Special 'flight to the lights' service set to head off on aurora australis spotting mission in March

In the right conditions, the aurora australis can be seen as far north as Dunedin, but your best chances of seeing the natural phenomenon mean heading much further south. Now, travel company Viva Expeditions has made this a lot easier, launching a special flight to the lights that'll take off in March, 2021.

Passengers will be able to observe the southern lights from onboard an Air New Zealand Boeing 787 Dreamliner that'll take off from Christchurch International Airport, where it will also land several hours later.

The flight will climb to a level where clouds shouldn't be a problem and any light pollution will be hundreds of kilometres away.

Onboard, customers will be joined by astrophysicist and aurora hunter Dr Ian Griffin, along with a team of expert astronomers who will provide information about the aurora australis and space in general as the flight heads south.

Originally from the UK, Griffin became a New Zealand citizen in 2018 after falling in love with the clear dark skies of the Otago Peninsula where he has been the director of the Otago Museum since 2013. 

Rachel Williams, the founder and managing director of Viva Expeditions said the Air NZ aircraft being used for the flight is ideal.

"The Dreamliner is the perfect plane for this journey into the stars as it has windows which are 30 percent larger than any other Boeing wide bodied aircraft and 20 percent larger than the new Airbus aircraft. Also, the Dreamliner emits 20 percent less emissions than its nearest comparable aircraft in the same class," Williams said. 

"We will be travelling as far as latitude 62 degrees, where the aurora is its brightest."

Williams said while no guarantee can be given that the aurora will appear during the flight, two previous similar flights had almost eight hours viewing time.

Training will be provided on how to photograph an aurora, but if you don't fancy yourself as a photographer if you want to just enjoy the moment, a professional photographer will be onboard taking photos of the phenomenon.

Tickets cost between $1195 and $6995, with a full food and drink service in both business and economy classes. 

Viva Expeditions says its March 20, 2021 flight is fully sold out, but tickets to a second March 21 flight are now on sale.