancient glaciers and icebergs. Soon it was time for dinner and a quick nap as the plane headed back to Melbourne for an on-time arrival. The plane flew for 15 hours and 43 minutes, covering 8,329 miles.

Chimu offers a variety of scenic Antarctic flights, including views of the Southern Lights. The company purchased carbon credits to offset the emission from this flight, as they do with all the trips they offer. This trip ranges from $1,241 for an economy class with a limited view seat to $7,245 for a Premium Business Class seat. Chimu has already released this year’s South Pole flightseeing adventure, set to depart Melbourne on December 3.