For thirty months, air service between Chile and the Falkland Islands was interrupted due to the pandemic. Now LATAM Airlines has resumed flights between Punta Arenas and Mount Pleasant in the Falkland Islands, allowing Chilean and Peruvian fishermen who were stuck on the islands for two and a half years to finally return to their families.
On July 2, the first LATAM flight since the pandemic began left Punta Arenas with 21 passengers and flew back from the Falkland Islands with 41 passengers. “We are proud of being part of this crew after two years and eight months absence. Many happy faces and applause when we landed again in Chile,” said flight captain Andres Perez.
Many Chileans who work in the Falkland Islands and were unable to travel to their home country after Covid-19 broke out now no longer have valid passports and documents. Chilean authorities have a special counter for them in Punta Arenas, where they are helped with missing documents and hygiene issues. A humanitarian flight to help the Chilean community on the islands had been denied by Argentina.
According to Antonio Kaiser of the Chilean Foreign Ministry, authorities will issue the new documents and passports as soon as possible so that Chilean workers can return to the islands. “The Civil Registrar office is also working with the birth certificate of a two year old child, so we can extend him an ID,” Kaiser said.
Theoretically, there would have been also the possibility to fly to South America via Great Britain during the past two years. However, only some of those affected had the necessary papers and hardly any of them had the budget for this option.
As before the pandemic, the flight will operate once a week, with a stopover in Río Gallegos, Argentina, once a month. An Airbus A320 will operate on the route.
Julia Hager, PolarJournal
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