A new day trip flight from Auckland to Antarctica offers an option for business incentive and rewards schemes.
One-day sightseeing flights to the world's coldest, most remote destination have been popular among corporates in Australia.
An Australian airline now offering that in New Zealand is hoping the demand will translate here.
Antarctica Sightseeing Flights, a private charter firm operated by Qantas, has been offering flights to the south polar region from Melbourne since 1994 using a Boeing 747-400 ER which can carry 364 passengers.
It plans its first New Zealand flight next February, flying from Auckland to the Antarctic continent for $1599 for economy class and $9299 for the up-market Ice Class.
All categories in the themed Qantas aircraft include full international catering and bar service.
The February 3 flight will be the first time a sightseeing flight to Antarctica will take off from New Zealand since the fatal Mt Erebus crash more than 30 years ago.
Air NZ Flight 903 crashed on November 28, 1979, killing all 237 passengers and 20 crew.
ASF chief executive Phil Asker says his company is “very sensitive” to the fact the Erebus disaster still loomed large for New Zealanders, despite the passage of time, but took into account evidence Kiwis want to make the flight.
“New Zealand interest has increased markedly in the last four or five years.
“We’re aware there’s great sensitivity but we thought the time was right to come into New Zealand because we are certainly seeing that demand."
Mr Asker says the day trip from Auckland will have appeal not just for tourists but for business incentive and event planners.
A range of companies, large and small, had booked seats on Antarctica flights which his Melbourne-based company has operated from Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth.
In one case, a large listed company booked an entire Boeing 747 charter flight.
“We see great potential for companies and for incentive or event planners in New Zealand to offer the same opportunity to their staff and customers on our flight from Auckland.
“Many companies provide incentives or rewards to their staff to encourage better performance or to acknowledge it,” says Mr Asker, who has seen the white continent from the air almost 50 times.
“This is a truly unique experience, and one which passengers talk about for many years to come. What better way to reward exceptional performers than with an exceptional experience?
"It’s a very easy day”, Mr Asker says of the 12-hour flight, which includes four hours flying above the Antarctic continent on one of the 19 flight paths pilots can choose from, depending on weather conditions.
It includes on-board commentary from Antarctic experts and expeditions.
The planes will fly no lower than 10,000 feet above sea level or 2000 feet higher than the highest ground for a radius of 180km. Passengers can expect to overfly the first sea ice about three and a half hours after departing Auckland.
A lifelong dream for many
“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.”
“Our flights showcase Antarctica from the comfort of a specially-themed Boeing 747 aircraft.
“The full majesty of the landscape is seen as we fly figure-eight patterns above ice and expert Antarctic expeditioners on board provide commentary about the terrain, as well as stories of their own experiences living and working there,” Mr Asker says.
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 on 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.
Antarctica Sightseeing Flights has carried more than 1000 New Zealanders on its sightseeing flights from Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth.
- additional reporting by BusinessDesk