New Falklands link will halve the price of travel to the islands
One week today, travel to the Falklands becomes transformed with the launch of a new direct link from Sao Paulo – the main aviation hub of Brazil.
The South American carrier Latam will connect from Brazil’s largest city to Mount Pleasant airport, 33 miles from Stanley on East Falkland.
The nonstop flight takes about five hours each way.
Travellers will be able to leave Heathrow at 8.35pm on Tuesday, make a 90-minute connection in Sao Paulo and arrive in Mount Pleasant at 11.55am the next morning.
The new link makes dinner in London, breakfast in Sao Paulo and lunch in Stanley feasible.
Coming back the trip is even faster, with a quick 75-minute transfer providing a 17-hour journey from the Falklands to the UK.
But the biggest difference is the fall in the cost of a trip. The existing “airbridge” operated by the charter AirTanker on behalf of the RAF costs £2,222 return. It is also closed to citizens of 10 countries, including China, Egypt and Russia.
The RAF service refuels in Cape Verde, but travellers are not allowed to break their journey.
On a series of dates checked by The Independent, fares on a Heathrow-Sao Paulo trip are typically £1,300 return on Latam – though the price can be cut below £1,000 for a slower journey back via Sao Paulo and Rio.
Alternatively, the new link – available on its own for around £550-600 including 23kg of baggage – can be combined with deeper journeys into South America.
Latam already operates a weekly flight from Santiago in Chile via the southern Chilean city of Punta Arenas.
Once each month, the new flight will also land at Cordoba in Argentina – the nation’s second city, 400 miles northwest of Buenos Aires.
A direct flight from a key Argentinian city, with a population of 1.3 million, is seen as a significant gain. Around 400 Argentinians visit each year, making the nationality second only to UK – which supplies 650 annual visitors.
Cordoba, not Buenos Aires, was chosen because a direct link from the Argentinian capital to RAF Mount Pleasant was felt to be politically unacceptable.
Stephanie Middleton, executive director of Falkland Islands Tourist Board, told The Independent: “We’re all very excited, because it will give us a lot more opportunities – and the cost of the flight will be much cheaper.
She promised: “A good friendly welcome from all Falkland Islanders. We’re looking forward to a lot of new people.”
Negotiations for the air link took over two years.
Most visitors to the islands are visiting either to view wildlife or to see the sites associated with the 1982 Falklands conflict.