Can you fly to Antarctica?

Choosing to fly to Antarctica offers the traditional benefits of aviation – namely speed and comfort. However, it's a very different proposition to booking a flight for a regular holiday, and here’s why:

  • There are no scheduled flights to Antarctica
  • The only flights available for tourists are charter flights, which are only available as part of a package, rather than on a ‘seat only’ basis like booking a regular scheduled flight
  • In spite of the short Antarctic flying season (Dec - Feb) and no regular flight schedule, there’s a surprisingly good range of options available, from 1 to 10 days in length
  • Unlike boat-based cruises which can only explore Antarctica's coastline, flights unlock Antarctica's vast interior, including the South Pole
  • Antarctica’s harsh and changeable weather makes flying challenging and susceptible to potential delays. The expediency of flying, therefore, needs to be balanced with this higher risk; learn more about how to get to Antarctica.

Prefer to sail? If you are planning on flying to Argentina and taking a ship to Antarctica, find out more about Antarctic Cruises.

You can fly from Southern Chile to Antarctica in 2 hours from December to February. Charter flights to the Antarctic Peninsula and South Pole are increasingly popular. If you're looking to avoid the Drake Passage, a flight from Punta Arenas, Chile, is likely to be the best way to reach the white continent. 

Flying to Antarctica: what do I need to know?

  • Flight routes; more than 98% of visitors fly from Punta Arenas to King George Island, less than 1% fly from Punta Arenas to the South Pole
  • Average flight times; Punta Arenas to King George Island takes 2 hours (direct), Punta Arenas to the South Pole takes 10 hours (plus stopover)
  • Planes; BAE-146 is the most common model with 4 turbofan engines, capacity to seat 80 people (3+3 seating) and reinforced undercarriage for remote airstrips
  • Time of year/flight season; December to February
  • Passengers; 10% of Antarctic visitors in the 2016-17 season flew, 90% of visitors sailed to Antarctica by ship
  • Types of experience; 
    - Fly & Cruise | 8 days (4 days in Antarctica)
    - Day trip by plane | 1 day (a few hours in Antarctica)
    - Flight to South Pole | 7 days (5 days in Antarctica, including a few days at the South Pole)

Five ways to fly to Antarctica

With flying becoming an ever more popular route to Antarctica, there's an increasing number of flight options to consider, depending on time available, area of interest and budget:

1. Fly the Drake & Cruise Antarctica

The most popular way to fly to Antarctica, these trips combine the comfort and expediency of flying with all the benefits of then exploring Antarctica by small expedition ship.

  • Flies to Antarctica in just 2 hours, avoiding Drake Passage
  • Well suited to anxious sailors or travellers short on time
  • Operates December - February only
  • Tried & tested operation over 13 years
  • Typically 8 days from $10,000 per person

2. Fly to Antarctica & Cruise back

An adaptation of the ‘Fly & Cruise’ concept, these trips fly in only one direction, the other leg is by ship.

  • You still experience the excitement of the open sea
  • Only one crossing of the Drake Passage
  • The expediency of flying back at the end
  • Choice of itineraries of 6 - 18 days from $5,000 per person

3. Fly to Argentina and Sail to Antarctica, both ways

The traditional route to Antarctica sailing south from the toe of South America remains the most popular choice for 90% of Antarctic travellers today.

If following in the footsteps of Shackleton & Scott is your chosen route, our Antarctic Cruises page has extensive information on all of the different voyages available, ranging from 10 - 30 days in length.

4. Fly to the South Pole

Fly into Antarctica’s vast, uninhabited wilderness which receives less than 500 visitors per year, compared to +1.2 million to Machu Picchu, Peru.

  • Choice of adventures: South Pole flights to camping with Emperor penguins
  • Access by charter flights from Chilean Patagonia or Cape Town only
  • Limited departure dates as part of a packaged small group
  • Restricted travel window of December & January
  • Prices from 
  • Prices from USD$54,500 - USD$100,000 per person

5. Fly to Antarctica for a Day

If you've got $6,000 per person to spend, are short on time and willing to accept that you won't step on the Antarctic continent itself - only an outer island - then there are day trips available to Antarctica.

However, Swoop feels that the high cost outweighs the diluted Antarctic experience and only a few hours you'll get to spend 'in Antarctica'. With more time and for not much extra cost you could do it properly and spend 4-5 whole days in Antarctica on an Antarctic Cruise.

Swoop Says background image

Alex says

Having both flown and sailed to Antarctica, I'm a big fan of flying. With the time saved, combining Antarctica with a few days in Torres del Paine National Park works brilliantly.

Alex Mudd Head of Swoop Antarctica

What is it like to fly to Antarctica?

Customer review background image

What our customers think of Flights to Antarctica

Flights to Antarctica trips scored 4.5/5 from 475 reviews

10/10 - Appreciate skipping the Drake Passage for a better experience. Most memorable moment? Cruising on the zodiacs through icebergs and glaciers, seeing wildlife right in front of us. Read the full review

Travelled: February 2024

Shari Rosenberg - USA

Any tips to share? Plan early. Fly the Drake Passage. Use a smaller cruise ship (less than 100 passengers). Read the full review

Travelled: February 2024

Ali Begeja - USA

Most memorable moment? Seeing a bright, sunny clear day on the Antarctic Peninsula full of penguins, seals, and humpback whales with the high plateau in the distance and sculpted icebergs floating by along with my family. Read the full review

Travelled: January 2024

Rebecca Archer-Knepper - USA

10/10 - It was quick compared to doing the Drake Passage. Accommodations and food on board were excellent, and all the wildlife that we saw. Read the full review

Travelled: January 2024

Jennifer Roanhorse - Uruguay

10/10 - It was amazing! I didn't want to cruise through the Drake so this was perfect for me! The staff on the boat was wonderful; they were so helpful and knowledgeable. They really made sure we had a great time and every time we had to change plans it felt like we got to see something even better. Read the full review

Travelled: January 2024

Sabrina McCarthy - USA

I would 100% recommend the fly-cruise option. Getting to Antarctica by plane was fantastic. Guests may want to consider slightly longer cruises such that any delay is a lower percent of the overall trip. Read the full review

Travelled: January 2024

Nigel Seymour - UK

10/10 - Overall great experience. The staff was knowledgeable, helpful, and we got to know them and the other passengers. The twice-daily excursions were great and I couldn't imagine doing it any other way. Read the full review

Travelled: January 2024

Patrick Moore - USA

Be prepared to be flexible with the flights and expect an active trip. Read the full review

Travelled: January 2024

Patrick Moore - USA

Know that weather changes quickly and can impact programs and schedules. Be flexible. Read the full review

Travelled: January 2024

Ordean Oskvig - USA

10/10 - optimal use of time by flying to Antarctica, good organisation. Read the full review

Travelled: January 2024

William Robert Keller - Switzerland

10/10 - Everything was executed well. So happy to skip the 2 day crossing to and back. Read the full review

Travelled: December 2023

Tim Crosson - USA

10/10 - Amazing! Flight arrangements were smooth. Landing operation and transfer to vessel was flawless. Return flight went well. All ground transportation was smooth. Read the full review

Travelled: December 2023

Tamra Anne Westbrooks - USA

10/10 - I was so glad to find a fly vs water option across the Drake Passage. It was a deal breaker in both the time element, and for me, motion sickness. Read the full review

Travelled: February 2023

Carolyn Ferraro - USA

10/10 - It was excellent in all ways, and I loved the sail/fly combination. Read the full review

Travelled: February 2023

Pamela Morris - USA

10/10 - So easy to fly over, the flight was very smooth and painless. Even though the whole trip is very weather dependent, and plans can change in an instant, the team is very communicative and upfront about it, and to me, it just added to the sense of adventure. The expedition guides were all fantastic. Read the full review

Travelled: February 2023

Aaron Stewart - USA

10/10 - The cruise fly expedition is just perfect in length of time. And not spending an additional 2 days crossing the Drake to return is ideal. Read the full review

Travelled: February 2023

Violetta Gianaras - USA

10/10 - We appreciated the option and experience of sailing the Drake passage in one direction, but having more time in Antarctica by flying down to King George Island to board the ship there. Read the full review

Travelled: February 2023

John Mark Bowles - USA

10/10 - The Drake Passage has notoriously rough seas and we were very happy to avoid that by flying. Once there in Antarctica there is no down time in that we were repositioning during meals and overnight. It was perfect. The Captain did a great job of bring us to the leeward side of the different islands so that the conditions were optimal for launching the Zodiacs and kayaks. Read the full review

Travelled: January 2023

Stanley Rumbough - USA

10/10 - I get seasick just LOOKING at a boat, so I knew that crossing the Drake was not for me. Flying made everything possible. The stabilizers on the ship were also amazing! The smoothest ship I’ve ever felt. Read the full review

Travelled: January 2023

Leah Rumbough - USA

It ticked every box for us, the sail/fly option worked perfectly, the vessel was excellent and the service levels from all staff were perfect. There was plenty to do, indeed the activities were relentless, hardly had time to use the library or the observation deck before we were off on another expedition, briefing, lecture or dinner with new friends. Read the full review

Travelled: January 2023

Rick Greer - UK

10/10 - It was so unique! I got to sail, and fly! And it gave me time to hike Patagonia as it was a relatively quick trip! Read the full review

Travelled: November 2022

Isaac Nelson - USA

From the moment we arrived in Antarctica on the jet, I realized that I had landed in a world that I could have never have envisioned being in. It was certainly life changing. Read the full review

Travelled: December 2021

Ray Applebaum - USA

Definitely, fly across the Drake. Definitely sign up for the kayak program. Definitely choose a ship with less than 100 passengers. Read the full review

Travelled: February 2019

Kelly, Shannon and Robin Politte - United States of America

The trip was fantastic. I highly recommend that anyone travel to Antarctica. I am so glad that we chose to fly the Drake Passage, instead of sailing it, which gave us more time in Antarctica. I also think crossing the polar circle was a huge highlight. I would insist that anyone booking a trip participate in the kayak program. Read the full review

Travelled: February 2019

Kelly, Shannon and Robin Politte - United States of America

To fly the Drake Passage gave us a particular advantage - more time where we wanted to be. Read the full review

Travelled: January 2019

Alison Murdoch - United Kingdom

Good landings and exercise (!) and good vantage points on land for wildlife and landscape. Every logistic worked efficiently from the airport meeting to departure. Fly the passage! Read the full review

Travelled: January 2019

Alison Murdoch - United Kingdom

Customer Image

For ease and efficiency few things beat flying to Antarctica. If I'd have known it was that easy I would have gone years ago!

Travelled: December 2016

Agi - Hungary

Customer Image

Fly & cruise worked very well and was a great option. All excursions were well organised and conducted safely. We enjoyed them all, especially the snowshoeing treks.

Travelled: December 2016

John - UK


Swoop Says background image

Swoop says

For anyone planning to fly to Antarctica, the town of Punta Arenas in southern Chile is the principal gateway to The White Continent.

About Flying to Antarctica

How much does it cost to fly to Antarctica?

Operating charter flights to Antarctica is challenging due to Antarctica’s harsh environment and the specialist aircraft and experienced pilots required - all of which adds to the cost. While flying to Antarctica saves travel time and avoids the Drake Passage, the bottomline is that it costs more to fly than to sail, and so convenience comes at a price:

To fly to the Antarctic Peninsula in both directions on a Fly & Cruise trip it will typically cost 20% more than to sail in both directions. However, the growing demand for these trips clearly demonstrates that this investment is still perceived as good value and worth paying.

Fly to Antarctica & Cruise back trips which combine flying one way and sailing the other make savings with only one charter flight and can be attractively priced, starting from around $5,000 per person, depending on trip duration.

The deeper you fly into Antarctica the more expensive it becomes as the logistics, challenges and aircraft required become more specialised. A week at Union Glacier camp in the Ellsworth Mountains starts from $25,000 per person, a similar cost to a top cabin on a Fly & Cruise trip, however it’s a very different experience and fewer than 1% of visitors to Antarctica each year reach this point.

Which are the principal Antarctic airports?

For anyone planning to fly to/ from Antarctica, the town of Punta Arenas in southern Chile is the main departure point for all:

  • Charter flights to King George Island, South Shetland Islands (flying time = 2 hours). This is the only commercial airfield servicing the Antarctic Peninsula for visitors.
  • Scheduled flights to the Falkland Islands (flying time = 1 hour 40 mins), from where select Antarctic and South Georgia only cruises depart/return. This once weekly flight is only relevant to certain ‘Cruise south, fly north’ Antarctic departures.
  • Charter flights into Antarctica’s interior, landing at Union Glacier basecamp (flying time = 4 hours), and for the lucky few on to the South Pole itself. These are ‘blue ice runways’ and a combination of skis and wheels are used, depending on conditions.

The only other flying route to Antarctica for visitors is from Cape Town in South Africa, which flies into Queen Maud Land to a luxury camp which accommodates only 12 people at a time.

There are other airfields and bases scattered across Antarctica which service field research or governmental traffic only.

If you are wondering which airlines operate in Antarctica, there is only one. If you would like further information please get in touch.

Antarctic Planes

The types of planes used for flights into the Antarctic Peninsula are most commonly a BAE 146. For flights into and within the interior, the smaller more specialised Ilyushin, Twin Otter and Basler are utilised.

BAE 146

These planes are more ‘workhorse’ than luxury, but are perfectly comfortable for the short 2 hour flight between Punta Arenas and King George Island.

  • Build: British-designed
  • Capacity: 80 people
  • Seating configuration: 3+3
  • Renowned for its relatively quiet operation
  • Its four turbofan engine configuration provides important redundancy
  • Superior takeoff performance from short runways
  • Toughened undercarriage and positioning of the landing gear for maximum stability makes it ideal for the non-tarmac airstrip on King George Island
Flights to Antarctica

Ilyushin IL-76 TD

Originally designed in 1967 for delivering heavy machinery into Russia’s hinterland, this iconic plane only operates between Punta Arenas and Union Glacier camp in Antarctica’s Ellsworth Mountains.

  • Build: Soviet-designed
  • Capacity: 60 people
  • Seating configuration: 3+3
  • Impressive lifting capabilities - able to carry a payload of up to 40 tonnes
  • Good speed & range courtesy of four turbofan engines
  • Ability to cope with both adverse Antarctic weather and short, unprepared airstrips
Flights to Antarctica

De Haviland DHC-6 Twin Otter

Deployed throughout the interior of Antarctica, these twin engined Twin Otters are the continent’s workhorse providing both vital passenger and cargo transportation.

  • Build: Canadian-designed
  • Capacity: 5-6 people
  • Ski equipped
  • Their rugged landing gear and STOL (short takeoff and landing) capabilities allow them to go where most aircraft can’t
Flights to Antarctica

Basler BT-67

The modified version of the original Douglas DC-3, the Basler is only used within Antarctica’s interior for getting larger groups than the Twin Otter can handle into remote areas.

  • Build: US-designed
  • Capacity: 12-15 people
  • Seating configuration: 2+2
  • STOL (short takeoff and landing) capabilities
  • Versatile & tough
  • Simple & spacious
Flights to Antarctica

Beechcraft King Air 300

The King Air is the world’s most popular business turboprop aircraft. In Antarctica it's exclusively used for the 1 & 2 day trips to The White Continent only. Comfortably accommodating up to 6 passengers, it's also ideal for chartering.

  • Capacity: 6 passengers
  • Seating configuration: 1+1
  • Twin turboprops driving four blade propellers
  • Max cruising speed 583km/h
  • Range of up to 3,630km (1,960nm)
Flights to Antarctica
Customer review background image

Customer Tips

Highly recommend the fly in and boat out via the Falklands setup of our trip.

Alan, UK Customer

Be smart and give yourself a day extra in Punta Arenas before and after your trip like we did...less stress.

Lora & Mitchell, Texas Customer

Facts about flight delays

Even though the chances of experiencing a delay are relatively low, it's crucial that all visitors flying to Antarctica are prepared for the possibility and have contingency factored into their travel plans, just in case.

Flights to Antarctica

Flights to King George Island, South Shetlands

Although delays are possible, one of our principal Fly & Cruise operators has an impressive 80.9% success rate of flights arriving on the correct day across 141 flights over the last 14 years. A further 14.9% arrived the day before or day after, while only one trip has ever had to be totally cancelled. In reality, the majority of delays experienced are only a few hours.

Why are flights sometimes delayed?

Low clouds, fog and heavy winds are the main culprits, with King George Island being particularly prone to fog and low cloud. To be able to confidently depart from and return to Punta Arenas, pilots who are landing in Antarctica by sight need a minimum 5 hour clear weather window. With such rapidly changing conditions, this is the real challenge, to successfully identify that ‘weather window’ and get there and back before it closes.

What happens if I am delayed?

If your flight from Punta Arenas is delayed, the local representatives will keep you regularly updated. Typically it's only a wait of a few hours, but in the unlikely event that its longer there are detailed contingency plans in place. Unfortunately you won’t be able to ‘make up’ any time lost once you get to Antarctica and will still leave on the day you were scheduled to.

Those delayed leaving Antarctica benefit from staying on at no extra cost. If you are on a Fly & Cruise trip, you continue to use the ship as your floating hotel and landings will be arranged while you wait for the weather to clear. 

Will I receive a refund for delays or cancellation?

If you are very unfortunate to have your trip cancelled altogether due to weather, operators have a clear refund policy in place or will offer you the choice to re-book on an alternative date. 

For shorter delays, compensation isn’t typically offered as weather is beyond anyone’s control and must be accepted as one of the risks of opting to fly. If you are uncomfortable with this, perhaps sailing to Antarctica, which is less prone to delays through adverse weather, may be a better option.

Our Favourite Fly & Cruise Trips

Special Offers:Swoop has access to the widest range of offers and can help you find the right trip, cabin, & price.

Original Fly & Cruise Luxury Adventure

Fly over the Drake Passage in just 2 hours, both to and from Antarctica. ​Ideal for those ​wanting a high comfort level, but ​who have limited time or ​are ​anxious sailors. ​An outstanding program, successfully operated for over 15 seasons.​…

  • 8 Days
  • $15,995
Fly & Cruise the Antarctic Peninsula

For maximum time in Antarctica with flights both ways, this trip really stands out. An extended fly & cruise voyage spending eight full days actually in Antarctica onboard a small, state-of-the-art expedition ship. Optional kayaking & polar…

  • 12 Days
  • $14,795
Original Fly & Cruise Expedition Cruise

Travel with the pioneers of fly & cruise Antarctic voyages, flying in both directions and bypassing a 2-day sail on the Drake Passage. Regular departure dates (Dec - Feb) to choose from. Explore Antarctica aboard a trusty 67 passenger expedition…

  • 8 Days
  • $11,495
Antarctic Fly & Sail Combination

A rare and popular voyage which flies to Antarctica in just two hours, then sails back across the Drake Passage, maximising both expediency and experience. Spend 5 to 7 days exploring Antarctica on a small, purpose-built expedition ship, with kayaking…

  • 9-13 Days
  • $17,895

Flights to Antarctica: FAQs

  • When do I need to book?

    Due to the combination of the short flying season, limited flights and their huge popularity, these trips are in increasingly high demand and planning ahead is crucial. You should be booking your place 10-18 months in advance of your departure date, but the general rule of thumb is the earlier the better, particularly for the prime dates around Christmas and New Year.

  • Why avoid the Drake Passage?

    This narrow neck of water between the tip of Patagonia (Cape Horn) and the Antarctic Peninsula is the point at which the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans collide and is infamous as one of the roughest stretches of sea in the world. The ensuing currents can cause huge upwellings, or 'Waves of Terror', which at times can reach heights of 50 feet/15 metres. Typically only 30% of Drake crossings experience rough weather, however, those prone to seasickness may do well by choosing to fly and not take the risk.

  • When's the best time to fly to Antarctica?

    As with so much in life, the answer sadly isn’t a simple one and there isn’t an optimal window. There are no set patterns to Antarctic weather and so it's better to focus on when it suits you to travel.

  • What’s the baggage allowance?

    Travelling to Antarctica by plane definitely requires light packing! The luggage allowance is only 15 kg per passenger, including hand luggage. You do have the option to leave items in Punta Arenas and if joining a ship in Antarctica there will be a laundry service on board.

  • Will I get to see Antarctica from the plane?

    If you are flying to King George Island in the South Shetlands you won’t fly over Antarctica as you will be largely flying over water and then landing in the South Shetland Islands, which are located 90km/ 55 miles northwest of the Antarctic continent. If it's a clear day though, you may lucky enough to see Cape Horn en route.

    For those select few flying into the interior, and perhaps all the way to the South Pole, you will certainly get some grand views of The White Continent from above.

Why our customers love Swoop

The Antarctic Experts.
No Compromises

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Our team has visited Antarctica over 150 times and has 100 collective years of polar experience, so from which trip is right for you to what shoes to bring - there’s no question we can’t answer.

Expert impartial advice at no extra cost

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Choosing the right voyage is complicated, Swoop makes it easy. We offer no-nonsense advice on 1500 voyages across 30 ships to find you the right trip, cabin, price - and we don’t charge a fee.

The only B Corp certified Antarctic specialist

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We want to protect Antarctica for future generations - which is why we became a certified B Corp and set up our own conservation fund. So your adventures can be a force for good.

A full concierge service, unlike booking direct

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We leave nothing to chance in delivering your perfect trip and have over 6500 happy travellers to show for it. With a dedicated Antarctic co-ordinator & support throughout - you’re in safe hands.

How to Fly to Antarctica

Fly & Cruise Antarctica

Fly & Cruise Antarctica

A short two-hour flight quickly and comfortably transports you to the White Continent. On arrival, you then switch to an awaiting ship that acts as your floating hotel.

Discover More

Ready to plan your Antarctic adventure?



We'll spend some time listening to your aspirations, then discuss the kind of experience that might suit you.



Next we'll discuss the options, shortlist the best trips for you and present you our impartial recommendations.



We'll place a 24 hour hold on your preferred option - without obligation - whilst we talk through the details.

With over 100 years of Antarctic experience between us, we can help guide you to exactly the right trip for you.