First Commercial Passenger Flight Touches Down In Antarctica

Until now, tourists with a yearning to explore Antarctica have been much like the penguins that live there… flightless. Though cargo craft often fly to the southernmost pole with scientists and equipment for research purposes, most other visitors have had to rely on ships to carry them to the icy continent. That could all change in the future, with the landing of the first commercial passenger flight in Antarctica late last month.

A commercial Boeing 757 flown by Icelandic Airlines (or Loftleidr Icelandic) landed at Union Glacier, Antarctica, last Thursday, though media outlets are just now catching up to the news. It was the first commercial flight ever to the continent, according to the tourism company that organized it, Antarctic Logistics & Expeditions.

ALE said in a press release that the flight was “undertaken to prove the feasibility of landing commercial passenger airliners at Union Glacier.” It usually transports between 400 and 500 passengers to the continent each season, to provide support for scientific research projects, as well as offering guided, small group experiences.

The group says it’s now looking into using conventional passenger airliners in addition to the combination cargo/passenger aircraft it’s used in the past.

“The Boeing 757-200 ER, fitted with 62 business class seats, will enhance passenger comfort yet maintain the safety of ALE’s activities and aircraft resources,” ALE said.

If Antarctica does become more open to tourism, let’s just agree ahead of time not to bother the penguins, shall we? They have a lot of marching to do.