Aer Lingus poised to name Emerald Airlines as its new regional carrier

It is likely Emerald will begin flying regional routes from January 2022, a year ahead of the original timetable set for the service

“Aer Lingus and Emerald Airlines are at the final stages of agreement, and Aer Lingus is hopeful that an announcement will be made in the coming days,” the Irish flag-carrier said  at the weekend.  Photograph: getty Images

“Aer Lingus and Emerald Airlines are at the final stages of agreement, and Aer Lingus is hopeful that an announcement will be made in the coming days,” the Irish flag-carrier said at the weekend. Photograph: getty Images

 

Aer Lingus is poised to name Emerald Airlines as its new regional carrier this week, with the new service likely to begin in January.

The airline has been in talks with Emerald, founded by aviation entrepreneur Conor McCarthy, since December on taking over the Aer Lingus Regional contract formerly held by Stobart Air.

“Aer Lingus and Emerald Airlines are at the final stages of agreement, and Aer Lingus is hopeful that an announcement will be made in the coming days,” the Irish flag-carrier said in a response to a query at the weekend .

It is likely that Mr McCarthy’s operation will begin flying regional routes for its new partner from January 2022, a year ahead of the original timetable set for the service.

Stobart Air’s deal with Aer Lingus ran until the end of next year, but that airline folded in June, throwing a question mark over what would happen to the network between then and January 2023, when Emerald had been due to take over.

Aer Lingus sought bids late last year from carriers interested in taking on the regional contract, which was due to expire in December 2022. Stobart tendered again, but Emerald emerged as preferred bidder.

The company began talks with Aer Lingus in December on entering a 10-year agreement shortly afterwards. Speculation has been growing in recent weeks that the pair were close to a deal. Stobart’s closure had given the talks an added urgency.

On Friday, Lynne Embleton, Aer Lingus chief executive, confirmed that negotiations with Emerald were progressing well. “I would like to think they are close to a conclusion,” she added.

Stobart Air folded in June with the loss of 480 jobs, forcing Aer Lingus and its sister airline, BA Cityflyer, to take over routes from Dublin and Belfast to Britain.

The regional outfit flew more than 30 regional routes for Aer Lingus, mostly linking Ireland and Britain, before Covid-19 travel restrictions forced it rein in operations.

Ms Embleton subsequently signalled that Aer Lingus favoured Emerald taking over the contract ahead of 2023. She noted that it was not viable for either Aer Lingus or BA to fly the Belfast and Dublin routes in the longer term.

Regulator

Emerald is understood to be going through the final stages of getting its air operators’ certificate from the Irish Aviation Authority, the regulator responsible for safety and air navigation.

Trade publication reports recently stated that it had taken delivery of two ATR 72-600s, specialist short-haul aircraft. ATR is jointly owned by Airbus and Italian aerospace group Leonardo.

Mr McCarthy is a well known figure in Irish aviation. He began his career as an apprentice with Aer Lingus, from where he rose to become chief executive of the airline’s commuter service.

He subsequently worked for Ryanair before setting up his own consultancy. Mr McCarthy advised businessman Tony Fernandes on setting up Airasia, the far eastern low-cost airline modelled on the Irish giant. Mr Fernandes last year acknowledged that the Dubliner was one of Airasia’s “founding fathers”.

Mr McCarthy then returned to the Republic to establish Dublin Aerospace, an aircraft maintenance business with bases at Dublin Airport, Ashbourne, Co Meath, and Exeter in southern England.

The company services Boeing and Airbus jets flown by Ryanair and Aer Lingus among others. Its Irish operation has a core workforce of around 350, rising to 450 at peak periods. It employs around 100 people in Exeter.

Mr McCarthy was unavailable for comment at the weekend.