Thursday 13 December 2012

A Christmas present like no other: a day trip to Antarctica.

Flights from Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth

Christmas is approaching quickly, and with it the annual stress of buying gifts which reflect imagination and a degree of thought. Stress no more.

Antarctica Sightseeing Flights has a suggestion which is bound to be different and to generate dinner party discussions for years to come – a day trip from Australia to the world's coldest, driest, windiest and most remote continent.

Not only does this gift enable travellers to view the magnificent diversity of Antarctica from the comfort of a Boeing 747-400, chartered from and operated by Qantas.

The ticket is also easy to wrap and to hide, eliminating two more problems common to the festive season.

And because the aircraft overfly Antarctica but do not land, no passport is required.

This is the 18th season of services by Antarctica Sightseeing Flights which, in conjunction with Qantas, has carried over 31,000 passengers on 110 day trips from Australia since 1994.

This summer, there will be six flights from Australia, compared with three last year.

Flights are filling fast, with one from Perth already fully booked.

Seats remain available on the five other services – Adelaide on 20 January, Perth on 27 January, Sydney on 10 February, Melbourne on 17 February, and a limited number aboard the signature New Year's Eve departure from Melbourne, which affords passengers the extraordinary experience of viewing Antarctica under the glow of the midnight sun.

A pristine white landscape will unfold beneath the aircraft, with a typical flight offering unparalleled views of icebergs, coastal cliffs, majestic glaciers and spectacular mountain ranges, most of which have never been visited by humans.

Phil Asker, Founder and Director of Antarctica Sightseeing Flights, said there was no easier way to explore the world's most remote location than by flying there on a one-day sightseeing trip.

"Antarctica is one of the most spectacular and diverse places on earth, admired by many but visited by few," said Mr Asker, who has seen the white continent from the air almost 50 times.

"Seeing Antarctica is a lifelong dream for many people, but the cost of a cruise and the length of time spent getting there means the closest that most will ever come to seeing the world's last great wilderness area is via the media," he said.

"From our flights, you can see the full majesty of the landscape as we fly figure-eight patterns above the ice, while expert Antarctic expeditioners on board provide commentary about the terrain as well as stories of their own experiences living and working there."

Antarctica Sightseeing Flights can descend to a minimum of 10,000 feet above sea level, or 2,000 feet above the highest terrain for a radius of 180 kilometres.

Strict conditions apply to ensure not only a safe operation, but also to minimise the impact of the sightseeing flight on the perfect environment below.

To maximise viewing opportunities, there are 19 approved flight paths, with selection based on weather forecasts the night before departure, then again on the morning of departure and during the flight when the pilots are in contact with meteorologists to obtain regular satellite picture updates showing clear areas.

Typically, the flight plan will include the Ross Sea with its great expanse of ice, the Italian research base at Terra Nova Bay, Mt Melbourne, Mt Minto, Cape Hallett, Cape Adare and the Ninnis and Mertz Glaciers.

Depending upon viewing conditions, other points of interest may include the Trans Antarctic Mountains to see many spectacular glaciers, international research installations including the French base at Dumont d'Urville and the hut of explorer Sir Douglas Mawson.

Prices range from AUD $1199 for Economy Class Centre to AUD $6999 for Ice Class.  All categories include full international catering and bar service.

These flights are private charters operated by Qantas on behalf of Antarctica Sightseeing Flights. They are not scheduled Qantas services and cannot be booked through Qantas.

For more information on seat classes and availability, or to make a booking, please visit or FreeCall 1800 633 449.

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