Stobart Air to spend almost €14m boosting fleet

Contract airline to lease new aircraft on foot of State-funded public-service contracts

Stobart Air is announcing plans to spend €13.8 million on expanding its fleet on foot of winning public-service contracts in January.

Stobart Air is announcing plans to spend €13.8 million on expanding its fleet on foot of winning public-service contracts in January.

 

Contract airline Stobart Air is spending almost €14 million on boosting its fleet after winning State-funded deals to fly services between Dublin and Donegal and Kerry.

Stobart, which provides the Aer Lingus Regional service for the bigger Irish carrier, recently won public-service contracts to fly routes between Dublin and airports in Donegal and Kerry, under the same brand.

Stobart is announcing plans today to spend €13.8 million on expanding its fleet on foot of winning the contract in January.

The expansion plans include acquiring a new ATR42 aircraft for the Dublin-Donegal route. This will allow the airline use a larger ATR72 for the Kerry service, increasing seat numbers on those flights by 50 per cent this year.

More than 33,000 people flew between Dublin and Donegal last year, while 51,000 used the Kerry route. Stobart believes it can grow those figures to a combined total of 100,000.

Stobart is leasing the ATR42 from Nordic Aviation Capital, which specialises in providing small aircraft for use on regional routes to airlines. The Danish-based aviation financier has an office in Limerick.

Taxpayers fund the Dublin-to-Donegal and to Kerry services as the Government believes they are necessary for economic development, but no airline would fly them on a commercial basis.

Aer Arann, whose business Stobart rescued from insolvency, originally operated public-service-obligation route services and the Aer Lingus Regional franchise.

Contract

The Department of Transport announced last month that Stobart had succeeded in winning the new contract, which runs until the end of January 2022, but did not say how much the airline would receive for operating the service.

Stobart first won the public-service contracts in 2015, when Loganair stopped operating the taxpayer-funded routes.

Graeme Buchanan, Stobart Air managing director, argued that regional connectivity was vital in the Republic.

“Aer Lingus Regional’s track record on the Kerry and Donegal routes is strong, with passenger numbers growing year on year,” he said.

“We have seen passenger numbers grow by 53 per cent for Donegal and 35 per cent for Kerry over the past two years.”

Kerry Airport chairman Denis Cregan said that continuing the public-service contract was critical to the county’s tourism and business.

Figures published this week showed that holidaymakers spend about €400 million in Killarney, one of Kerry’s chief attractions, every year.

Stobart Air also flies routes under contract for British airline Flybe.