Max Kingsley-Jones/LONDON

A new UK airline will launch operations from the Falkland Islands in mid-April in support of the region's emerging oil industry. In the longer term the airline has ambitions to become a British Airways franchisee.

British South Atlantic Airways has signed a short-term deal with Australia's National Jet Systems for the wet lease of a British Aerospace 146-100, which it plans to replace in the second half of this year with a Boeing 737-200. The airline has been set up by Adrian Noskwith, founder of the UK charter company Centreline Aviation, and Falklands Islands entrepreneur Mike Summers.

"We will start weekly flights on 15 April, between Mount Pleasant Airport [East Falkland] and Sao Paulo [Brazil] via Montevideo [Uruguay], under a charter contract to an oil company," says Summers. The first oil rig is due in the area at about the same time the service is launched.

By September the airline is aiming to have expanded to a twice weekly service to open up the route to Falkland Islands residents. "By then we plan to have introduced a 737-200 on dry lease from British Airways," says Summers.

BA's consultancy division Speedwing has been involved in the formation of the carrier, and the new airline is understood to have discussed franchise operations. At the moment the only services to the Falklands from the UK are operated by Royal Air Force Lockheed TriStars via Ascension Island. The airline aims to provide an alternative, linking through Sao Paulo, which BA serves directly from London.

The airline believes that it can offer BA "two bites of the cherry", providing it with Uruguay feed as well as traffic from the Falklands. Longer term plans include the development of a regional network from Sao Paulo to points such as Lima in Peru, Santa Cruz in Bolivia, and Asunción in Paraguay.

The only direct air link from the Falklands to South America is operated by LanChile using 737-200s between Mount Pleasant and Santiago via Punta Arenas. Chilean airline Aerovias DAP had previously been serving the Islands from Punta Arenas.

Source: Flight International