Erebus disaster

Page 2 – Tourist flights to Antarctica

Air New Zealand and Qantas began offering sightseeing flights to Antarctica in February 1977. They proved popular and Air New Zealand subsequently applied to the Civil Aviation Division of the Ministry of Transport for permission for further flights in subsequent summers. 

The popularity of these flights, and positive reports from passengers, meant Air New Zealand needed to do little advertising to fill the seats on those it announced for November 1979. The airline offered an appealing package: meals and refreshments, a complimentary bar service, in-flight entertainment and expert commentary.

A survey conducted on Air New Zealand's first Antarctic flight revealed something of passengers’ motivations for making the trip. Still more would become known about the passengers on Flight TE901 as their lives were pored over by the media in the days and weeks after the crash.

By the time the airlines terminated the flights - Air New Zealand immediately and Qantas in February 1980 - they had carried approximately 10,000 passengers to Antarctica.

Qantas resumed Antarctic sightseeing trips in 1994. At the time Air New Zealand ruled out a similar move, ‘for obvious reasons’.

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How to cite this page

'Tourist flights to Antarctica', URL:, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 13-Mar-2024