Stobart could face competition to retain Aer Lingus regional contract

Other carriers interested in operating regional routes from 2022, IAG chief says

Aer Lingus has yet to renew its contract with Stobart Air to provide services on regional routes. The current agreement ends in 2022. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

Aer Lingus has yet to renew its contract with Stobart Air to provide services on regional routes. The current agreement ends in 2022. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

 

Stobart Air could face rivals in any bid to keep the regional services contract with Aer Lingus that is key to its survival.

UK aviation and energy business Stobart Group last week said that it was taking a majority stake in Stobart Air, but leaving voting control with staff through an employee share trust.

Willie Walsh, chief executive of Aer Lingus owner International Consolidated Airlines Group, said on Thursday that other carriers had expressed interest in operating the Aer Lingus regional routes now flown by Stobart Air.

Aer Lingus has yet to renew its contract with Stobart Air to provide these services. The current agreement ends in 2022.

Mr Walsh said any decision on this would be for Aer Lingus chief executive Seán Doyle and his colleagues.

“We have had a good relationship with them, but they got distracted by faraway hills,” Mr Walsh said of Stobart Air.

In statement last week, Stobart Group cited the partnership with Aer Lingus as crucial to ensuring Stobart Air’s future once the Covid-19 crisis has passed.

Under the existing contract, Stobart Air provides craft and crew to fly between the Republic and regional airports in Britain for Aer Lingus.

The larger airline sells the seats and pays Stobart Air a fee for operating the service.

Stobart Air was part of Connect Airways, a business jointly owned by Stobart Group, Virgin and Cyrus Capital Partners, that also owned defunct British airline, Flybe. Connect and Flybe are under court protection from creditors in the UK.