Flying Over Antarctica on a Commercial Qantas Flight
QF63 from Sydney to Johannesburg is a daytime flight that, if you’re lucky enough, flies far enough south for a glimpse of the icebergs.
Antarctica is the most unique, yet difficult to reach, continent on earth. A place that very few people ever get to see.
It’s possible to travel there in the summer, but this generally involves booking an expensive cruise that departs from the bottom of South America.
As an alternative, companies such as Antarctica Flights and Chimu Adventures offer sightseeing flights to the South Pole as day trips from various Australian cities. But these flights are not exactly cheap either — especially if you want a window seat with a view that isn’t obstructed by the aircraft’s wing.
The other way to see Antarctica from the air is to book a regular commercial flight that takes a routing far enough to the south to get a glimpse of Antarctica.
There aren’t many commercial flights that do this — and some of them operate during the night anyway, meaning you won’t get a great view. But Qantas’ flights QF63 from Johannesburg to Sydney, as well as QF28 from Santiago to Sydney, do regularly fly close to the icebergs during the daytime.
I’ve been lucky enough to take both of those flights multiple times — and have always ensured I selected a window seat on the left side of the plane, just in case we got a great view of Antarctica!
Of course, the actual routings taken by these flights each day varies according to the weather, jet streams, and so on. Not every flight flies far enough to the south to get a good view. And even if you do fly over icebergs, there’s no guarantee that you’ll get a clear view as it could be cloudy.
But if you happen to get lucky, the views can be truly stunning!
Maginificent views on board flight QF63 to Johannesburg
One flight I took to Johannesburg in July 2015, on board a Qantas Boeing 747–400, was particularly special.
After taking off from Sydney in the morning we headed almost due south — eventually reaching a latitude of 65 degrees south.
Lunch was served over the east coast of Tasmania. Most passengers then settled in to watch a movie or have a nap. But at the first sight of icebergs, the cabin came alive in a way that is most unusual for a long-haul flight!
For 4–5 hours, passengers took turns swapping in and out of the window seats while we enjoyed a spectacular show of nature — for no more than the cost of a regular commercial flight ticket to South Africa.
Here are a few more photos that I took on this flight…