Another Azores mercy flight planned
Most of the 62 Portuguese nationals who quit the island in a special repatriation flight this week left because they had lost their jobs — and many had “left for good”, the travel agent who arranged the flight said yesterday.
Luisa Da Ponte, of Trip Limited in Hamilton, said the agency planned another Azores Airlines charter flight towards the end of the year.
Ms Da Ponte added she and three colleagues had worked for three weeks with the Portuguese Consulate to organise Tuesday’s flight, which was “a big challenge”.
She said: “I would say most everybody in that charter was due to not having jobs, whether some jobs closed or some contracts were not signed.”
Others reasons ranged from people whose spouses had fallen ill, or older residents who wanted to return home.
Ms Da Ponte, who is of Portuguese descent, said: “It was my first time doing this, but I love a challenge. I did it for the community, because everybody has been talking about what to do.”
Tickets cost $1,400, in part because some Portuguese residents cancelled their tickets as they gambled on the chance of regaining their jobs.
Ms Da Ponte said: “I ended up with half what I’d had. People cancelled saying businesses are applying for a contract.”
But she added: “It was not a charter to make money. It was to help.”
Another flight with Azores Airlines, planned for December 10, is being organised for Portuguese residents overseas who wanted to visit family here.
The return flight is expected to take off on January 2 next year. Ms Da Ponte said she had no idea whether the departure of Portuguese workers would turn into an exodus.
She added: “Right now, I don’t know what the Government is going to do. So I am looking out for that.”
But she said she was optimistic that the air connection could prove useful for the island when tourism returned.
Ms Da Ponte said: “It will be a good future for Bermuda if we can do that between Bermuda and Europe, through the Azores.”
The One Bermuda Alliance government in 2016 signed a memorandum of understanding with the Azores, a Portuguese autonomous regain, to strengthen ties.
The island also marked Portuguese Day, a one-off public holiday, last November to celebrate 170 years of the arrival of the first Portuguese immigrants to Bermuda.
• To contact Trip Limited about charter flights, call 292-8747
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