Zipping across the North Pole to connect city pairs in the eastern and western hemispheres happens multiple times a day. But now Norwegian Air Argentina has applied for traffic rights from Buenos Aires to Perth, Western Australia, a 7,839-mile jaunt that will take commercial airline travelers directly over the South Pole. The South American arm of the Oslo-based airline will then connect with Singapore after a Perth refueling stop.
Lest that mileage number seem daunting, the recently opened Heathrow to Perth run comes in at 9,000 bleary-eyed miles.
An extension of ETOPS makes the trans-Antarctic routing feasible. It stands for “extended range operations by twin-engine airplanes” and improved engine reliability (with a nudge from always-escalating fuel prices) has stretched that critical number to 330 minutes flying time to a diversion airport should the need arise. ETOPS figures over the years have expanded from 90 to 120 to 180 minutes, and the five-and-a-half hour figure of the Boeing 787 will make flying the bottom of the world a reality.
Watch for applications for Heathrow-Honolulu and even Heathrow-Fiji long-range commercial routes. Pack your jammies and some Ambien.