Stobart Air, which operates regional flights on behalf of Aer Lingus, has ceased trading and is in the process of appointing a liquidator.
Dublin-based Stobart Air’s network connected a range of UK airports with points in Ireland across 12 routes which have been cancelled.
A statement from Aer Lingus said the company was informed by Stobart Air late on Friday evening that Stobart was terminating its franchise agreement with the airline.
“As a result, all Aer Lingus Regional flights operated by Stobart Air are cancelled,” the airline said.
“Customers who were booked to travel on flights operated by Stobart Air are advised not come to the airport and to check the Aer Lingus website for updated information on refund or re-booking options.”
The statement added: “Stobart Air referred to the continuing impact of the pandemic which has resulted in almost no flying since March 2020.
“Stobart Air has ceased trading and is now in the process of appointing a liquidator.
“Aer Lingus apologises to customers for the inconvenience caused by the cancellation at such short notice of all flights operated by Stobart Air. Aer Lingus is now communicating to customers to advise them of their options for refund or re-booking.”
Stobart Air managing director Andy Jolly told staff an attempt to acquire the carrier from owner Esken by Isle of Man-based firm Ettyl had fallen through.
“Ettyl advised Esken that its original funding package to support the transaction was no longer available and that itwas is discussions on alternative funding options.”
However, Southend airport owner Esken said it was now clear that Ettyl is unable to conclude the deal and the transaction was terminated.
Esken then confirmed that it will not continue to provide financial support to Stobart Air, resulting in the termination of the franchise agreement with Aer Lingus and a wet lease aircraft arrangement with British Airways.
A statement from Stobart Air said: “It is with great regret and sadness that Stobart Air can confirm that the Board is in the process of appointing a liquidator to the business and the airline is to cease operations with immediate effect.
“This unavoidable and difficult decision means that all Aer Lingus Regional routes, currently operated by Stobart Air under its franchise agreement with Aer Lingus, have been cancelled.
“Stobart Air operated 12 routes from Dublin Airport and Belfast Airport and all passengers booked on the following Aer Lingus Regional routes are advised to check the Aer Lingus website for up to date information on refund or rebooking options:
- Belfast Airport to: Edinburgh; Exeter; East Midlands; Leeds; Birmingham and Manchester
- Dublin Airport to: Kerry; Donegal; Edinburgh; Glasgow; Manchester and Newquay
“Stobart Air apologises to all its customers for the inconvenience caused at short notice.
“All 480 staff at the airline have been informed.
“Last April, Stobart Air announced that a new owner had been identified. However, it has emerged that the funding to support this transaction is no longer in place and the new owner is now unable to conclude the transaction.
“Given the continued impact of the pandemic which has virtually halted air travel since March 2019 and in the absence of any alternative purchasers or sources of funding, the Board of Stobart Air must take the necessary, unavoidable and difficult decision to seek to appoint a liquidator.
“A franchise flying partner to leading domestic and international airlines, Stobart Air has acknowledged the significant contribution, loyalty, dedication of its 480-stong team of skilled and talented aviation professionals.”
In a series of tweets, fellow regional carrier Loganair said its “thoughts were with staff and customers” of Stobart Air and offered rescue fares for those affected.
It said: “Loganair is sorry to hear of the closure of Stobart Air this morning. Our thoughts are with its staff facing an uncertain future and customers whose journeys are disrupted by its cancellation of flights.
“If you were booked on a flight operated by Stobart Air, Loganair will offer a rescue fare on all of its routes to and from Belfast City of £60 one way including checked baggage to enable you to travel on any of our flights to complete your journey.
“Please book via contact centre on 0344 800 2855. You will need proof of a Stobart Air booking and this offer is open to bookings due to have travelled by the end of August 2021.”
Esken executive chairman David Shearer said in a trading update today (Monday): “It is disappointing for all stakeholders that we have been unable to conclude the sale of Stobart Air as a going concern despite the tireless efforts of my executive colleagues, the management team of the airline and the team of advisors who have supported them.
“I am acutely aware of the impact this will have on the staff, customers and the businesses associated with the airline but the continuing impact of the pandemic in terms of lockdown and limited travel has prevented us from achieving a better outcome.”
Which? Travel editor Rory Boland said: “Aer Lingus passengers who have been affected by these cancellations will want to know that their money and bookings are safe, so it is right that the carrier is contacting passengers to discuss their refund or rebooking options. It must also ensure that any passengers left stranded as a result are rebooked onto an alternative flight at their earliest convenience.
“Stobart Air ceasing trading will be sobering news for the industry as the pandemic’s impact continues to wreak havoc on the travel sector.
“With most foreign travel still grounded, it’s vital the government steps in with tailored support for the travel industry.”