Friday, December 18th 2009 - 03:40 UTC

Air Italy takes over air bridge UK/Falklands for the next few weeks

British military personnel were assured Thursday that they would not be stranded in the Falkland Islands despite the collapse of the only airline that flies direct to the Islands from the UK.

Air Italy founded in 2005 carries a million passengers annually and employs 700 personnel.

Flyglobespan had the Ministry of Defence contract to operate flights in and out of the South Atlantic outpost: four flights every fortnight in a Boeing 767 with a percentage of seats for civilians.

There were fears that islanders and military personnel would be unable to travel over the festive period after the Scottish firm's planes were grounded.

But the flights have been secured after another airline took over the contract, British Ministry of Defence reported.

Air Italy has taken it on for the short term and will operate the two flights a week to and from the Falkland Islands for the next few weeks.

The MoD used a central broker to find a substitute for Flyglobespan, which had operated the flights since winning a four-year contract in 2008.

A MoD spokeswoman said: “There will be no delays on the airbridge to the Falklands and Ascension Island as a result of Flyglobespan going into administration.

”The MoD lets contracts through brokers who have already employed Air Italy to replace the Flyglobespan flights in the short term. Negotiations are under way to determine a long term solution.“

The flights left RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire, calling at Ascension Island en route to the Falklands.

Many passengers from the island of St Helena, which has no airport, also sail three days to Ascension Island on the Royal Mail Ship St Helena to pick up the flight, saving themselves a five-day boat journey to Cape Town.

The aircraft carried up to 184 civilian and government passengers on each charter flight, as well as freight.

It was the only flight option for Falkland Islanders other than Chilean carrier Lan, which calls in weekly from Punta Arenas, extreme south of Chile.

Air Italy will run the flights under the same terms and conditions, the MoD said.

The MoD said it was trying to find a long-term solution for the route.

Flyglobespan cabin crews are reportedly stranded in the Falklands and on Ascension Island.

When it was announced in October last year, the contract was described as the ”most economical advantageous solution” to the MoD's passenger, aero-medical and freight requirements.

An alternative provider will also be found to cover a contract which had recently been agreed to fly military personnel to the Middle East en route to Afghanistan from January. (The Scotsman).-

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