The cancellation of the Brize Norton/Falkland Islands airbridge service this week, the last before Christmas, triggered much frustration and complaints among Falkland Islanders, who will now have to wait for the flight departing on December 27.
Some members of the public took to social media to express their disappointment stating the air bridge was an “appalling service”, another saying Islanders are “prisoners in our own country”, and the most sarcastic, “How the MoD Stole Christmas.”
But the British Forces in the South Atlantic also explained the reason for the delays, climate conditions, and UK defense commitments with Nato.
The release reads as follows, Following the short notice cancellation of TOW 2232 December 23, HQ British Forces South Atlantic Islands (BFSAI) would like to provide an update on disruption to the South Atlantic Airbridge schedule.
An extensive period of rotors has prevented any movements between Mount Pleasant Complex and the United Kingdom since Monday 20 December 22. This is now predicted to continue until Friday 23 December 22.
It had been hoped that TOW 2232 may have been able to arrive in a window of better weather on Wednesday 21 December 22, but sadly this did not prove forthcoming. Planning then switched to looking at options for the flight to arrive on Friday 23 December 22 when forecast weather was predicted to improve.
Unfortunately, this further delay of TOW 2232 brought it into direct conflict with other planned operational defense commitments. This included support to UK National Defense, NATO Defensive tasks and ongoing support to operations in Africa and the Middle East.
Concurrently, short notice emerging operational tasks of a higher priority also impacted on the finite resources available to support additional attempts to enable TOW 2232 to travel South.
Consequently, the extremely difficult decision has been made by operational tasking authorities in the UK to cancel TOW 2232. This decision was not taken lightly and the impact upon travelers so close to Christmas was considered, but it is regretted that operational tasking has taken priority.
Considerable work has been conducted by BFSAI, RAF Brize Norton, AirTanker and operational authorities in the UK to ameliorate the situation and move Southbound passengers as soon as possible but due to conflicting and higher operational priorities it has not been possible to generate another SAA prior to the flight planned for Tuesday 27 December 22.
BFSAI have already begun to plan on moving all military and fare-paying passengers from TOW 2232 onto TOW 2230 due to depart RAF Brize Norton on the 27 December 22, notwithstanding the potential for further periods of rotors every effort will be made to ensure the timely arrival of this flight.
BFSAI recognizes the frustration, disappointment, anger and emotional upset this will have caused to everyone within our community over the festive period. For that, we unreservedly apologize and offer our sincerest regret for the disruption it continues to cause.
In particular, we would extend an apology to those passengers, both civilian and military, who have been inconvenienced at RAF Brize Norton during the last 24hrs; it had been hoped we would have been able to get you in the Falkland Islands for Christmas, but sadly the weather and other commitments have conspired against us.
BFSAI staff will continue to work tirelessly during the festive period to enable TOW 2230 and will provide updates if any changes should occur.