Aer Lingus Regional network operator Emerald Airlines plans to open a Belfast City Airport base this year.
Emerald won the contract to fly the Aer Lingus Regional franchise in July, and is due to begin its first flights from the Republic under that banner on St Patrick’s Day.
The carrier confirmed on Thursday that it plans to open a base at George Best Belfast City Airport from where it will fly to Scottish and English cities. These will include Edinburgh, Glasgow, Birmingham, Manchester, Exeter and Leeds, with more routes likely to be added throughout 2022.
The airline did not say when the base would open. It has applied to the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority for its air operator’s certificate and operating licence. It will confirm the dates and routes once it has received those permits.
Conor McCarthy, Emerald’s chief executive, said the applications were progressing well. He called the deal with Belfast City a huge opportunity.
“We are in advanced talks with British Airways and Aer Lingus regarding code sharing and other co-operation so that we can maintain the continuity and benefits of the current services offered by both airlines at Belfast City Airport,” he said.
Emerald intends to begin training staff for the Belfast operation next month. Mr McCarthy said it had received almost 1,000 applications and was in the final stages of hiring.
Belfast City Airport chief executive Matthew Hall said the business was pleased to see the Aer Lingus Regional franchise return.
“As the pandemic subsides we do expect to see an increased demand for travel – both to and from Belfast – and this ensures we are in a strong position to meet this demand.”
Aer Lingus itself and British Airways have been flying to Heathrow and London City airports since the previous regional franchise holder, Stobart Air, folded in June. Those services will not change, according to Thursday’s statement.
Emerald and Aer Lingus confirmed details of the regional network contract last July following several months of talks.