Thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, international travel might be on hold for most of the world, but Australians are about to get a lucky break. Qantas and travel company Antarctica Flights just announced their 2020-21 season of scenic flights from Australia to Antarctica, with the first flight taking place on November 15.
Currently, Australians are banned from international travel, save for essential workers and those traveling for family emergencies. But since the Antarctica flightseeing trip takes off and lands in Australia, it’s technically regarded as a domestic flight—passengers don’t even need to bring their passport, or any luggage, for that matter.
The journey takes 12 to 13 hours round-trip, departing from different cities across Australia to fly in a loop around the magnetic South Pole. The plane, a Boeing 787 Dreamliner, won’t actually land anywhere on the White Continent, but it’ll fly at a low altitude—10,000 feet—so as to maximize your view of sculptural icebergs and dramatic mountains.
During the flight, passengers are treated to typical Qantas service, including two meals with a full bar, plus snacks, but they’ll also be able to watch special programming on the in-flight entertainment systems about Antarctica, as well as listen to a series of live lectures from Antarctic experts on board.
Now, you’re probably wondering—what about all the passengers who don’t have a window seat? The 787 is a wide-body aircraft with two aisles, meaning that in economy, there are only two window seats across a row of nine. For these Antarctica flights, there are six categories of seats, ranging from $850 economy seats with no window access (passengers will be free to move about the cabin to peer out windows) to $5,700 lie-flat business-class seats. Save for those seated booked on the bottom-tier option, passengers will have to rotate seats halfway through the flight to maximize viewing opportunities.
And per for COVID-19 protocols, not every seat in economy will be filled to help with social distancing, and passengers will also be provided masks, hand sanitizer, and disinfectant wipes. Plus, before departure, passengers’ temperatures will be checked—anyone with a fever will be denied boarding, however, they’ll receive a full credit to be used on a future flight.
Though Antarctic Flights has been operating for 26 years, this round of flightseeing itineraries is the latest in a pandemic trend of flying for flying’s sake. For Father’s Day in Taiwan on August 8, Taiwanese airline EVA Air hosted a flight to nowhere aboard one of its Hello Kitty-branded planes, offering passengers Hello Kitty-themed entertainment and a meal by chef Motokazu Nakamura, whose restaurant Isshi Soden Nakamura in Kyoto, Japan, has three Michelin stars.
Another Taiwanese airline, Starlux, offered a flightseeing itinerary to the Pratas Islands in the South China Sea: the airline sold 188 tickets for the flight in just 30 seconds. Given that success, the airline is planning a second flightseeing tour to a different location this month, per Simple Flying.