Aer Lingus has confirmed a long-expected franchise deal with Emerald Airlines to replace collapsed Stobart Air for regional air services.
The 10-year agreement starts in January 2023 and in the meantime the Irish flag carrier will work closely with the start-up “to evaluate options with respect to an earlier contract start date in light of Stobart Air recently ceasing operations”.
Emerald Airlines will operate ATR turboprop aircraft on regional routes in Aer Lingus branding and livery.
The new deal could also mean more than 400 new jobs between now and the start of services in 2023.
The aim is to support Aer Lingus’s Dublin hub by providing connectivity for UK regional airports to North America via the Irish capital.
The agreement will offer connections between Ireland and regional airports in the UK, the Isle of Man and Jersey, with options for network expansion to further airports in the future.
Aer Lingus worked quickly to plan a replacement schedule for Aer Lingus Regional customers following the “unexpected closure” of Stobart Air in June operating six routes until at least the end of March 2022.
British Airways’ franchise carrier BA CityFlyer is also operating four additional routes for the rest of the summer.
Aer Lingus has been transferring customers onto replacement flights in order to minimise disruption.
Where no replacement flight has been scheduled, Aer Lingus said it is booking customers onto alternative flights.
Aer Lingus chief executive Lynne Embleton said: “Aer Lingus’s strategic intent to develop Dublin airport as a hub between Europe and the US, to deliver greater connectivity and aviation jobs, is significantly boosted by today’s announcement.
“This franchise agreement with Emerald Airlines marks a new chapter in Aer Lingus Regional services and brings choice and certainty to our customers flying between Ireland, the UK and beyond.
“We very much look forward to partnering with Emerald Airlines, and to growing and developing Aer Lingus Regional over the coming years.”
Emerald Airlines founder and chief executive Conor McCarthy said: “This is a major development for Irish Aviation and the wider tourism industry. The combined strengths of both airlines will allow us to offer optimised connectivity from popular cities and routes across Ireland, the UK and beyond.
“Emerald Airlines have ambitious plans to grow and develop this partnership over the next few years with the first ATR aircraft joining shortly.
“As we add additional aircraft to our fleet we will be recruiting more than 400 new staff members – a great boost for the industry which has been so badly impacted by the pandemic.”