Aer Lingus Partners With Emerald Following Stobart Air Collapse

Small startup carrier Emerald Airlines has been selected as the airline for Aer Lingus’ regional operations. Aer Lingus made the announcement today, August 4th, which will see the IAG member enter into a 10-year franchise agreement commencing January 1st, 2023. Let’s find out a little more about this small airline.

Aer Lingus regional Stobart Air ATR 72
Emerald Airlines will operate ATR aircraft for Aer Lingus Regional. Photo: Getty Images

“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.” – Lynne Embleton, Chief Executive Officer, Aer Lingus

Stepping in for Stobart Air

With the collapse and closure of Stobart Air, Irish carrier and IAG member Aer Lingus was left without a partner to conduct its regional operations. In the aftermath of Stobart ceasing operations, both Aer Lingus and BA CityFlyer stepped in to fill some of the services.

While BA CityFlyer might be able to do this to some extent with its Embraer regional jets and Aer Lingus with its Airbus A320s (its smallest aircraft), these aircraft are not as well suited for some of the regional services Stobart had operated with its ATR72s.

This has led Aer Lingus to seek out a new regional partner to fill the gap left by Stobart and its aircraft.

Aer Lingus a320
Aer Lingus’ smallest aircraft is the Airbus A320. Photo: Aer Lingus

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Contract to commence in 2023- or sooner?

The contract is due to commence on January 1st, 2023- some 18 months away. However, it sounds like Aer Lingus is attempting to expedite the process and move the start date up. In an official statement, the airline says that it “continues to work closely with Emerald Airlines to evaluate options with respect to an earlier contract start date in light of Stobart Air recently ceasing operations.”

Under the agreement, Emerald Airlines will operate ATR turboprops on regional routes, with these aircraft painted in the Aer Lingus livery. Aer Lingus says that this new agreement will offer “quick and convenient connections” between the island of Ireland and regional airports in the UK, the Isle of Man, and Jersey. The airlines are also open to “network expansion to further airports in the future.”

The CEO of Emerald Airlines, Conor McCarthy, notes that the airline’s first ATRs will be joining the fleet “shortly,” though no specific time frame or date was provided.

Stobart ATR
Stobart Air operated regional service for Aer Lingus with its ATRs, which were painted in Aer Lingus livery. Photo: Russell Lee via Wikimedia Commons 

McCarthy also calls the new agreement “a major development for Irish Aviation and the wider tourism industry,” adding that the combined strengths of both airlines will allow for the offer of “optimized connectivity from popular cities and routes across Ireland, the UK and beyond.”

Until Emerald Airlines is ready to take on the Aer Lingus Regional identity and its services, Aer Lingus and BA CityFlyer will continue to cover the gap left by Stobart. Aer Lingus will continue to operate six routes until at least the end of March 2022. Meanwhile, BA CityFlyer is also operating four additional routes for the rest of the Summer 2021 period.

Aer Lingus’ Dublin hub strategy

According to the CEO of Aer Lingus, the new franchise agreement between the two airlines will support Aer Lingus’s Dublin Hub strategy by “providing connectivity for UK regional airports to North America via Dublin.”

Aer Lingus a320
Having a strong regional offering will help Aer Lingus secure connecting traffic onwards to North America and Europe through its Dublin hub. Photo: Aer Lingus

In early July, Travel Weekly reported that Emerald Airlines is hoping to begin operations sometime this Fall. However, the start-up is still yet to be granted its AOC (Air Operators Certificate).

The airline’s CEO was on record as saying that Emerald should have 14 aircraft in service with 400 staff by the end of 2022.

Do you think Emerald Airlines will have an easy time obtaining its AOC? What do you think of Aer Lingus partnering with a new and unproven airline? Let us know by leaving a comment.