Flying to South America

By | Category: Travel destinations, Travel news

Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro

Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro

During the next few years more of us will be travelling to South America. For a start, the football World Cup and the next Olympic Games will be held in Brazil. There is also the fact that nations like Bolivia, Peru and Venezuela are working hard to encourage us to go there with more publicity and advertising and that Mexico and the Dominican Republic are big destinations for us.

But this time if you want to travel there you are likely to travel on an airline few will know – Air Europa.

Older readers may think that Air Europa has been around for years but that is because the name is so similar to an airline called Air Europe which went bust in the early 1990’s. But as a charter airline some of us are familiar with it because Thomas Cook has used its services to take us to Mallorca which is where the airline is headquartered. Air Europa only entered the UK market four years ago as a scheduled airline but since then has undergone rapid expansion in the last year or so into linking us to South America.

Up to a year or so ago, it was generally a British Airways flight that got to a direct service to some countries or a change at Madrid and you flew on Iberia. But now that BA and Iberia are joined at the hip, Iberia has been withdrawing from a number of Latin America services. Step forward Air Europa which has been providing services at least as frequently as the old Iberia ones and in some cases, better.
If you holiday in the Caribbean or go further south, Air Europa has thirteen destinations you can fly to. In addition it has bases in North America with flights into California, Florida and New York. In all cases however there are no direct flights yet between the UK and central and Latin America. Like the old Iberia flights, you will need to change in Madrid and pick up your onward flight from there.

Given how many links Air Europa offers the holidaymaker what should you know about this airline? Firstly it is privately owned and is the third largest airline in Spain after Iberia and Vueling. (part-owned by BA/Iberia.) the people who bought into the airline in the early 1990’s still own and control it The name has been around since 1986 but it didn’t fly until 1993 when it served domestic routes in Spain. So this year, Air Europa is celebrating its proper 20th birthday. The route to London Gatwick began in 2009 and, as of writing, it operates from no other British or Irish airport. One monitoring company, Flighstats, says that they were Europe’s most punctual airline.

In November last year, Air Europa linked us with the largest city in Bolivia, Santa Cruz, which –somewhat surprisingly – is twinned with Edinburgh. Although La Paz is the capital, Santa Cruz is the commercial heart of the country. That doesn’t mean that there is little to see. Time you visit and you will be able to see the “Cruceños’ big party”, which is a popular celebration. Away from the city it is well a trip to the Missions of Chiquitos, a UNESCO World Heritage site which preserves the fusion of indigenous communities, with the thoughts of the colonists and created what is known as Selvatic Barroque Mestizo architecture. But you’ll need time as they are well over 100 miles away and to visit more than one will take a few days.

Montevideo and the Rio Plata

Last month they began a service to Uruguay a country comparatively little known to us. If we do know it at all it is probably because of the capital, Montevideo and its links with the Graf Spee in WWII or because of past football achievements. Uruguay has a population similar to that of Wales but is 16 times larger in area. Most of the people who visit the country are Spanish speaking or from South America and when they travel there it is increasingly for the beaches or for eco-tourism. People visit Montevideo where a large proportion of Uruguayans live because it is a thriving, growing city but also because of its colonial heritage buildings. West of the city is Colonia del Sacramento, a UNESCO World Heritage Site which retains its Portuguese and Spanish heritage. To the east are the booming coastal tourist destinations where beaches, sailing, and water sports attract visitors in our winter (their summer) from North America.

Later this year the airline will begin another flight linking us (again via Madrid) to Sao Paulo, the commercial hub of Brazil where there will be five services a week. By that time we should be quite used to this “new airline.” It can only be a short time before it starts linking other cities in the United Kingdom and Ireland with South America. And how long before the first direct service? I’m betting on a direct Rio de Janeiro connection before the World Cup out of Gatwick. And maybe flights to Madrid from another UK/Irish airport.

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