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We were just discussing at lunch if there are any such flights.

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2 Answers 2

As Mark noted, no scheduled flights pass directly over Antarctica. As to which goes closest, I think the Qantas flight QF17 / QF18, between SYD (Sydney) and EZE (Buenos Aires), is a good candidate.

Mark said BA to Auckland would be the southernmost flight, but the post he quoted is from 2005 and Qantas started the QF17/18 service in November 2008. Also, looking at the (great circle) map, it only makes sense that BA - Sydney would go farther south than BA - Auckland.


Image from Great Circle Mapper

In this post at Sydney Airport Message Board I found route details for QF17, from its inaugural service, apparently written by one of the pilots. The southernmost latitude reached on the SYD-EZE flight was 63°. And looking closer, on the return leg (EZE-SYD), they flew much closer to Antarctica, at 72°, at one point passing "over Thurston Island and Cape Flying Fish, part of continental Antarctica".

Quoting some interesting commentary:

(Note the deep south latitudes on this sector. Being handed over to McMurdo Centre ('Mac Centre') on HF was certainly a highlight).

[...]

Ops are currently limited to a maximum of 72 deg South, which provides a small buffer against overflying Antarctica proper (save for the low-lying cape/island we overflew). Going further south entails similar considerations to our Antarctic charter flights (eg. Polar survival equipment, which requires the removal of a number of seat rows). An analysis is currently being undertaken by QF on the concept of going to 80 deg South, which would allow westbound flights to take advantage of significant tailwinds there. Going down to 80S (versus staying further north) can make the difference between an overall wind component of 40kts headwind and 10kts tailwind.

So, at least at the time of that writing (Nov 2008), 72 degrees S was the southernmost limit for regular Qantas flights. The post also has some interesting photos, e.g. of the (1st leg) route plotted on a "Jeppesen South Pole Plotting Chart".

Incidentally, I took the QF18 from BA to Sydney last spring. I found it pretty interesting and was actually wondering at the time whether it would pass over Antarctica or just near it. Here are some photos I took:

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Looking left (towards the South Pole):

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Looking right (north):

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Truly fantastic answer, now re-planning my flight to South America next year ;) –  Mark Mayo Jan 7 '12 at 23:19

According to Airliners.net, Aerolineas Argentinas operates the world's southernmost (scheduled) commercial route in the world, from BUE (Buenos Aires) to AKL (Auckland), which flies in about 50-55 deg South of the equator.

(As it happens I've taken this flight, which is a nice bit of knowledge for me :))

Second is probably JHB to SYD (Johannesburg to Sydney) with Qantas or South African Airlines, which goes down to 45S.

it turns out that commercial flights are actually NOT allowed over Antarctica for security reasons (see Mt Erebus disaster), aside from Boeing who in 2003 went from SYD to GIG (Sydney to Rio de Janiero), crossing over the south pole in the process.

This has been mostly brought in due to the fact that most of Antarctica is out of ETOPS range, and this is also why LAN Chile and Aerolineas Argentinas fly the Southern Pacific with 4-engine planes.

There are sightseeing flights, but not regularly scheduled commercial routes over the continent any longer.

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the Boeing flight was not a commercial flight, but a private test flight (and thus not subject to the laws and regulations governing passenger flights). –  jwenting Dec 22 '11 at 7:10
    
Note that the airliners.net post you quote is from 2005 and it doesn't seem have the latest info. At least EZE-SYD goes further south. –  Jonik Jan 7 '12 at 15:54

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