The Benefits of Flying to Antarctica 

Flying over the Drake Passage allows you to reach Antarctica quickly, so you can make the most of your precious vacation time.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

What Are the Benefits of Flying to Antarctica?

Antarctica flights were not very common in travel before the air-cruise model. However, Antarctica21 pioneered the Antarctica fly-cruise program in 2003. As of March 2023, we’ve operated 274 Antarctic flights over the Drake Passage, the body of water that separates South America and Antarctica. DAP Airlines is our official Antarctica flight partner with over 30 years of experience flying to Antarctica and Patagonia.

On this page, we will go over the following topics about flights to Antarctica:

Why Fly to Antarctica?

  • Flying over the Drake Passage to Antarctica allows you to reach the continent quickly and make the most of your vacation time.
  • Crossing the Drake Passage by ship is a 2-day journey, and a flight there are 2 hours.
  • By not crossing by ship, you also avoid the Drake’s turbulent waters, the possibility of getting seasick, and the chance of injury while sailing through rough seas.

Cruise or Flight to Antarctica?

Each option involves a certain degree of uncertainty. But for sure, one option is more convenient than the other. Here are a few things to consider when weighing both options.

Sailing to Antarctica Across the Drake Passage 

  • Possible heady storms
  • Delayed arrival / early departure
  • Sea-sickness
  • Discomfort and distress
  • Possible injury

Flying to Antarctica Over the Drake Passage

  • Possible flight delays
  • Delayed arrival / early departure
  • Meals in restaurants
  • Comfortable night’s sleep
  • Time to explore Antarctica and Patagonia

Our Antarctica Flight Benefits

  1. Our Antarctica Flights: Antarctica21 specializes in small group expeditions, meaning we accommodate all our guests on a single flight to Antarctica. This flight benefit is important because flying to Antarctica means always keeping an eye on the weather. Having only one flight to transport our guests means we have fewer flight delays.
  2. Priority on Antarctica Flights: Antarctica21 has flight priority at the Punta Arenas airport, and we fly to Antarctica during the best available conditions. If changeable weather conditions only offer one opportunity to fly on the day of our scheduled flight, that opportunity is reserved for Antarctica21. This benefit allows us to take advantage of the narrowest possible Antarctic flight window. In short, it leaves us with more flexibility and reduces the chance of flight delays. However, other expedition companies with larger ships operate two Antarctica flights for every departure to accommodate all their passengers. The coordination of flight and cruise components requires more time and turnover operation at King George Island with two flights.
  3. Quick Flights & More Time Exploring: The Antarctica21 air-cruises take you over the Drake Passage and to Antarctica on our quick two-hour flight. We skip a two-day ship crossing and quickly immerse you in the beauty of the Seventh Continent.
    Antarctica Express
    Designed for travelers looking for a quick and affordable visit to Antarctica.
    Classica Antarctica
    This air-cruise is our most popular itinerary. Travel between the South Shetland Islands and the western coast of the Antarctic Peninsula.
    Polar Circle
    One of the most adventurous journeys. Our main objective on this air-cruise expedition is to try and reach the Antarctic Polar Circle.
  4. Key Logistics in Punta Arenas: Antarctica21 is the only company formed and based in Punta Arenas, Chile. Since 2003, we have created a significant network of local suppliers and services that make our Antarctic operation as smooth as possible. With this network of providers, we can quickly respond and adapt our plans depending on the ever-changing conditions in Antarctica. To learn more, read about our contingency plan below.

Can Antarctica Flights Have Delays?

Yes, flight delays can happen like any other flight in the world. However, in Antarctica, Mother Nature rules and air-cruise operation is weather-dependent. Needless to say, we do everything in our power to ensure that your flight is on time.

Even though the odds of experiencing a delay are low, travelers must prepare for the possibility. Therefore, low clouds, fog, and heavy wind conditions at King George Island in Antarctica can cause delays. This rule applies to both flights to Antarctica and flights back to South America.

Our passengers and crew’s safety is our number one priority on our flights and our expedition cruises. Therefore we always monitor the weather and make adjustments to our plans if needed.

Antarctica21 Flight Statistics

Since we first started operation in 2003 and until our most recent season ended in March 2023, we have operated 274 flights to Antarctica. Here is the breakdown of those flights:

  • 213 flights have left on the scheduled day.
  • 16 operated the day before the scheduled day.
  • 32 operated with a one-day delay.
  • 10 operated with a two-day delay.
  • 2 operated with a three-day delay.
  • 1 operated with a four-day delay.

Since 2003, only three flights were delayed beyond two days. That’s the point beyond which would impact half of the Antarctic expedition. We have only experienced one flight delay where clients could not fly to Antarctica at all. On one occasion, clients sailed back to South America instead of flying. Unfortunately, this is the moment when we would interrupt the trip and extend a full refund.

Our aircraft to fly direct to Antarctica

Contingency Plan for Antarctica Flights

A Contingency Plan is in place for those cases when weather conditions require modifying the flight date from the itinerary between Punta Arenas and Antarctica.

The purpose of the Contingency Plan is to provide travelers with a flexible travel experience that adapts to the weather conditions and to provide a refund of the cruise fare in case weather conditions prevent clients from reaching Antarctica. Even though the likelihood of delay or interruption is slim, we are well prepared.

Contingency Plan for Antarctic Air-Cruise starting from Ushuaia

Expedition: Antarctic Express Air-Cruise

In case of a delay on the return flight to Punta Arenas from Antarctica, passengers on board the ship will continue cruising to nearby places until the return flight to Punta Arenas is authorized. Full board and all excursions are included. No refund will be extended for any reason whatsoever.

Contingency Plan for Antarctic Air-Cruises Starting from Punta Arenas

Expeditions: Classic Antarctica Air-Cruises, Polar Circle Air-Cruises, and Antarctica Express Air-Cruises

Outbound flight to Antarctica: Between Day 1 and until 2 p.m. on Day 4, every effort will be made to transport passengers to Antarctica, considering their safety and the safety of the aircraft. In case such measures are not successful, the daily program described below will be applied:

  • Day 2 · We provide guided tours to sites of historic and wildlife interest in Punta Arenas. We include all meals and accommodation at the same hotel included on Day 1 of the itinerary.
  • Day 3 · We provide guided tours to sites of historic and wildlife interest in Punta Arenas. Included are all meals and accommodation at the same hotel as Day 1 of the itinerary.
  • Day 4 · If by 2 p.m. Antarctica21 is unable to transport passengers to Antarctica, the trip will be interrupted. We will provide accommodation with breakfast in a 3-star hotel in Punta Arenas. No other services or meals are included. Antarctica21 or, if applicable, the traveler’s booking agent will refund each passenger 100% of the cruise fare paid for the expedition.
  • Day 5 · Group airport transfers are provided. No other services or meals are included.

Contingency Plan for the Return Flight from Antarctica

If the return flight to Punta Arenas moves forward, passengers will disembark the ship and fly to Punta Arenas up to one day earlier than indicated in the itinerary. On arrival, we will provide accommodation at the Cabo de Hornos Hotel or similar. All other inclusions will remain per the original itinerary.

Suppose there is a delay on the return flight to Punta Arenas from Antarctica. In that case, passengers on board the ship will continue cruising to nearby places until the return flight to Punta Arenas is authorized. Full board and all excursions are included. The trip will end at the Punta Arenas airport. No refund will be extended for any reason whatsoever.

If your flight from Antarctica back to Chile is delayed, your tour in Antarctica will extend, with onboard activities, excursions, and meals also included. Our primary goal with the contingency plan is to provide an engaging and comfortable travel experience while adapting to the weather – it is, after all, an adventure experience!


For more information about our flights to Antarctica, please review this page

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