Being Posted To The Falkland Islands (Part One)
Updated: Jan 23, 2019
We've just been posted to the Falklands for the second time and couldn't be happier because we both love the place and would recommend it to anybody, however if it’s your first time and you don’t really know what to expect, have a read of this short blog...
The Falklands is 8000 miles away from the UK so it's going to take a long time to get there!
There are a three main ways to travel...
Option number 1 - You could visit on a cruise ship, these usually visit the Islands between October and March.
Option number 2 - You could fly via South America, there is a flight from Santiago every week.
Option number 3 - You could fly direct from RAF Brize Norton which takes about 19.5 hours, this breaks down into 2 legs and a short stop over in Cape Verde or Ascension Island (When the Runway is fixed).
If you’re assigned down on a military posting you'll be taking option number 3!
Now before you even start your journey you’ll need to ship everything that you want in your married quarter, but remember you can only take a small amount of stuff (approximately 10 cubic metres...the rest of your belongings will end up in storage in the UK until you move back). People will tell you not to take a lot of stuff because there is already a house full of furniture BUT it’s all military issued furniture and that really isn’t great, if I could turn back time I would have shipped our sofa because the ones here are shocking and are very unsuitable for an afternoon nap!
Shipping your stuff can take between 6 and 8 weeks to arrive and it could then be a further 2 weeks for it to actually get to your house, so you could be without your own household goods for a couple of months on arrival depending on whether the dates of the resupply ship line up with your posting dates. If you have more than a few months notice, you can ship the belongings early, as it is easier to be without stuff back in the UK, but it’s not unheard of for people to get 3 weeks notice at times!
You’ll be living on a military base called Mount Pleasant and depending on who you talk to it will be called MPC or MPA (referring to either complex or airport)... A lot of the RAF personnel still refer to it as RAF Mount Pleasant (...wishful thinking...) but I call it MPC, as do the majority of people here...
There are three types of houses offered to families and it all depends on your spouses rank and the size of your family to which type you get.
When you travel down, you'll start your journey at RAF Brize Norton and you'll most likely be flying on either a Monday or Thursday morning (Very Early) the flights leave about 1am. Check in is about 9pm the night before. I say most likely, because those are the official flight days, but 24hr delays or even cancellations are not uncommon...
...This is usually because of the Falklands weather (and something we're not allowed to talk about) but hey on the bright-side, if you do end up being delayed at Brize, you'll get to stay in the 'amazing' Gateway Hotel which is like a travel lodge but 10 times worse...
Now...RAF Brize Norton...Don’t make the mistake of thinking this is equipped like any other airport. I would recommend eating before you get to the terminal because there isn't a restaurant or anything like that, there isn't even a cafe, there's one shop that sells a few things and the hot drink machine is pretty hit and miss...
You'll be flying on the Voyager A330 operated by 'Air Tanker' everybody calls it the Airbridge and when you get on the plane you'll see how nice and spacious it is (seriously, this is the one positive part of this journey!) you'll also notice everybody eyeing up the empty seats. Getting a 4 seater all to yourself is like winning the lottery BUT BETTER! This is everybody's goal!
Once in the air the Air Tanker staff are brilliant. They look after you really well and you’ll be fed A LOT! The aircrew will wake you up to eat, even if you don’t want to eat you’ll be woken up..like every 3 hours! It’s like being a baby again, the lights will be turned on which means feeding time and when feeding time's over, the lights will be turned off which means sleep time!
Don’t believe me? Wait and see...
There is entertainment on the flight but it's limited to what they put on the central screens, so I would recommend taking your own films to watch.
If you're unlucky like I was the last time I travelled down here, you'll be flying on the 'reserve' plane which is an old Jet2 aircraft... It’s still operated by Air Tanker so you'll still get the good in-flight service HOWEVER the seat's don't recline and the arm rests are just in the way so even if you do get a 4 seater you can’t fully enjoy the experience! Just what you need for a 19.5hr journey!
The first leg of the trip is about 6 hours and in my opinion this is the worst leg because it feels like you've been forced to get up in the middle of the night when you start the decent into Cape Verde.
After a short 2.5 hour stop over, you'll be told to reboard the plane ready for the 2nd leg (the longest leg)
During this leg there always seems to be more turbulence than the first but on the bright-side you will be fed lots and lots of food again :)
After 19.5 hours you'll land at Mount Pleasant International Airport and you'll be welcomed by sunshine, rain, snow, sleet, thunder, it depends what time of year you land really.... actually no it doesn't, the weather is very sporadic and you can have 4 seasons in a day. One thing you can guarantee in the Falklands is the wind!!
When the plane comes to a halt, everybody will stand up and start getting their bags, only to be told repeatedly to sit back down (people still won't listen though) whilst you receive a short welcome brief by the arrivals team. Just sit back down, they won’t deliver the brief until everyone does.
Once you’re in the terminal building and you’ve been through immigration it’s then just a waiting game for you’re bags to arrive, I don’ t know why but mine always come out last...
The longer you wait for you bags though, the more chance you’ll have to see the military police drugs dog take a poo on the carousel which is always very amusing, provided it’s not on your bag!
Once you have you’re bags it’s then just a short walk through to arrivals where you'll always see someone who thinks they’re hilarious wearing a penguin costume, they’ll have a gleaming smile on their face because they’re more than likely picking up their replacement, and due to leave the following week!
So that's it for now, you've arrived in the Falklands, look out for my next blog - 'Being Posted To The Falklands - Part Two'