Falkland Islands celebrate groundbreaking new flight ‘opening island to the world’
WITH Britain on the brink of a new era after quitting the EU at the end of the month, a new direct flight to the Falkland Islands from Brazil will help open up the remote outpost to the world, a spokesman for the British overseas territory has predicted.
LATAM Airlines Brazil’s new weekly flight between the Falkland Islands and Sao Paulo allows passengers to make onward connections to multiple destinations in South and North America, Europe, Africa and Asia - and Government officials joined representatives of the Falklands Tourist Board and LATAM staff for a celebration to mark the occasion last night. A spokesman for the Falkland Islands Government told Express.co.uk up until recently flights were limited to two a week from RAF Brize Norton and once a week (Saturday) from Santiago in Chile.
He added: “The new flight from Sao Paulo is on a Wednesday and therefore opens up quicker transfer from UK and North America than the Santiago flight and also as they both operate with LATAM an option to fly in one way and out the other.
“So instead of having to do 1 week Saturday to Saturday you can now do a four-day, seven day, 11-day or 14-day etc period in the Falkland Islands.
“It also allows us to offer air miles and premier seating options that are not available on the RAF flight and also flights from Heathrow to Sao Paulo, rather than RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire for the military flight.
“We still value and support the twice-weekly military RAF Airbridge - it is just the new route gives more flexibility and capacity for the growing tourist and business traffic to the Falkland Islands.”
More than 30 years after the Falklands War, the issue of sovereignty is still contested by the Argentina, and the new route does not entirely bypass the South American country, despite some reservations from Islanders.
The spokesman added: “With regard to flights via Argentina, there is just one stop over a month with the Santiago flight and one stopover a month with the Sao Paulo flight, en route to Mount Pleasant in the Falkland Islands.”
Steph Middleton, the Executive Director of the Falkland Islands Tourist Board (FITB) added: "It's going to make a tremendous difference to tourism in the Falklands; with the current Santiago and UK flights full in summer months, this gives us the opportunity to grow and develop our tourism offering."
Nevertheless, LATAM is predicting significant commercial benefits to the Falkland Islands including an estimated increase in economic activity of over £2m annually as well as encourage growth in tourist, retail and hospitality sectors.
It also represents the fulfilment of one of the key commitments of The Islands Plan 2018-2022 – the Falkland Islands’ Legislative Assembly’s blueprint for building a prosperous, productive and positive future for the nation – which is to strengthen connections to the outside world.
In total, the chamber has 11 members, known as MLAs, the equivalent of MPs, and speaking in November, one of them, Barry Elsby, said: “This is a huge milestone in realising our goal of improving our global connectivity.
“Since we first announced the establishment of this new weekly flight, there has been a lot of excitement both at home and abroad, particularly given the opportunities for expanded economic growth and investment.
“The new service will significantly strengthen our ties with the outside world and provide a range of benefits for our community, not only in terms of expanding their opportunities to travel but also in terms of the movement of goods into and out of the country.”
Four times a month, LATAM Airlines Brazil will operate a return service between Mount Pleasant and Sao Paulo; six of these flights will be non-stop and once a month there will be a stop in Cordoba, Argentina on the southbound and northbound service respectively.
All flights are scheduled to arrive and depart on Wednesdays.
Speaking to Express.co.uk in November, Gavin Short, news editor of Falklands Radio, told Express.co.uk: “We have the existing LATAM flight between here and Chile that came around after the 99 agreement.
“Many folks were unhappy because we were forced to accept a touchdown in Argentina twice a month and the same can be said of the second LATAM link which is due to run to Brazil.
“I can’t find anyone who says that they are totally against more connectivity but there are a very large number that objects to Argentina holding the whip hand and only allowing the flight to happen if it touches down in their country twice a month.
“When it comes to the second flight, it is not so much the stopover in their country that would stop it but the refusal of overflight rights.
“It is actually, I believe, against international rules to stop a flight on this basis but in the past Argentina has refused overflight permission to aircraft heading to the Falklands."