Visiting Antarctica: How Likely Are Flight Delays?
Antarctica21 pioneered the Antarctic fly-cruise program in 2003, and as of February 2017, we’ve proudly operated 142 Antarctic flights over the Drake Passage, the body of water that separates South America and Antarctica. Still, the safety of our passengers and crew is our number one priority, so there have been, on occasions, delays.
The benefits of flying over the Drake
Flying over the Drake Passage allows you to reach Antarctica quickly, so you can make the most of your precious vacation time. By not crossing by ship, you also avoid the Drake’s turbulent waters, the possibility of getting sea sick, and the possibility of injury while sailing through rough seas.
What can delay a flight?
Delays can be caused by low clouds, fog, and heavy wind conditions at King George Island in Antarctica. This applies for both flights to Antarctica, and flights back to South America.
Some statistics about our flights
Since we first started operation in 2003 and until our most recent season ended in February 2017, we have operated 142 flights. Specifically, here is the breakdown of those flights:
– 114 flights (81%) have left on the scheduled day.
– 21 flights (15%) left either the day before or the day after their scheduled day of departure.
– 5 flights (3%) were delayed by two days.
In our 14-year history, only two flights were delayed beyond two days. That’s the point beyond which half of the Antarctic expedition would be impacted and the point when we would interrupt the trip and extend a full refund. In other words, statistically, there is about a 1% chance of your flight being delayed to the point where the Antarctic portion of your voyage would be cancelled.
What about other fly-cruise programs?
Some expedition companies with larger ships operate two Antarctic flights for every departure in order to accommodate all passengers. With two flights, the coordination of the flight and cruise components requires more time, as does the turnover operation at King George Island, a remote and exposed location without an air terminal or any other public infrastructure. Antarctica21 specializes in small group expeditions, which means that all our guests can be accommodated on a single flight.
This allows us to take advantage of the narrowest possible window of good weather since we have only one flight to get across and a smaller group of travellers to transport. It leaves more flexibility and reduces the chance of flight delays.
Two more points set us apart from all other expedition companies: Antarctica21 has flight priority at the Punta Arenas airport. If on the day of our scheduled flight changeable weather conditions only offer one opportunity to fly, that opportunity is reserved for Antarctica21.
Also, Antarctica21 is the only fly-cruise operators with its own infrastructure on King George Island in Antarctica, with a purpose-built vehicle for the movement of luggage and travellers, and an all-terrain vehicle for the efficient movement of our staff. Our Logistics Manager is based at King George Island throughout the season, holding a key position to ensure that the operation is as smooth and seamless as possible.
Even though the likelihood of delay or interruption is slim, we are well prepared. Should your flight from Punta Arenas be delayed, rest assured that all your tours, meals and accommodations are not only pre-arranged but also included in the cost of your expedition. While we wait for the opportunity to fly to Antarctica, and depending on the nature of the delay, we will show you the local historical sites and/or the local flora and fauna.
In the unlikely event that your Antarctic flight cannot take place by 2 PM on day 4 of your expedition, you will receive a full refund of the cruise fare. If it is your flight from Antarctica back to Chile that is delayed, your tour in Antarctica will be extended, with on board activities, excursions and meals also included.
Our primary goal with the contingency plan is to provide an engaging and comfortable travel experience while we adapt to the weather – it is, after all, an expedition experience!