Effective April 2017 it is no longer possible for civilians to fly into or out of Ascension Island. The Airbus A330 Voyager aircraft now used on the route between RAF Brize Norton, Ascension Island and the Falkland Islands is too heavy to land at Ascension Island. Accordingly tourist access is now only possible by sea on the RMS St Helena. I retain this review, originally written in 2013, as a personal record and in the hope that it might be of some historical interest to my reader.
Flights are unlikely to resume prior to 2019/20, per the UK Ministry of Defence.
Former Review –
Excluding being a passenger on a cruise ship or yacht there are two ways of getting to or from Ascension Island – by air or by sea. What makes life easy (if not cheap!) is that there is only one option for each – different and interesting though they are. See my separate tip, Ascension by Sea, for arrival by sea.
There are no commercial flights to Ascension Island and the only flight you can get is a Royal Air Force (RAF) flight from Brize Norton in Oxford, England or from the Falkland Islands – it’s the same flight. The RAF flight is a twice weekly flight from Brize Norton to the Falkland Islands via Ascension Island which then returns to Brize Norton via Ascension.
Don’t worry you will not be sitting on a hard bench in a Hercules. The plane is leased from and operated by Portuguese company Hi-Fly. It is a commercial Airbus A340. Leg room is more generous than normal and when I flew (and I understand this is normal) the plane was less than half full. As such, do not be upset if on check in you are not seated beside your travelling companion(s) – it means they are giving you a few seats. You can move seats once airborne. Food is reasonable and standard airline fare but all brought from the UK so if your returning to the UK from Ascension it has been on the plane a couple of days.
Flight Departure/Arrival times:
The duration of each flight is approximately 9hrs. Times are in Local Time. Ascension Island is on GMT all year round.
From Brize Norton (UK) to Ascension Island
Departs Brize Norton at approximately 2300hrs each Sunday
Departs Brize Norton at approximately 2300hrs each Wednesday
From Ascension Island to Brize Norton (UK)
Departs Ascension Island at approximately 2300hrs each Tuesday
Departs Ascension Island at approximately 2300hrs each Friday
Standard Class (Economy) around GBP510 one-way and GBP960 return
Premium Class (Premium economy) around GBP620 one-way and GBP1190 return
Fares do not vary (except perhaps up) – there are no specials, discounts, etc so don’t hang out looking for them.
Some important things to remember/ comments:
1. Only 10 seats are sold to civilians on each flight – book early
2. Flight timings are confirmed about six months out. A wait-list is maintained for flights not yet confirmed – get on it
3. Even after you have booked/paid the fare can change (you will be liable for any increase)
4. As these flights are under the control of the RAF it cannot be guaranteed that seats will always be available despite a seat confirmation, and you may not be embarked or may be offloaded if the required military payload (military personnel of freight) on that flight precludes a full compliment of civilian passengers being carried. In practice, no one recalls this ever happening and the last time it happened was probably during the Falklands Conflict
5. You booking must (except in emergency) be finalised 14 days prior to flight time
6. You cannot finalise your flight until you have been issued an Entry Permit – see my separate tip – Entry Permit
7. Bookings can only be made by the Ascension Island Travel Agency in Georgetown, Ascension. The staff there (a couple of them) are fantastic and the whole process is easy and efficient. Their website (currently non-operational – Aug 2017) contains all the details you need to know to book a flight
8. Being a RAF flight, security is strict
9. Both airports are very efficient and have adequate terminal facilities (more limited on Ascension)
10. Fairly standard commercial rules apply re check-in times and luggage
Access to airports (military)
Ascension – Obsidian Hotel Transit is the best option (relatively cheap). Contrary to what is written elsewhere they (Obsidian) don’t let you pick up / drop of rental cars at the airport
Brize Norton – Civilians are not permitted to use RAF transport and only a limited number of taxi company’s are permitted onto the air-base. The taxi fare to Oxford train station is around a steep GBP40 – just grin and treat it as a component of your fare. Other options, apart from car hire which is relatively easy, are messy. For further details, including list of permitted taxi company’s, see the RAF Brize Norton website (http://www.raf.mod.uk/rafbrizenorton/) taking care to ensure that what you are reading applies to civilian as well as military personnel.
The attached photo’s are all from Ascension Island from which I flew to Brize Norton. I arrived on Ascension by sea.