THE inaugural second airlink between the Falklands and South America, in this case from São Paulo, Brazil, touched down at Mount Pleasant Airport on Wednesday afternoon.
Operated by LATAM Airlines, which also operates the link to Santiago Chile, the aircraft carried regular passengers plus a government and trade delegation from the Falklands, which flew to Brazil on Saturday. Also on board were journalists from the UK, Brazil, the Falklands and Argentina.
The delegation included Members of Legislative Assembly, civil service heads and private sector representatives (from fishing and land and cruise tourism in particular).
The group met trade officials and local business leaders in the hope of identifying opportunities for trade and promoting the Falklands.
Chief Executive Barry Rowland assured Penguin News that the businesses with whom the delegation met would "follow through."
Penguin News had Mr Rowland if any organisations had shown concern in relation to the Falklands and Argentina.
He replied: "The geopolitics of the region ... was not raised once by the businesses that I spoke to and isn't something that would appear to fetter the opportunity for trade. Brazil is a confident nation; it's certainly identified the opportunities and can see the opportunities very early on, and I can say with some confidence that these organisations will follow through."
He also anticipated that in the new financial year when things weren't so busy, there would be a trade delegation of Falklands businesses, but he said the recent delegation allowed that when those people did visit, "there would be a framework and they will get the best out of their visit."
Members of the delegation spent time with the consulate learning how trade worked in Brazil as well as with Brazilian tour operators.
Former manager of the Falkland Islands Development Corporation Martin Slater, who has been heavily involved in the lead up to the flight, said it was still very early days, "but I think that once people see the service start they will really start to make those investments in tourism and industries that could benefit from it [the flight]."
He said of course it had so far been difficult to do business with Brazil because of the difficulty of getting there but obviously this would now change.
With four return trips a month, LATAM Airlines Brazil will operate the service between Mount Pleasant and São Paulo; three of the return flights will be non-stop and once a month there will be a stop in Cordoba, Argentina on the southbound and northbound service respectively.
The service will allow passengers to make onward connections to multiple destinations in South and North America, Europe, Africa and Asia.
The cruise industry’s view
Long time friends of the Falklands, and representing the International Association of Antarctic Operators, were Director at Antarpply Expedition Ute Hohn-Bowen and IAATO Director of Operations and Government Affairs; Deputy Executive Director Lisa Kelley.
Ms Kelley told Penguin News, they were are incredibly honoured to be invited on board for the inaugural flight to the Falklands, “and we realise what an achievement this is.”
Ms Kelley said: “Having worked in the industry for the last 20 years to understand the complications, the strife, the efforts it has taken to get this flight into fruition is amazing.”
She explained: “Really for IAATO operators we look at all the gateway ports holistically, across the board, around Antarctica, and to be able to have this extra flight to operate into the Falklands certainly will open up a realm of opportunity for the Antarctic tour operators and also a chance for them to showcase the Falklands to a greater extent rather than having a transition period moving from South America to the Falklands. You fly directly into the Falklands. And to be able to show the guests first hand right off the bat how amazing the Falklands is.”
Transportation portfolio holder MLA Barry Elsby summed up the event saying: “The realisation of this new flight has taken an immense amount of work over a number of years.
“It will complement the present Saturday flight and make it easier for tourists and residents to come and go.”