Aer Lingus Regional, which is run on a franchise basis by Stobart Air, collapsed last night as Stobart Air went into administration.
Twelve routes were currently operating under the franchise deal but are now suspended:
- Dublin – Kerry
- Dublin – Donegal
- Dublin – Glasgow
- Dublin – Edinburgh
- Dublin – Manchester
- Dublin – Newquay
- Belfast City – Manchester
- Belfast City – Birmingham
- Belfast City – Edinburgh
- Belfast City – Leeds Bradford
- Belfast City – Exeter
- Beflast City – East Midlands
This was, to be honest, almost inevitable.
In late 2020, Aer Lingus awarded the contract to run Aer Lingus Regional services to Emerald Airlines. This was a controversial decision because Emerald Airlines did not actually have any aircraft at the time. It was due to start running services from the end of 2022.
From that point Stobart Air – which was relying on the Aer Lingus contract for the bulk of its revenue – was in trouble.
As we covered, Stobart’s parent company put the airline up for the sale. A few weeks ago it announced that it planned to sell to a start-up company based in the Isle of Man called Ettyl. Carlisle Lake District Airport was also to be included in the sale.
Ettyl was run by a 26-year old called Jason Scales with no experience in the airline industry. Two weeks ago, Stobart’s parent company, Esken, announced that the sale was now in doubt because Ettyl could not raise the necessary financing as promised.
With no other bidders in the frame and with no immediate prospect of a short term pick-up in UK flying, the demise of Aer Lingus Regional last night was not a surprise.
What does Aer Lingus do now?
Aer Lingus now has an issue. Emerald Airlines is not in a position to pick up these routes for another 18 months, although clearly Stobart Air’s fleet of 13 turboprop aircraft are now available.
In the meantime, competitors will fill the gaps on its most lucrative routes. These competitors will be well established by the time that the Emerald Airlines franchise is finally launched, and Aer Lingus Regional may struggle to win back market share, apart from connecting traffic at Dublin.
EDIT: Aer Lingus and BA CityFlyer to step in this week
During Saturday, it has been announced that, for at least the next week:
- Aer Lingus will operate the Dublin/Edinburgh, Dublin/Manchester, Belfast City/Manchester, Belfast City/Birmingham and Belfast City/Edinburgh routes using its own aircraft
- BA CityFlyer will operate the Belfast City/Exeter route and the Belfast City/Leeds Bradford route
Passengers due to fly on other routes will be offered alternative routings or refunds. It isn’t clear if these interim arrangements will continue beyond next week.
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