Crucial to the success of any new route for any airline is demand – a market for the new service.

In 1977, there was no question a market existed: “The phenomenon of Antarctic ‘day trips’ came on to the aviation scene early this year when a Sydney electronics millionaire, Dick Smith, chartered a Boeing 707 for a flight from Sydney to the northern Antarctic coastline. The response was so great he stepped up to the larger 747 and chartered more than one flight. This generated demand in New Zealand, and so at short notice Air New Zealand scheduled two DC10 flights for February 15 and 22.” 17

Equally important to the success of a new route is what the market knows about your product – how and where it is advertised.

Air New Zealand mounted the Antarctic flights at the request of, and in conjunction with, two New Zealand travel companies – Trans Tours and Stars Travel of Dunedin.18 From a 21st century perspective, we would expect there to have been a comprehensive, colourful and eye-catching publicity campaign. However, hunting through various archives reveals a puzzling lack of such marketing. Archived advertising material for the February 1977 flights – those arranged “at short notice” – is nigh-on non-existent, but the flights were sold out within five working days.19

The only “marketing” document uncovered for the inaugural flights was a news release prepared by Trans Tours on the 14th of January. It was an informative, factual offering with virtually no emotional appeal:

“Trans Tours, and Stars Travel Dunedin, in association with Air New Zealand will operate two DC10 flights to the Antarctic Continent in February 1977.

They will offer 470 New Zealanders a first ever opportunity to see the Antarctic as far in as McMurdo Sound.

Leaving Auckland at 8 am on February 15th and 22nd, the flights will return via Christchurch having covered nearly 5,400 miles by the time they touch down at Christchurch about 11 hours later.

The cost from Auckland will be $245 per passenger.

On the outward leg of each journey, the DC10 will overfly the Auckland Islands, Balleny Islands near the Antarctic coast, down the coast of Victorialand as far as McMurdo Sound, where McMurdo Station and Scott Base are located on Ross Island. On the return journey the aircraft will fly over Campbell Island.

Commentators on each flight will talk about the areas overflown.

A changeover system will be used to give all passengers equal opportunity to view points of interest.

If the weather is not clear enough for viewing in the Ross Sea, an alternative route could be to fly further west to the South Magnetic Pole and along the edge of the Antarctic ice cap.

The flights will be made at normal DC10 cruising altitude, but Air New Zealand say, subject to prevailing conditions and the Captain’s discretion, they may go lower for better viewing.

A commemorative certificate will be given to each passenger and there is no departure tax or foreign travel tax because the flights are returning to New Zealand without landing overseas.

Both Trans Tours, and Stars Travel Dunedin will offer special inclusive packages to South Island and Wellington passengers travelling to Auckland.”20

For subsequent flights – in an age where full-page, colour, newspaper advertisements for special fares across the Tasman or to Fiji were commonplace – advertisements for the Antarctic flights were small and insignificant.

Print advertisement for Antarctic flights of October-November 1977. (Courtesy Air New Zealand archives)

Once the inaugural flights had taken place, elaborate paid advertisements hardly seemed necessary. Newspapers began to report comments from passengers – “It was a moving sight, so wild, natural, untouched and beautiful. More than one of us were close to tears” 21 – and publish their photographs. Surprisingly, there is a lamentable lack of coverage in Air New Zealand’s own in-flight publications.

In the July-September 1977 issue of Jetaway, Air New Zealand’s international in-flight magazine, there appears a short feature on the Antarctic flights entitled “Fantastic Antarctic”. The text is brief, but states: “For the 250 passengers and crew on each flight it was the visual experience of a liefetime [sic] and they crowded the windows as a massive and strangely beautiful terrain drifted past.” The text has far less impact than the background of photos upon which it was set (below).

Photograph accompanying “Fantastic Antarctic” in Jetaway July-September 1977. (Courtesy Air New Zealand archives)

A cursory reference to the first flight is to be found in the Air New Zealand Staff News of 17 February 1977, and a more comprehensive coverage appears in the same publication dated 17 March 1977.

Item on page 4 of the Air New Zealand Staff News 17 February 1977. (Courtesy Air New Zealand archives.)


Air NZ in-flight brochure NZ901 15 February 1977 [Archives New Zealand reference: CAHU, CH282, Box2/3]

Air NZ in-flight brochure NZ901 15 February 1977  [Archives New Zealand reference: CAHU, CH282, Box2/3]

Air NZ in-flight brochure NZ901 15 February 1977 [Archives New Zealand reference: CAHU, CH282, Box2/3]

By far the most comprehensive coverage of the Antarctic experience was provided by Air New Zealand’s “Antarctic Experience” brochure. Not only did the brochure contain 16 pages of full-colour photographs from the previous flights, it also included photos of the early explorers, modern-day husky teams – and, of course, penguins. (Click here to view the brochure)

Part of the Antarctic flight experience was the service. For an economy fare, passengers were treated to a “super economy” cabin service, including a complimentary bar. The commemorative menus prepared for each flight included both a champagne breakfast and a three-course lunch – with some specially designed offerings.