Flights to Antarctica: Fly Over the Antarctic
Interested in flying to Antarctica? Now, more than ever, you can tailor your trip to Antarctica.
Whether you’re looking for information about flights to Antarctica, Antarctic helicopter charters, or Antarctica air-cruise (“fly the Drake”) combinations, we’ve got you.
LANDED compiled this Free Guide to Antarctica Flights to help you navigate your options.
Antarctica in a Day: Antarctic Flights
You can take a flight to Antartica and visit the region in as little as one day.
Instead of crossing the Drake Passage from South America to Antarctica by ship—a journey of approximately 50 hours—you can opt to make the journey by plane, bypassing 500 miles of potentially rough sea.
Flights to Antarctica from Punta Arenas, Chile get passengers to King George Island in the South Shetland Islands (and vice versa) in approximately 2 hours.
If you’re short on time but longing to visit the Antarctic, contact LANDED about flights to Antarctica and our One-Day Antarctic Program.
Between October and March, you can take a flight from southern Chile to King George Island, visit cultural and natural sites in the Antarctic region, and return to Chile on the same day.
Overnight Stay on King George Island
LANDED can also arrange an overnight stay at a camp on King George Island, located in the South Shetland Islands off the coast of the Antarctic Peninsula.
These temporary Ice Camps offer accommodation on a private basis, or for groups of up to 16 guests. The shelters at these camps are basic but comfortable. Meals and transport (via Hagglunds or snowmobiles) can also be arranged.
During your stay, LANDED can arrange wildlife viewing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, and Zodiac cruising.
Antarctica Express Sample Itinerary
The itinerary for the express Antarctica programs follows this plan:
- Early morning flight to Antarctica from Punta Arenas, Chile—Fly over the Straits of Magellan, Tierra del Fuego and the Darwin Mountains, Cape Horn, and the Drake Passage. Times vary with weather conditions. Flight time is approximately two hours.
- Land at Frei Station, King George Island in the South Shetland Islands—Visit to Villa Las Estrellas, the island’s colorful Chilean town first populated by civilians.
- Zodiac navigation to Ardley Island to visit the Gentoo Penguin colony (approximately 4,500 breeding pairs)—The island is also home to smaller populations of Adelie Penguins and Chinstrap Penguins, as well as petrels, skuas, and terns.
- Continue by Zodiac to the Collins Glacier—Take in Antarctic views from the sea.
- Lunch or Snack—Depending on time of flight arrival.
- Visit the Russian Orthodox Church— Located at Bellingshausen Station in Collins Harbor (Russia).
- Flight from Frei Station to Punta Arenas, Chile—Times vary with weather conditions. Flight time is approximately two hours.
Total time on King George Island with the Antarctica express itinerary is usually around five hours.
Another alternative is an overnight stay at the Ice Camp on the island, with opportunities for snowmobiling, snowshoeing, and kayaking.
All Antarctic activities and the flights are subject to weather conditions.
Because the programs are weather dependent, passengers need to be mentally prepared for early or late departures.
When booking a flight to Antarctica, travel insurance is a must.
Antarctic Air Cruises
Instead of crossing the Drake Passage from South America to Antarctica by ship—a journey of approximately 50 hours—you can opt for a direct flight to Antarctica.
BAe 146 Jet Aircraft: Flights to The South Shetland Islands
The BAe (British Aerospace) 146 is a four-engine jet aircraft, flown by two pilots.
These regional jets are designed for short landings and takeoffs on unprepared surfaces. The engines are unusually quiet.
Flight time from Punta Arenas, Chile to King George Island in the South Shetland Islands of Antarctica (and vice versa) is approximately 2.5 hours.
The BAe 146 regional jet has a maximum capacity of 72 passengers, with a wingspan of 26.21 meters, length of 28.6 meters and height of 8.61 meters.
Maximum cargo capacity onboard the BAe 146 is 7200 kilograms. Luggage weight limits are usually set at 20 kilograms (44 pounds) per passenger (this limit is strictly controlled).
On board meal service is provided. Premium seats—window seats coveted by photographers—can be booked at request.
King Air 300 Aircraft: Antarctica Air Cruise: Flights to the South Shetland Islands
The Beechcraft King Air 300 is a twin-engine, turbo-prop aircraft, with a 16.6 meter wingspan and length of 13.15 meters. These regional aircraft are suitable for short landings and takeoffs on unprepared surfaces.
The King Air 300 has a maximum capacity of six passengers, in addition to its two pilots. The cabin is pressurized.
On board meal service is provided. Premium seats—window seats coveted by photographers—can also be booked.
Antarctica Air-Cruise Combinations
Fly to Antarctica over the Drake Passage, bypassing up to 50 hours of potentially rough sailing.
These Antarctica flights take approximately two hours. Once in the Antarctic, board a cruise ship for sailing in the calmer, protected waters between the South Shetland Islands and the Antarctic Peninsula.
Antarctic Flights Over the Drake Passage
Two companies now offer Antarctic flight plus cruise options, allowing travelers to fly over the Drake Passage, substituting a 2-hour flight to Antarctica for the approximately 50-hour journey by ship.
Some programs offer flights in both directions.
Other itineraries comprise a flight to Antarctica one direction and a ship crossing of the Drake Passage in the opposite direction—usually on the return.
Flights to Antarctica operate between the commercial airport in Punta Arenas (in Chile’s far south) and Base Presidente Eduardo Frei Montalva (a Chilean base on King George Island in the South Shetland Islands).
The “Frei Station” base serves some meteorological functions, but the 1300-meter gravel airstrip (Teniente Rodofo Marsh Martin Airport; IATA: TNM) is its most noteworthy feature.
The airstrip handles approximately 50 intercontinental Antarctica flights and 150 intracontinental flights per season.
Nearby research bases are operated by Argentina, Brazil, Peru, Russia, Korea, China, Poland, and Uruguay.
Some Antarctica programs include visits to one of these neighboring bases.
LANDED Antarctica flights are aboard a powerful BAe (British Aerospace) 146: a four-engine jet aircraft with two pilots.
These muscular regional jets are designed for short landings and takeoffs on unprepared surfaces. Their engines are unusually quiet. Premium (window) seats can be purchased, and meal service is provided.
The BAe 146 regional jet has a maximum capacity of 72 passengers, with a maximum cargo capacity of 7,200 kilograms.
Wingspan is 26.21 meters. It has a length of 28.6 and height of 8.61.
The luggage weight limit—the combined allowance of checked and hand luggage—is set at 20 kilograms (44 pounds) per passenger.
This limit is strictly controlled; additional weight would change the operation on the Frei Station airstrip.
It is not possible to obtain a higher allowance by paying a fee. Instead, excess luggage can be stored in Punta Arenas. Laundry service is available onboard the ships, and the dress code on board is “stay warm”.
When you fly, you’ll already be wearing your cold-weather gear; that gear will not be counted as part of your checked or carry-on luggage.
Antarctica Air-Cruise Sample Itinerary
Antarctic Air-cruise programs vary in length and itinerary. Some are as long as 21 days and include the Falkland Islands and South Georgia Island.
An 8-day air-cruise program might have a plan such as this:
Flight to Punta Arenas, Chile from Santiago (or after independent touring in Patagonia)
Flight to Antarctica. Arrive at Frei Station and travel overland to the coast (some programs are on foot, others by specialized snow-vehicle). Embark by Zodiac transfers to the ship. Begin navigation.
Days 3, 4, 5, & 6
Explore the South Shetland Islands and the west coast of the Antarctic Peninsula by ship, with Zodiac and shore excursions.
Return to the Frei Station airstrip for your return flight to Punta Arenas, Chile. Stay overnight at a hotel in Punta Arenas.
Flight from Punta Arenas to Santiago (or begin independent touring in Patagonia or other locations in Chile).
Because flights to Antarctica are weather dependent, passengers need to be mentally prepared for early or late departures.
Since air-cruise operations began in 2003, approximately 82% have left on time.
Another 14% of Antarctica flights operated either one day early or one day late. Roughly 3% flew with a delay of two days. Less than 1% operated three days late.
Approximately 1% of Antarctic air cruises were cancelled (i.e. could not operate by 2PM on Day 4).
Helicopter Charter Flights and Tours
LANDED arranges private helicopter flights to and tours of Tierra del Fuego, Patagonia, and the South Shetland Islands of the Antarctic.
Fleet options include:
Eurocopter AS 355
The Eurocopter AS 355 F2 helicopters have capacity for 5 passengers, not including the pilot. Maximum cargo capacity, with passengers, is 200 kilograms.
The BO-105 helicopters have capacity for 4 passengers, not including the pilot. Maximum cargo capacity, with passengers, is 200 kilograms.
Patagonia and Antarctica Helicopter Charters
Helicopter transfers are available for these routes (either direction):
- El Calafate, Argentina <> Puerto Natales, Chile
- El Calafate, Argentina <>El Chalten, Argentina
- Punta Arenas, Chile <> Torres del Paine, Chile (approximately 85 minutes)
- Punta Arenas, Chile <> Puerto Natales, Chile (approximately one hour)
- Puerto Natales, Chile <> Torres del Paine, Chile (approximately 30 minutes)
- Puerto Williams, Chile <> Ushuaia, Argentina
- Puerto Williams, Chile <> Cape Horn, Chile
Scenic Overflight and Helicopter Flights
Scenic helicopter overflights and tours are available in these locations throughout Patagonia and Antarctica:
- Darwin Mountain Range glacier overflight
- Cape Horn overflight
- Fly fishing helicopter day trips
- From El Calafate, Argentina
- Overflight of El Chalten, with views of Mount Fitz Roy
- Overflight of the Perito Moreno Glacier
- Overflight of Lago Argentino and Mount Buenos Aires
- On the island of Tierra del Fuego
- Fly fishing on Strobel Lake
- From Punta Arenas, Chile
- Day trip to the king penguin colony at Bahia Inutil
- Overflight of Marinelli Glacier
- Fly fishing day trips
- Day trips to Cape Horn National Park
At LANDED, we know booking a flight to Antarctica can be a time-consuming and difficult processs. Should you need assistance beyond the information in this guide, feel free to reach out to one of our expert Antarctica travel planners at your convinience.
When you travel with LANDED, our team of travel experts and network of local contacts are at your service. We’ll handle the details, freeing you to savor the moments. Call us today at 801.582.2100. Dream big. We’ve got you.
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