Lufthansa undertaking record flight from Hamburg to Falkland Islands

Polar explorers aboard airline's 13,700-kilometre, 15-hour, non-stop historic flight
01 February 2021

Lufthansa is undertaking a 13,700-kilometre, non-stop, 15-hour historic flight from Hamburg-Fuhlsbüttel to Mount Pleasant on the Falkland Islands on Monday (February 1, 2021). The longest flight in its history will see the airline bring scientists and polar explorers to an airfield on East Falkland. The passengers will then travel onto Antarctica to join the Polarstern research vessel.

Lufthansa flying explorers aboard Airbus A350-900

The Lufthansa Group is operating its most sustainable aircraft, an Airbus A350-900, on the non-stop flight from Hamburg to Mount Pleasant in the Falkland Islands on behalf of the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI) in Bremerhaven. Some 92 passengers including scientists and the crew of the Polarstern research vessel have been booked on the charter flight LH2574 for their upcoming expedition. 

Thomas Jahn, Lufthansa's Fleet Captain and Falkland Project Manager, said: "We are pleased to be able to support a polar research expedition during these difficult times. Commitment to climate research is very important to us. We have been active in this field for more than 25 years and have equipped selected aircraft with measuring instruments. Since then, scientists all around the world have been using the data collected during the voyage to make climate models more precise and improve weather forecasts."

Aircraft sealed until take-off 

Preparations for the flight have been meticulous and began last summer with the Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI). The extent of the COVID-19 pandemic in South Africa had made the usual flight route via Cape Town unfeasible. The only option was the route via the Falkland Islands. Captain Rolf Uzat and his 17-member crew as well as the passengers went into a simultaneous 14-day quarantine in January to meet the stringent hygiene requirements. "Despite the crew restrictions for this particular flight, 600 flight attendants applied for this trip," said Uzat.

The pilots had to undergo special training with electronic maps for take-off and landing and managing the kerosene available in the Mount Pleasant military base for the return flight. The Airbus A350-900 has been stationed in Munich in preparation for the flight and will be loaded with additional cargo and baggage, which has been disinfected and will remain sealed until departure from Hamburg. Apart from catering facilities, the airline has provided for extra waste containers on board, which can only be disposed of when the aircraft arrives back in Germany. 

Essential research in Southern Ocean 

The institute has been planning the expedition for years, said Dr. Hartmut Hellmer, physical oceanographer and head of the Polarstern expedition. "For decades, we have been collecting fundamental data on ocean currents, sea ice and the carbon cycle in the Southern Ocean. As these long-term measurements form the basis for our understanding of polar processes and the urgently needed climate predictions, it is important that research in Antarctica continue in these difficult times. We cannot allow for large data gaps in climate research. The World Economic Forum's recently published World Risk Report continues to rank failure to combat climate change among the greatest threats to humanity," he stressed. Thus, research in Antarctica will continue despite the pandemic.