The Rise Of Transantarctic Flights

Thousands of aircraft operate transatlantic flights each day. In contrast, only a handful operate transantarctic flights. Norwegian’s Argentinian subsidiary is, however, set to change this with the launch of a new route. The new route will join a handful of others and will be a true transantarctic flight as the crow flies from Buenos Aires to Perth.

With Advances in ETOPS, Transantarctic routes are becoming more popular. Photo: Mike McBey via Flickr

Due to the lack of suitable diversion airports on the continent, Antarctica has previously not met ETOPS regulations. However, with the advent of more reliable engines, ETOPS ranges are steadily increasing. This has, in turn, opened up Antarctica to the world.

Current Services

There are currently a few services which skirt around Antarctica. Some of these include two Qantas flights and an Air New Zealand flight. The two Qantas flights travel from Sydney to Santiago and Johannesburg, while Air New Zealand flies from Auckland to Buenos Aires.

Some current Transantarctic routes. Source: GCMaps

The only other commercial flights across Antarctica are Australian sightseeing tours. These are organised by Antarctica Flights, however, are operated on a chartered Boeing 747 from Qantas. The aircraft has a fairly interesting seating policy which means that everybody sees the sights. Additionally, it flies in a figure of eight to provide the best views.

New Norwegian service

Norwegian are intending to launch a new Transantarctic service. Unlike the other services mentioned, the Norwegian route will directly cross Antarctica as the crow flies. In reality, however, the aircraft will likely skirt around Antarctica to take advantage of winds, and remain within 330 ETOPS regulations.

The route from Buenos Aires to Perth as the crow flies. The grey area represents the world’s only ETOPS 330 no-fly area. Source: GCMaps

Norwegian is currently in the process of seeking approval for the new route. This is required from Argentina, Australia, and Singapore. The reason that Singapore is on the list is that the flight continues there following a stop at Perth. While it is not confirmed, Perth to Singapore would likely be a fifth freedom flight. Additionally, Norwegian would operate the flight using a Boeing 787.

How do carriers cross the pole?

Crossing the pole is not as simple as a normal flight, regardless of the pole in question. While it is becoming more common to traverse the North Pole, some special restrictions apply, as set out by the FAA.

Firstly, aircraft must carry two cold weather anti-exposure suits, while the crew will require special training for the weather patterns. The airline must also equip the aircraft with enhanced communications while ensuring fuel doesn’t freeze. Finally, the airline must ensure that it can recover a stranded aircraft.

Would you fly the transantarctic route? Let us know in the comments down below!