July 26, 2018 / 9:22 PM / 4 months ago

CORRECTED-Chile's Latam Airlines may add new weekly flight to Falklands

(Corrects name of Latam spokesman to David Harry instead of David Harris, paragraph 5)

SAO PAULO, July 26 (Reuters) - Chilean airline Latam is the “preferred operator” to add a new weekly flight between the Falkland Islands and South America, the islands’ government said on Thursday.

There are already three weekly flights to the islands, which sit off the coast of southern Argentina and have a population of 2,563, though only one of those flights is commercial.

A final decision is scheduled to be made in September, Rhian Burgess, head of communications for the Falkland Islands government, said in an email. It remains unclear what destination the new flight from the British territory would serve.

However, Latam and the government of Argentina, which with the United Kingdom had been spearheading the selection of an additional flight, said no decisions have been made.

“As of now, Latam has not been notified about the decision and awaits an announcement from the competent authorities,” David Harry, a Latam spokesman, said in an email.

Argentina’s foreign ministry said in a statement that airline proposals were “still being analyzed by the competent authorities in Argentina.” It did not mention Latam or any other potential airlines.

Argentina and Britain have sought to improve relations in recent years despite competing sovereignty claims to the British-held islands 500 kilometers (310.69 miles) off Argentina’s coast.

During Britain’s two-month war to reclaim the Falklands in 1982, 255 British troops and about 650 Argentine soldiers were killed. The majority of the Argentines who perished were on a Navy ship that sank.

The countries have been jointly searching for an airline to operate a fourth weekly flight since February.

Latam has operated a single weekly commercial flight between the Falklands and Punta Arenas, a city in southern Chile, since 1999, via a 200-passenger Airbus A320. Once a month, that flight stops in the southern Argentine city of Rio Gallegos before continuing to the islands.

As part of its proposal to operate a new weekly flight, Latam would add another monthly flight to Argentina, the Falklands government said. (Reporting by Marcelo Rochabrun; Editing by Dan Grebler and Grant McCool)

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