Ice landing: Icelandair Boeing 767 completes 20,000-mile journey to Antarctica

Feb 28, 2021

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

It’s not every day that a commercial plane flies to the bottom of the Earth. But COVID-19 has required many airlines to make special trips to repatriate citizens — most recently, Icelandair.

The Nordic airline flew over 20,000 miles on a special flight to Antarctica to taxi Norwegian researchers from South Africa to the Troll Research Station (AT27) near the South Pole and then fly another group of researchers back to Oslo (OSL).

New to TPG? Make sure to sign up for our daily newsletter! 

While this isn’t the first commercial plane that’s landed in Antarctica (that honor goes to a Boeing 757 back in 2015), it’s still a novel occurrence because of the extremely icy and windy conditions and the very short flight season.

Why this flight was special

For one, the Icelandair flight to and from Antarctica is over 20,000 miles round-trip — a lengthy journey for a 20-year-old Boeing 767-300. The flight legs between Iceland to South Africa covered over 7,000 miles each way alone.

But beyond the challenge of the distance was the unique flight conditions of flying to Antarctica. Not only are pilots dealing with potentially high-speed winds and snow, but they also have to land on ice!

It takes highly-experienced pilots and a lot of planning for a flight to Antarctica, which is one of the many reasons why most travel to the continent is made by boat.

Related: Why there are almost no transoceanic flights in the Southern Hemisphere

Icelandair Boeing 767-300
(Photo by Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto/Getty Images)

How they made it happen

The flight was made possible by a lot of planning, a light passenger payload and a larger-than-normal flight crew.

With a full flight, the Boeing 767 likely wouldn’t have been able to make the trip. But since the plane was carrying far from a full flight of passengers, it was able to make it without issue.

According to Icelandair, the flight required a 20-person crew: six pilots, 13 other crew members and one flight engineer. With a larger crew, pilots were able to rest along the way and better navigate the risky ice-covered landing strip.

Of course, there is also a lot of on-the-ground planning into flight conditions, weather forecasting and risk assessment for every flight landing in Antarctica as well to ensure the risk isn’t too great for flight crew and passengers.

Bottom line

The COVID-19 pandemic has seen more and more unique flights happen to repatriate citizens, but a commercial jet flying to Antarctica is a special case even among the many special flights that have taken place over the past year.

Expensive charter flights can be booked by tourists as part of destination packages to Antarctica, but there are no regularly-scheduled commercial flights that make the trip to Antarctica during its short flying season from Dec. to Feb. Cruises and other sailing expeditions are more common, but getting to Antarctica is still a rarity for most travelers.

Icelandair did announce plans to share more about the airline’s adventure to the South Pole in the coming weeks, citing that “snow, ice and wind are our elements.”

Featured image by Galen Rowell/Getty Images. 

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

WELCOME OFFER: 80,000 Points

TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $1,650

CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 2X points on all travel and dining, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners

*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. Plus earn up to $50 in statement credits towards grocery store purchases within your first year of account opening.
  • Earn 2X points on dining including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out and travel. Plus, earn 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,000 toward travel.
  • With Pay Yourself Back℠, your points are worth 25% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories.
  • Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on eligible orders over $12 for a minimum of one year with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
  • Get up to $60 back on an eligible Peloton Digital or All-Access Membership through 12/31/2021, and get full access to their workout library through the Peloton app, including cardio, running, strength, yoga, and more. Take classes using a phone, tablet, or TV. No fitness equipment is required.
Regular APR
15.99%-22.99% Variable
Annual Fee
$95
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.