I always like flying to/from north America, since the route usually goes over Greenland. I do like the idea that I am only 10 km away from this inaccessible land. I would love to be able to say that I have been that close to the north pole. Unfortunately, so far my journeys remained to the more southern parts. Do airlines fly directly over the north pole and if so what route should I take to have the best chance?

  • 1
    Which north pole? Dec 3, 2014 at 4:07
  • During the 1950ties SAS flew over the North Pole With the Copenhagen-Los Angeles line. The line did not really go over the North Pole but via Greenland and northern Canada , close to magnetic north pole. Carlsberg nevertheless served a “North Pole” bear during that flight which they would send to collectors who wrote to them. Dec 4, 2014 at 9:27
  • NO. see aviation SE answer: aviation.stackexchange.com/questions/11449/…
    – Him
    Aug 17, 2015 at 2:43

5 Answers 5


I've flown directly over the north pole on a route from ATL to PEK (beijing). Here's a pic of the seatback flight map from a United 747, where I spent the entire flight with my face pressed to the window. Amazing scenery from Hudson Bay north through Baffin Island and on. It was July of 2008.

When we crossed the pole (as indicated in the flight map) the icon of the airplane began to flip back and forth, not knowing exactly which way it was pointing. I thought that was really cool and shot video of it trying to establish it's direction over the course of about 3 mins. Once we get a little bit of distance from magnetic north, the icon settled down and pointed toward Beijing.

enter image description here

  • 7
    The flickering is probably not due to the magnetic north pole, as that one is nowhere close the north pole.
    – drat
    Nov 27, 2013 at 19:39
  • 7
    No, the flickering is in fact proof that the plane is near the true north pole and not the magnetic pole which is near Canada-Greenland. Planes are using gyrocompasses which in fact are unable to follow true north about poles. Nov 28, 2013 at 18:07
  • 5
    Could you share the video?
    – geotheory
    May 5, 2015 at 15:20

In order to fly over the north pole (or more broadly just the Arctic), you'd have to travel to a city that is approximately across the globe as then the shortest distance would go over the north pole. You can try out which cities satisfy this criterion with the distance tool of Google maps. One possible route is for instance from the Middle East to the American West Coast, for instance this flight: Dubai to San Francisco.

A little more information about this can be found on the Wikipedia article Polar route and it seems those routes are fairly common. However I think being based in Europe, there are not many flights over the Arctic. Such a route from Europe would lead to the Eastern tip of Russia directly or to some of the Pacific islands, where there's probably only very few direct flights to.

  • From Eastern Europe to Alaska would also pass over the North Pole. Not sure if such flights have existed in the past ten years.
    – gerrit
    Aug 26, 2022 at 13:24

Building on @user34936's answer, it seems Condor's direct flight between Frankfurt-am-Main and Anchorage could fit the bill.

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    yes, that could actually work, the shortest way between Frankfort and Anchorage passes just over the northern-most tip of Greenland. It's not the north pole, but it's definitely in the Arctic.
    – drat
    Nov 27, 2013 at 11:47
  • @user34936 Is there an easy way to visualize this? Condor's website just shows a straight line on a map with some inadequate (for this purpose) projection.
    – Relaxed
    Nov 27, 2013 at 11:54
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    I use the google maps feature to measure distance. However this obviously only shows the ideal shortest path and I'd guess the real path would depend on weather, political boundaries etc. Another problem is that the North Pole is not actually on Google Maps, which stops at 85° North.
    – drat
    Nov 27, 2013 at 12:26
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    @Random832 I am sure I could and that all the info needed is on Wikipedia as well, but that's not easy. I was more thinking of a website where I could enter two names and click on something to get a fancy interactive map, ideally with a more traditional projection ;-)
    – Relaxed
    Nov 27, 2013 at 12:56
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    @Annoyed Use the Great Circle Mapper - gcmap.com/mapui?P=FRA-ANC
    – Dexter
    Nov 27, 2013 at 19:32

Obviously the exact 'north pol'e could be as big or small as you wanted - is it a pinpoint spot that you must fly over, or a larger area, for example.

Wikipedia now has a list of polar flights today, as defined officially as polar flights.

However, it's also worth noting that the definition of 'polar flights' has changed:

The American Federal Aviation Administration now defines the North Polar area of operations as the area north of 78 deg north latitude, which is north of Alaska and most of Siberia. The term "polar route" was originally more general, being applied to great circle routes between Europe and the west coast of North America in the 1950s.

There appear to be several routes that fit this criteria:

Polar routes are now common on airlines connecting Asian cities (Bangkok, Beijing, Dubai, Guangzhou, Hong Kong, New Delhi, Seoul, Shanghai, Singapore, Taipei and Tokyo) to North American cities (New York, Chicago, Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Toronto, Vancouver and Washington, D.C.). Emirates flies nonstop from Dubai to the US West Coast (San Francisco, Seattle and Los Angeles), coming within a few degrees of latitude of the North Pole.

  • For a stricter definition, one could take that passengers could see the north pole.
    – gerrit
    Aug 26, 2022 at 13:27

How close to the north pole do you want to be?

Since it is just a where the Earth's axis of rotation meets its surface, you'd have to be pretty lucky to fly directly over it :)

Besides, transcontinental flights usually try to take advantage of the jet stream, so I think you'd be better off renting your own plane and crew.

  • No need to rent your own, there are flightseeing excursions that visit the North Pole.
    – gerrit
    Aug 26, 2022 at 13:27

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