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Champagne and figure eights on ice

Champagne and figure eights on ice

Old Jan 30, 05, 4:28 pm
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Champagne and figure eights on ice

Index to my trip reports

If you like this report, you may be interested in some of my other trip reports.
  1. AKL-YYZ with NZ/AC in F & C - my first trip report
  2. Europe to Iceland & return on Icelandair (FI) - somewhere different
  3. Some FTers DO the Inaugural Worlds Longest Flight SIN-EWR vv 28 June 2004 - 2 long flights back to back
  4. 7 Crazy Days - includes an almost inaugural flight
  5. Champagne and figure eights on ice - Antarctica flightseeing
  6. a Lit.tle sPRinG.Ly JoUrney (BUDding KiwiS Can zig-ZAG around Europe) - mostly central and eastern Europe
  7. Big DO DOs - or a Kiwi Flyer's Month of Madness - lots of flights
  8. Another Manic Month for Kiwi - again lots of flights
  9. Mini Tour of NZ - over 100 domestic flights in New Zealand covering all domestic routes (ongoing)
  10. Across the Globe in 5 Continents - criss-crossing the globe
  11. Auckland to National Park by Train - train in New Zealand's North Island
  12. Across the Globe in 5 Continents Again - criss-crossing the globe, but this time mainly on One World
  13. A Warm Embrace of the Tropics - short trips to the tropical South Pacific
  14. Singapore (SQ) new first and business class, plus a medley of 12 F & C SQ flights - name says it all really
  15. Across the Globe in 4 Continents - around the world on star alliance, including some unusual flights
  16. Queensland And Northern Territory Aerial Sampler - a sampling of Qantas flights, domestic and international, in economy and business (ongoing)
  17. Around the World in Under 60 Hours - around the world in a weekend
  18. The Heat is On - another longhaul economy trip in under 60 hours - what a contrast, Asia and Qantas' new first class lounges
  19. Fast on the ground and in the air - it must be Shanghai – a flying visit to Shanghai + Maglev
  20. It's a Fine Line Between Pleasure & Pain: 4 wacky weeks 2 RTW C, inaugural longhaul Y – mostly One World
  21. Back and forth across the Pacific on a variety of airlines in a selection of classes - 16 crossings of the Pacific plus some other related flights
  22. It isn't every day that you witness a hijacking attempt + NZ's forgotten 4th island - a visit to Chatham Islands coincides with New Zealand's first hijacking attempt
  23. There and back - first day Air NZ flies to Coolangatta (Gold Coast)
  24. A Run Around (part of) The Axis of Evil: A Perfect *A RTW in C? - Axis of Evil 0 US Immigration 1
  25. Wellington to Auckland by train - self-explanatory title
  26. A mad couple of days flying, including domestic international flights - a double longhaul inaugural, domestic international shuttle and domestic leg of an international flight
  27. Regional C *A RTW & (hopefully) finishing flying every route (100+) for an airline - featuring new QF First on A380 special flight, "you have to get off now", and 105th different current route with NZ
  28. One World Revolutions - Around Mostly the Southern Hemisphere - mostly Southern Hemisphere and mostly on One World on a mix of products
  29. Cris-cros the Med & the Globe on Emirates, Qantas & Star Alliance in mix of F/C/Y+/Y – starting with EK First on A380 and ending with Qantas economy, with a lot of travel mostly on *A in between
  30. An FTer flies to a Do (or Why take the nonstop when you can fly 10 flights instead?) - combining an FT Do with an aerial tour of northern Queensland
  31. The Ultimate Qantas Flight - short report on the ultimate flight
  32. Premium Flying Across the Ditch (Between New Zealand and Australia) - experiencing the forward cabins on Trans-Tasman flights (ongoing)
  33. 5 Boeings Straight to the Airbus Do - FTer feasts in first, business & economy - my journey to & from the *A / Airbus Mega Do
  34. NZ route oddities & One World turns by night (redeye special) - an odd collection of flight routes & schedules around the world
  35. From my first low cost redeye to a first class trifecta - an insane fortnight - some firsts of all types
  36. G'day, kia orana - it's another inaugural flight in Air New Zealand business class - a day & night tripping around the South Pacific on Air NZ
  37. A Feast of First Class Flying on British Airways, Qantas and Emirates - long distance in style
  38. A Weekend of Old and New - Lufthansa first & business, Air New Zealand business - a quick longhaul trip featuring some old and new products
  39. Star Alliance tres primo, and tres biz - a trio of first and business on Star Alliance
  40. A few flights to end 2011 - a quick trip around the world + more
  41. Five Continents in 3 Days and Some Other Mad Trips in 2012 - a selection of my 2012 travels
  42. Sky Team madness - 14 weeks, 200k miles, 5 continents, CI brand new business – mostly Sky Team
  43. Off to Star megado on Oneworld - mostly business incl brand new AA 787
  44. A Glutton for Punishment: red eye, new world's longest flight & more, in comfort?

Last edited by Kiwi Flyer; Apr 1, 16 at 4:11 pm Reason: Updated index of my TRs
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Old Jan 30, 05, 4:41 pm
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PRELIMINARIES

In 2004 I flew directly over the North Pole (on my way from EWR-SIN) and in 2005 I had a chance to fulfil a dream of mine from way back, to fly over South Pole (magnetic that is).

Apologies in advance for lack of pictures - I dont have digital camera but trying to arrange some pics from fellow pax. Thanks for your patience. In the meantime I will post some links to pics already on the net. In any event, the pictures do not do any justice to the viewing. Simply stunning.

===================

GETTING STARTED

As mentioned I have long wanted to fly over Antarctica - for stunning scenery, unique geology, pristine wilderness and interesting history. But mostly because it is by far the most comfortable way to see Antarctica - no roughing it on a week-long boat voyage from NZ or Australia across the Roaring Forties and Screaming Fifties, no several day flight and boat voyage via Ushuaia in South America, no need for cold weather gear or cramped conditions. No siree, I wanted to go in style, albeit without actually making it onto the continent.

There have been no commercial flights to Antarctica from NZ since the 1979 Erebus crash [post link]. I didnt fancy trying to qualify for the scientific expeditions and flights from Christchurch NZ (visit the Antarctica centre [link here] if you get a chance - only a short walk from the airport). So the next best thing was a charter from Australia.

Croydon Travel arrange several flights each year, operated by Qantas. Unfortunately no miles but sometimes there are more important things. For more information see their website www.antarcticaflights.com.au

Last edited by Kiwi Flyer; Apr 1, 16 at 4:11 pm
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Old Jan 30, 05, 5:09 pm
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The flight from Adelaide worked best for me, and the extra miles getting there and back is an added bonus. Also, convenient to get the last 2 stays required for Hilton's 3/5/7 promo ^

I flew NZ AKL-MEL (Auckland-Melbourne). Took the 747 service as I hoped to get F seat in business (no F service trans-tasman) as an elite customer. This flight also had the advantage, for someone like me who packs just before leaving for the flight, of not needing to get up at OMG o'clock (3am) for a 6:00am, 6:30am or 7:00am flight. What a nice change - it is years since I have had this luxury for trans-tasman travel (at least from NZ->Australia).

Anyway I am ready early, which is just as well as my ride also arrives early. On the way to NZ premium check-in area, I notice on the monitors the flight is delayed. Looks like my very comfortable connection at MEL is now merely an okay connection and may get tight if flight delayed further. So when I check-in I ask if can check in for my QF flight (same ticket on NZ stock!) to ADL, to protect my seat in case of further delays. Was told no. Anyway good news as I indeed do get an F seat.

(As an aside, the NZ premium check-in at AKL international is a great system as not only no or almost no wait but also bypass the main immigration queue with a dedicated officer, and unlike QF premium check-in the bypass takes you straight to security.)

So I exit the premium area to go to QF check-in. The agent doesnt think she can check me in, but after a few key presses out comes the boarding pass. Excellent. Back through the NZ premium area (love to bypass those queues!) and soon I'm browsing the duty free and off to the NZ lounge. Its quiet at the moment, but today becomes fairly busy as it seems a few aircraft are late arriving from US and asia so most flights are delayed Never mind, its a big lounge and very nice so its no hardship to spend a little longer here than planned.

The rescheduled boarding time comes and goes and finally its time to board. Settle down with a pre-departure drink and then comes an announcement, slight delay as we are significantly under-catered. Eventually we take off and I realise my very easy connection could be tight if we get big immigration queues at MEL. Fingers crossed.

The flight is very pleasant with nice meal and very nice drinks. I read some of a book I brought as had read this month's in-flight magazine several times already and also seen all 8 movies showing. One thing I had forgotten was how it felt to take off in 747 for a short flight - it has been several years since I was on a 747 on anything other than long haul and it felt like the plane leapt off the runway after a short takeoff roll.

At MEL I raced off and was happy to see no queues at immigration - a very nice surprise as most times I go through there is some delay. I guess that's a benefit of the flight being so late. MEL is very easy to transfer to domestic terminal (unlike SYD - dont get me started on that one) and it is only a few minutes before I am relaxing in the QP (Qantas Club, known as Qantas Pub on the QF forum).
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Old Jan 30, 05, 5:16 pm
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With the late arrival, I dont have long in the QP. Long enough to find several computers inoperable as I try to check my emails. Boarding call is made so I head to the gate. Before I get there I hear my name being paged and flight is being closed! What gives - the announcement in the lounge was only 1 minute ago. Sure enough I am last to board with door closing behind me.

The flight to ADL is fairly short (90 minutes) and uneventful. Have a nice stay at Adelaide Hilton (nice lounge and upgraded room courtesy of status - thanks ^ ).

I'll break here as I have a flight to catch. More soon.
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Old Jan 31, 05, 12:17 am
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Hi Kiwi,
Just wanted to give you some early feedback to this trip. I checked out the link you posted and it is clear that you adventure will be incredible.

Keep it coming.
Rita
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Old Jan 31, 05, 6:22 am
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Kiwi Flyer, look forward to seeing the fruits of your labour; after talking to you about this flight at our FT meet in Auckland a couple of weeks ago.

Totally agree with your fervour about wanting to connect in MEL rather than SYD.

Waiting for the next instalment...presumably you're still in the air now.
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Old Jan 31, 05, 9:12 am
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Apologies for the interruption. Now back to the report.


AN EARLY START

An early wake up (scheduled departure time is 6:15am), although I suppose on NZ time (2 1/2 hours ahead) it isnt too bad. A short ride to the international terminal, where the flight is to depart from (and arrive to). At just before 5am there are no scheduled international flights to or from ADL, and so the only check-in signs read “Antarctica flight”. Get given 2 boarding passes which had been pre-printed – as we change seats at the halfway point. One reads Adelaide to Antarctica (ADL-ZZF) and the other reads Antarctica to Adelaide (ZZF-ADL). My sequence numbers are 26 & 27 despite the couple of hundred passengers who have already checked in. As security isn’t opened the landside part of the terminal is crowded with lots of happy but sleepy people. The cafe is doing a roaring trade in coffees.

At 5am the security gates open and we file into airside part of the terminal. No immigration though as this is classed as a domestic flight – one of the longest in the world at 12 hours! The QP is open and so I make my way there for a coffee or two and check my emails. This is my first time in ADL international terminal – it is quite small with not too many scheduled flights. The couple of duty free shops are closed as we are not allowed to purchase duty free.

Somewhat behind schedule, at 6am we are called to board. Others not in the QP had started boarding some time earlier and apparently were all on board (so I thought). I linger as I cant see the point in rushing out of the lounge. For those unfamiliar with Adelaide airport, it is small and does not have any airbridges! Hopefully when the new international terminal is finally finished it will be complete with airbridges. Anyway, the need to climb stairs and the relatively high average age of passengers, means a slow boarding process.

At the gate I noticed the sign was for a MH flight to KUL (Kuala Lumpur), and commented to the gate agent that I hoped the sign was wrong. He laughed and said only 1 other person noticed. On the way out to the tarmac we are handed a large envelope with information kit and some maps. Crossing the tarmac to the stairs, the 747 looks bigger from this perspective than the more usual one from airbridge or lounge window.

I don’t know how, but I managed to get a bulkhead seat. Perfect! Makes it much easier to cross from side to side to look out the windows. Settling in to the pre-departure drink and from the lack of hurry of the FAs to clean up it is apparent that despite being the last from the lounge we are waiting on someone. Eventually the last couple of passengers appear and we prepare for take-off. I wonder how the delay will impact on the amount of time over Antarctica (we all hope not) and also on whether I can make the flight to Melbourne tonight. Never mind will put it out of mind until we get back.

Flight QF2903 Adelaide to Adelaide (via Antarctica)
Aircraft VH-OJR “City of Bathurst”
Captain John, co-pilot Peter, 1st officer Shawn
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Old Jan 31, 05, 9:13 am
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TAKE-OFF

At 6:30am we push back and then stop on the apron. The pilot switches on a camera installed in the cockpit and showing on channel “QCAM”, and the radio exchanges with ATC are relayed through the PA. Several minutes later we make a short taxi to runway 23. The shaking of the QCAM view on the take-off roll highlights vividly how bumpy the runway is at speed. We are almost at the end of the runway before wheels are up. A turn to the left and we are on our way directly to Antarctica.

It seemed strange to see the flight distance to destination 30km with a time to destination of 12 hours! Of course the distance to destination kept increasing as we headed SSW.

We get an intro (including visuals on QCAM) to the flight crew, several Antarctica experts and also the staff on board from Croydon Travel. This is the captain’s 32nd flight to Antarctica! The flight path will be dictated by weather conditions. Supposed to be clear down on the ice, but the signs arent good as we hit cloud not far south of Adelaide which is still with us a couple of hours later. Its obvious that the flight and cabin crew are just as excited about the flight as the passengers

After breakfast an informational video is shown on channel 9 (no doubt due to the sponsorship by Channel 9, an Australian TV station) and then a home movie of a couple who spent a year in Antarctica in a private cabin as opposed to being part of a scientific expedition.

At 8:45am we see the first icebergs through a gap in the cloud! Still a long way to go to Antarctica (we havent yet reached 50 degrees south). This is a very early sighting, confirming reports in the media a month ago that this year icebergs are drifting a lot further north than usual with an earlier sighting to the south of NZ. It looks fairly small, but then we are 35000 feet up. Unfortunately the cloud closes in again so no more views of bergs.

Shortly afterwards, the captain arranges to talk to a scientist based on Macquarie Island (about 1500km SE of Hobart) over the PA. During the 20 minute talk the scientist mentions a nearby magnitude 8 earthquake on christmas eve 2004 was not even felt – and no tsunami from that undersea quake.

Then we had a safety video showing how to put on polar suits in the event of an emergency. The cabin went rather quiet at that thought.

It seemed to take forever to reach Antarctica. By 10am the continent was dominating the view (especially in 3d mode!) on airshow yet we still weren’t there and still 100% cloud cover. We didn’t pass over South Magnetic Pole due to weather conditions in the area, which also meant no flying over Commonwealth Bay which was advertised in the brochures.
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Old Jan 31, 05, 9:13 am
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ICE AS FAR AS THE EYE CAN SEE, part one

With the extensive cloud cover we couldn’t see when we reached the extensive sea ice which surrounds Antarctica even in summer. But at 10:45am the cloud suddenly clears to reveal the ice and shortly afterwards the edge of the continent ahead. What excitement amongst us all! The cockpit camera is again switched on QCAM to give a pilots eye view. Personally I rarely watched the screen, but instead spent most of the time over the ice peering through windows either side, talking to fellow passengers, and yes having some nice champagne to keep hydrated of course!

We descended to 20000 feet, and later to 18000 feet, and slow to around 650kmh, to enable a better view. The icebergs in the middle of the pack ice were clearly visible due to their great height. The bergs all looked to be flat-topped. For the next few hours we see plenty of bright white of ice and snow. Being mid-summer many of the peaks (and the shoreline) are showing some rock, but it is almost all snow and ice.

Landfall (or should that be airfall? Perhaps not!) is at Cape Freshfield beside the Cook Ice Shelf. We turn to the SE and broadly follow the shoreline but several kilometers inland. The captain reports visibility is 650km! Amazing, and I feel so lucky that after complete cloud cover virtually the whole way across the sea, the land is clear of cloud.

Some generalisations of the next few hours. The land is quite high. Even though we are fairly close to the coast the entire flight (although sea and pack ice not always visible), for much of the time over Antarctica we are flying above terrain some 1500-2000m (around 6000 feet) with nearby peaks ranging up to Mount Minto’s 4165m (over 12000 feet). Thus our altitude of 18000 feet is much closer to the ground. The crystal pure air and clear skies means the ground seemed even closer than that. There is quite a variety in scenery, ranging from flat plateau of the ice cap (with scatted peaks sticking through) to massive wide and long glaciers (some straight and others zig-zag) to rugged mountains with deep glacial valleys to volcanic cones. There are rugged mountains as well as flat-topped ranges where past ice ages have sheared off the tops. Some glaciers are very rapid and full of crevasse and stress fields, others are slower. Some show signs of the rock being ground with dark almost black patches across the glacier or along its edges, others appear much cleaner. We see hanging glaciers, the power of glaciers merging and forcing lesser flows through right angles. Some glaciers are stepped with a staircase pattern. There are many icefalls including some very large ones spilling off the ice cap down the side of the Trans Antarctica Mountains. On the edge of the sea are several ice tongues where the glaciers are so powerful they extend many kilometers out to sea floating of course and pushing the pack ice aside. It seems strange to see newly formed icebergs at the seaward end many kilometers from shore.

It is difficult (and highly frustrating) to try (but failing) to describe the sights adequately. And all our pictures do not do justice to the majesty. But for those who think we will see nothing but white, that is not the truth. For there are colours in Antarctica – the brown of bare rock, the various shades of green in the glaciers, the pale blue of meltwater ponds, black shadows of crevasse fields and icefalls. Also a dark blue sky, such as you don’t get (in my experience at least) in europe or north america). I, along with many others on the flight, felt a deep sense of the frailty of humans daring to enter such a pristine and hostile environment, and big though our plane was it seemed puny against such a vast landscape.
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Old Jan 31, 05, 9:15 am
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ICE AS FAR AS THE EYE CAN SEE, part two

Rather than bore the reader with an endless list of glaciers, peaks and ranges and other sights; I will attempt to provide a selection of just the highlights of our flight. As mentioned previously, the exact flight path is dictated by weather conditions so there is no guarantee of what will or wont be seen on these flights.

The first ice tongue we pass is at the mouth of the Matusevich Glacier. Seems not that large, but then we are told it is 30km long. One berg has been trapped by ice for a year and is 50m high by 30km long and 10km wide! Wow it is hard to get a sense of scale.

We head inland up the Rennick Glacier (beside Bower Range) which is very wide. Many glaciers and icefalls in the side valleys. For the next couple of hours we have several figure eights, loops and up and down valleys so that both sides get good views. Needless to say most passengers are up trying to see out of the best side all the time. Sometimes tough decisions to make as highlights are described on both sides of the aircraft at the same time!

We head back to the coast down the Tucker Glacier near Mount Minto – the tallest peak in these parts. From here we generally head SW along the shore of Ross Sea and up and down the main valleys. Mount Erebus and the enormous Ross Ice Shelf is visible in the distance. Ross Sea itself is reasonably free of ice in this area. But it is too far away to see NZ’s Scott Base or US’s McMurdo Station.

A couple of large peaks interrupt the flow of a powerful glacier and the flow lines clearly show the divergence and reconvergence downstream, complete with pressure mounds and crevassing.

We circle the Italian base at Terra Nova Bay and the 100km long Drygalski Ice Tongue. Part of the major iceberg B15 (?) is visible trapped behind it. When it calved several years ago it was the largest iceberg ever recorded and bigger than some countries. It has since broken up into several smaller pieces but these are still huge. (Its hard to judge scale but it looked big beside the very long ice tongue!)

Around 1:00pm we are 2900 miles from Adelaide (great circle as opposed to our flight path!) at about 76 degrees south, and unfortunately its time to head back. In the relatively ice free Ross Sea it is easy to see how much further icebergs extend underwater relative to above water, due to the changed sea colour above the underwater ice. We again pass the volcanic cone of Mount Melbourne – this time from the other side and see the snow filled crater. As we head towards Cape Adare very suddenly at 1:30pm the skies cloud over above Ross Sea and the coastal margin. This means we don’t get to see Cape Adare (the north-western point of the Ross Sea).

We were so very lucky to have cloud-free viewing the entire time over Antarctica (apart from the last 10 minutes). The crew and staff remark how they’ve never seen it so clear the whole way before.
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Old Jan 31, 05, 9:15 am
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THE TRIP BACK

Its five hours back to Adelaide and the mood in the cabin changes markedly. Still very happy mood but no more excitedly rushing around to get the best views. Instead in the seat and talking or watching movies. The airshow shows a sinuous red line where we’ve been over the continent, but tells nothing of the amazing scenery or interesting geology and history we’ve had described.

We get a late lunch over the Balleny Islands at 2:20pm.

Later the captain is again on QCAM, and gives us a 30 minute tour of the instruments! Shortly before landing the cockpit camera (and radio with ATC on PA) is again on for approach over the Coorong, Lake Alexandrina and the Adelaide Hills. We land on runway 23 at 6:50pm. As we pull up to the apron there is only a single, albeit very large, freighter. I’m not sure of the aircraft type but it is very big.

With sadness we leave the aircraft. I rush off to the domestic terminal, hoping to catch the next flight to MEL (Melbourne) which I knew would be tight. After 10 minutes I turn up to see the flight is closed. Oh well – I have enough time for a drink or three at the lounge before the next flight. This flight is uneventful apart from having commentary of the Australian Open on channel 2. Even before we touchdown at MEL it seemed that local hero Lleyton Hewitt was losing after an early advantage. I manage to quickly check-in at Melbourne Airport Hilton (1 minute walk from the terminal) and watch the rest of the match.

Next morning, after a leisurely lie in I head back to AKL. Again it is a 747 flight and I get an F seat. Get some duty free (making the most of NZ’s generous allowances and the recent rise in the NZ$ against the A$) and go to the lounge. NZ lounge at MEL is currently being reconstructed and instead using the UA lounge. This is the first time I have been in this one, and I immediately see it is inferior to the QF lounge so head there instead. (One of the perks of my QF status is being able to use their lounges any time – no matter who I am flying.) The flight back is much as I’d expect –great food and drink. Nice service without being overbearing. Arrival is fairly normal, although the upstairs immigration channel for NZers and aussies is shut.
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Old Jan 31, 05, 9:17 am
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CLOSING

I am so lucky to have the opportunity to do this flight (now ticked off the list of things to see/do). I apologise for failing to adequately describe or show what we saw. It is simply breathtaking. The flight itself was fun. I haven’t commented much on inflight service, as, to be honest, I wasn’t paying a lot of attention. I think the meals etc were adequate without being stunning. The crew did kept my drinks topped up nicely and did a good job in trying circumstances (probably less than a third of passengers seated for the several hours over the ice and Antarctica). The experts were great – not only with their talks and presentations but also when they roved throughout the cabin, answering questions and showing their personal pictures, equipment etc. I would certainly recommend the flight to anyone who is interested in Antarctica or fantastic scenery. While not everyone can have a window seat (and thanks to rotation certainly not for the whole flight), there are many places where you can see and there is a high degree of cooperation so everyone can see. A tip – several people can fit between seats and along the aisles in business class and first class and see out the window provided those at the front kneel or crouch.
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Old Feb 1, 05, 7:31 am
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wow that was awesome..thanks for posting that
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Old Feb 2, 05, 12:50 am
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Great stuff, KiwiFlyer - thanks!

If it's not too rude to ask, how much did this cost? And how is the service organised - is it business and economy? How do they decide who gets what seats- luck of the draw or can you preallocate?

Thanks!
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Old Feb 2, 05, 2:05 am
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Awesome stuff ^

I was going to do this last year but ran out of time. Prices are on the link KF included.

Is it worth getting a cheap economy class ticket ($899) - is there room enough to walk around and see something?
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