|China started commercial flights to Antarctica|
|Author: Matej Balen|
|24th December 2017|
|HONG KONG – On December 16, an unprecedented flight happened when Chinese commercial aircraft, run by Hainan Airlines, landed to Antarctica. This is the first tour trip to the South Pole organized by China for 22 Chinese tourists wanting this newest kind of tourist adventure.|
A lucky 22 Chinese tourists, who could afford the trip and were on the top of the waiting list for the flight, started their journey from Hong Kong, a 15-hour flight to South Africa, refuelling in Cape Town and then another 5.5 hours to Antarctica. From there, it's another 5 to 6 hours to the South Pole, where the flight landed on a 2.5-km runway carved into the ice.
The anonymous executive of Hainan Airlines said that the opening of the flight is the result of 10 years of investigation and inspection efforts. China conducted its first successful test flight to Antarctica in 2015.
It is estimated that around 40,000 people travel to the Antarctica annually, with Chinese travellers accounting almost 4,000 of that number (in 2016). Antarctica is the coldest, driest and the most desolate continent in the world. Most of the visitors are scientific researchers who are stationed in numerous small research stations along the continent. Typically, people would come to Antarctica on special flights from Argentina, Chile, South Africa, Australia or New Zealand, but it never happened that commercial plane full of tourists landed on this most inhospitable continent.
Wang Wen, a professor from the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies of Renmin University, said the flight will help raise the enthusiasm of the Chinese people for the “dreamland” that Antarctica is. He also said that Antarctic tourism would help foster the interest of the Chinese people in the natural environment and issues such as climate change and ecological protection.
However, there are comments that suggest that for many tourists, South Pole Tour is just a “bucket list” thing, currently priced between USD 25,000 – 100,000, for 7-10 day tours. Many are afraid that over-commercialization of the travel to Antarctica could potentially have negative consequences, and for that reason The International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators (IAATO) was created to promote a safe and environmentally responsible tourism industry and that works closely with the Antarctic Treaty Parties, which is a partnership of more than 50 countries jointly governing the continent.