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Airlines Operating Special Solar Eclipse Flights To Give Passengers a 30,000-Foot View of Phenomenon

Southwest Airlines and Delta Air Lines are operating flights that will follow the eclipse’s path of totality in America on April 8.

A Southwest Airlines 737-700 pushing back in Pittsburgh. (Photo: AirlineGeeks | William Derrickson)

Some airlines are offering special flights to see April’s total solar eclipse, giving passengers a unique opportunity to witness the astronomical event from 30,000 feet.

The April 8 eclipse — when the moon passes between the Earth and sun, blocking out the sun’s rays — will pass over North America, and those in the right place will spend about 4-and-a-half minutes under the cloak of darkness. A lucky few will have the opportunity to observe the eclipse’s totality for longer as they soar through the sky chasing the early night.

Southwest Airlines and Delta Air Lines are operating flights that will follow the eclipse’s path of totality in America. The Delta flight was so popular among astronomy enthusiasts that the flights sold out in 24 hours, prompting the airline to add a second. This next total solar eclipse visible from the contiguous United States won’t occur until 2044.

Delta announced the news Monday about flight 1010, which will be operated on an A321neo and will depart from Dallas Fort Worth International Airport and arrive at Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport. Sold-out flight 1218 will be operated on an A220-300 and will hit the skies from Austin-Bergstrom International Airport before landing in Detroit.

Eclipse Viewer – Purple Galaxy | The Space Store

The airline is deploying bigger aircraft with larger windows to enhance the experience and “is the result of significant collaboration and exemplifies the close teamwork Delta is known for,” said Managing Director of Domestic Network Planning Eric Beck.

Southwest shared news about its totality-path flights after the October solar eclipse, which Chief Meteorologist David Dillahunt called “an exciting sneak-peak of the total solar eclipse.” Those flights will depart from Dallas, Austin, and St. Louis. The airline is also holding a sweepstakes for a “total eclipse experience,” including a flight and stay at Omni Hotels in the departure cities of Dallas and Austin and the arrival cities of Pittsburgh and Indianapolis.

The airline operated similar flights in 2017, making it a no-brainer to celebrate this year’s eclipse from the skies, said Southwest spokeswoman Ashley Bain.

“For us, it’s connecting people to places and experiences … this is what we do best,” she said, adding that the eclipse is an anticipated moment of 2024.

Bummed you couldn’t make one of the special flights? Both Delta and Southwest have other flights that could pass through the totality path.

Totality will last nearly twice as long as the 2017 eclipse, when the longest period of totality was 2 minutes and 42 seconds near Carbondale, Ill., NASA said. April’s totality will last about 4 minutes and 28 seconds, the agency projected. The path will stretch from Texas through Maine, stunning viewers along the way and even scrambling animals, who think night has fallen early.

Alaska Airlines in 2017 operated a special invitation-only flight that gave passengers an unreal look at the eclipse. Although the airline isn’t offering flights that chase this year’s eclipse, it’s offering flights to destinations that fall in the eclipse’s path of totality to get space nuts in the right place.

Tanya Harrison, a planetary scientist who works at the Earth and Planetary Institute of Canada, was one of the experts on the 2017 flight who took in the eclipse from the skies. She has also witnessed a nearly total eclipse in Arizona and said viewing it from an airplane “was hands down probably the coolest thing I’ve ever gotten to do, including working on Mars Rovers.”

“There’s something about space that fascinates everyone,” she said. “The sky is a shared experience. We can all look up and see what’s going on.”

Whether viewing from an aircraft or on the ground, Harrison urged viewers to use eclipse glasses to avoid eye damage. She said airlines offering the special flights was “fantastic” and provided a way to enhance the experience by “opening up the opportunity to experience how amazing the universe is.”

Witnessing the spectacle from an aircraft provided a different experience than viewing from the ground. Harrison said the clouds turned yellow and were illuminated by remaining light. While she and other scientists were mesmerized watching the astronomical event, eclipse enthusiasts on board watched shadows playing on the clouds that would’ve been impossible to observe from the ground.

The eclipse also offers a huge potential for an economic boost as tourists and umbraphiles descend upon cities perfectly situated for totality viewing. The 2017 eclipse, which crossed 14 states, injected millions of dollars into local economies after decades without a total eclipse.

Brinley Hineman


  • Brinley Hineman

    Brinley Hineman covers general assignment news. She previously worked for the USA TODAY Network, Newsday and The Messenger. She is a graduate of Middle Tennessee State University and is from West Virginia. She lives in Brooklyn with her poodle Franklin.

    View all posts

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