By Mohsin Abbas / The Santiago Times Staff
SANTIAGO — Britain’s top envoy in Chile has hailed the new London-Santiago direct flight service, which boosts the UK’s aim to find trade freedom “beyond the borders of Europe” after last year’s Brexit vote.
This year in January, British Airways started direct flight operations between London (Heathrow) and Santiago (Arturo Merino Benítez), becoming the airline’s longest route – the 14 hours and 40 minutes required to travel to the Chilean capital eclipsing the 13 hours and 50 minutes it currently takes the airline to fly between Heathrow and Buenos Aires.
Fiona Clouder, the British Ambassador in Chile, says the new flight opens up new possibilities of links between UK and Chile in a global world.
“A direct flight opens up real potential for more tourism, more trade, more investment, in both directions. Good for the UK. Good for Chile,” the envoy said at launch of the alliance between British Airway and Banco de Chile this week.
“The flight is already proving very popular -so popular that I could not get on it the other day to go to London, so I am hoping you will put on even more flights!” she added.
She further said many people ask her about Brexit and what is happening. “My answer is this is a great opportunity for links with Chile.”
Ms. Clouder’s statement is followed by PM Theresa May’s address to British Parliament, where she highlighted the unique global relationships with the diverse and vibrant alliance of the Commonwealth.
“I want us to build a new relationship with the EU that will give our companies the maximum freedom to trade with and operate in the European market – and allow European businesses to do the same with the UK,” May was quoted in a statement as saying.
“At the same time we will also seize the opportunity to forge our own new trade deals and to reach out beyond the borders of Europe to build relationships with old friends.
“And we look forward to deepening and enhancing our long standing relationship with Chile in trade and other areas.”
The British premier also underscored the importance of free trade. A topic on which Chile is today showing global leadership in convening a Summit of the Pacific Alliance and Mercosur countries to discuss future trade in a changing world. The UK is also an observer of the Pacific Alliance and shares those values with Chile of the importance of free trade and globalisation.
So this new British Airways flight comes at a significant moment in a changing world. A world in which global links and ease of travel to do business are ever more important.
It is part of a British Airways expansion into South America which has seen the carrier begin flights to Peru and Costa Rica in the last month.
Last year 46.000 British tourists arrived in Chile and with the new direct link, the number is expected to increase by 19%, including passengers from Europe. For Chile, this London direct flight is the fourth such link with European cities including, Madrid, Paris and Milano.
The Santiago route is flown by the carrier’s newest aircraft, the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner. The connection runs four times a week; introductory prices start at £749 return for a seat in economy, and £1,999 for a return business class ticket.
Despite being one of South America’s less-known capitals, Santiago is an intriguing city for visitors, with a rich cultural heritage. It is home to two neoclassical landmarks: the 1808 Palacio de la Real Audiencia, housing the National History Museum, and the 18th-century Metropolitan Cathedral.
It is also a gateway for visits to other areas of Chile – the colorful port-city of Valparaiso, the craggy vistas of the Atacama Desert and the wild landscape of Patagonia.