Booking your Antarctic flights
When you are booking your flights you will need to check your voyage dates carefully and ensure you are arriving in plenty of time for the vessel's departure. If you are late, the ship will not wait for you.
Pre-pandemic, airlines would release flights 11 months to a year before the travel date, so booking early would usually secure the best availability and often the best prices. This wasn’t guaranteed as airlines price ‘dynamically' to maximise revenue. Covid-19 changed this pattern and airlines are responding to the pandemic on a more reactive basis. This makes it difficult to predict when the best flight availability, pricing and flexibility will be live.
Booking your international flights – and domestic flights, where relevant – will depend on your personal circumstances. Some of our passengers are choosing to wait to purchase flights, while others are preferring to book their flights to take advantage of current availability and pricing. We would recommend that you seek the advice of an airline or flight specialist.
Changeable/refundable tickets will give you peace of mind and flexibility should anything unexpected happen. Whatever you choose, we strongly recommend that you opt for flexible ticket options.
We strongly advise spending a minimum of two nights on the mainland prior to embarkation, which provides a buffer in case of travel delay, allows time for any mandatory pre-embarkation arrangements and ensures you’re refreshed and ready for your adventure. Some cruise packages may already include one night of pre-voyage accommodation; please check your itinerary for details.
As stated above, the cruise will not wait for you if you are delayed arriving at the start point, so it is sensible to plan in plenty of time for your travels.
Airport taxes for Argentina & Chile
Argentina and Chile require people of certain nationalities to pay an entry fee on arrival in the country – this is called a reciprocity fee. Find out more about who is required to pay them and how much they cost.
There are departure taxes of approximately $30 per person for leaving both Chile and Argentina. It is usually included in the price of your airline ticket. Domestic departure taxes are also generally built into your internal flight tickets.
Flying to Ushuaia, Argentina
If you are embarking on your ship in Ushuaia, please ensure you arrive one full day before departure. Your vessel will set sail at approximately 4pm on the day of embarkation and you will generally need to drop off your luggage and comply with any required testing/paperwork in the morning. To arrive in Ushuaia (airport code: USH), you will need to fly via Buenos Aires with Aerolineas Argentinas or LATAM Airlines.
When booking flights down to Ushuaia the day before your voyage, please ensure that you are not booking the last flight of the day from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia, for added contingency in case of delays.
The Argentine airlines are notorious for frequently changing their flight schedules in the months prior to departure, so please keep a close eye on any emails you receive from them to ensure that you maintain an appropriate arrival time. If you are rescheduled you may need to request an alternative flight slot to the one you are automatically reallocated to.
As you fly south to your cruise, there can be spectacular views of the Andean mountain range. When booking plane seats from Santiago down to Punta Arenas, aim for a left-hand side window seat, and from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia you want to be on the right-hand side. The reverse is true for the return journey.
Venus Ho Customer Experience Coordinator
Airports in Buenos Aires, Argentina
Buenos Aires Ministro Pistarini Airport (EZE)
In Buenos Aires, there are two main airports. Ministro Pistarini is the main international airport in Argentina and is 30km to the south of the main part of town.
Immigration in Buenos Aires can be a lengthy process depending on when your flight arrives. The arrivals hall is generally quite chaotic and can feel a little overwhelming at first glance.
When departing EZE, a minimum check-in time of four hours prior to the flight is suggested.
Buenos Aires Jorge Newbery Airport (AEP)
Jorge Newbery is mainly used for domestic flights and is only a 10-15 minute taxi ride from several smart neighbourhoods within the city. From here you can get the widest range of internal flights to Ushuaia.
International flights will typically arrive at the main Buenos Aires Ministro Pistarini Airport (EZE), whereas most flights to Ushuaia will depart from the smaller domestic Jorge Newbery Airport (AEP). Moving between the two airports can take 1-2 hours depending on traffic, and as customs and baggage reclaim can take a while, check-in for domestic flights is a minimum of 2 hours prior to the flight.
As such, we recommend having 5 hours' connection time between arriving at one and departing from the other. We strongly advise against having only one night between your international flight arriving and boarding your cruise.
Swoop does not have an in-house flights team, so you will need to book your flights directly with the airline, or use a local flight agent.
Flying to Punta Arenas, Chile
If you are flying to the Falklands or joining your Antarctic cruise arrangements from Punta Arenas (airport code: PUQ), please ensure you have read your confirmation documents prior to booking international flights. Your confirmation documents will outline any mandatory meeting or departure times.
Some cruises include a flight to King George Island (to meet your Antarctic ship on location). Of these cruises, most include a pre-voyage night in Punta Arenas but require that you arrive in town no later than 2pm on the day prior to your flight. This mandatory timing is to allow for your essential pre-embarkation arrangements to take place, and there is also a possibility of an early flight departure to Antarctica should the safe flight weather window require this.
Airports in Santiago, Chile
Santiago de Chile Airport (SCL)
This is the main international airport in Chile that connects you to Patagonia. From here you will be able to book internal flights to Punta Arenas (PUQ).
We recommend allowing a minimum connection time of 5 hours between flights in this airport. This allows for time to process through immigrations along with any required testing/ paperwork checks and on to luggage reclaim. It is essential to build in sufficient time to check-in for your onward flight as the lines to check in for domestic flights can be lengthy and slow-moving.
Return flights after your cruise
King George Island, Antarctica
Port Stanley, Falkland Islands
If you are booked on a fly & cruise voyage which includes a charter flight from King George Island (TNM) back to Punta Arenas, most cruise packages will include a final night in a hotel in the town. This is crucial as these flights are often delayed and may depart at any time - day or night. A post-voyage night’s accommodation is included in some voyages, but not all, so please check your itinerary.
Due to the risk of delays and the unpredictable arrival time of your return flight, it is strongly recommended that you book a late afternoon flight from Punta Arenas back to Santiago the following day.
If your cruise finishes in Ushuaia, please ensure that you do not book a flight departing before 12 noon/midday.
Fly & cruise voyages that include flights from the Falkland Islands (Stanley), will include a flight from Mount Pleasant (MPN) to Punta Arenas (PUQ). This is a flight that continues on to Santiago (SCL) with LATAM Airlines, and we will gladly assist in booking this continuation for you. This is a scheduled flight, which means onward travel can be booked according to the times suggested on your voyage itinerary.
Boarding the plane for King George Island
Please be aware that the baggage allowances on your domestic flights within Chile or Argentina may differ from the allowances on your international flights. Please ensure that you book a fare that includes baggage and check your ticket for your exact allowance.
As a general reference, the standard baggage allowance for domestic carriers are:
23 kgs per person baggage allowance for checked-in hold luggage
23 kgs per person baggage allowance for checked-in hold luggage
15 kgs per person baggage allowance for checked-in hold luggage*
*Please note that this baggage allowance is not always rigidly enforced. However, when checking in you may be required to pay an excess baggage fee at the airport, particularly when flying out of AEP. Excess baggage fees (from 16-23kg) tend to be relatively reasonable, often under $20. Bags in excess of 23kg are not permitted.
Charter flights to/from Antarctica
Please be aware that the baggage allowance for chartered flights to/from King George Island is very strict at 15 kgs per person for checked-in hold luggage and 5kgs for hand luggage. There is no flexibility or option for excess baggage. You can generally leave any excess luggage at your hotel if required.
For all Antarctic trips, we recommend avoiding hard shell luggage, as this can be difficult to accommodate within your cabin storage. Generally, suitcases with some flex can be easily stored underneath your cabin bed.
Antarctica flight FAQs
Please ensure that you check your voyage dates and confirmation documents carefully to arrive in plenty of time for the vessel’s departure. If in any doubt, please contact us in advance.
We recommend that you factor in a minimum of two nights on the mainland between the arrival of your international flight and the beginning of your cruise arrangements.
Sometimes it is best to book your domestic flights as part of your international flight ticket. There are several benefits; often it is cheaper, your bags might go all the way through to your final stop (check with your airline), and you might get the same baggage allowance throughout the journey. However, it’s only possible to book all flights on the same ticket when the flights are part of the same airline alliance.
If you are booking your international flights separately from your domestic flights, then make sure you factor in a longer connection (5+ hours) to collect your baggage and to check into your next flight.
It is your responsibility to ensure that you are adhering to any visa or travel document requirements.