By Winston Shek
Stobart Air plans liquidation and terminates operations
On Saturday, Stobart Air – the operator of regional services for Aer Lingus – announced that it would appoint a liquidator, canceling its franchise agreement with Aer Lingus Regional and forcing the cancellation of dozens of flights.
In a note to its 480 employees, Stobart Air said it was unable to strike a deal with suitor Ettyl Limited over the assets of its parent company, Esken Limited, due to a lack of funding. . As a result, Stobart Air terminated its franchise agreement with Aer Lingus and its wet lease agreement with British Airways. From now on, the regional carrier will appoint a liquidator.
Initially, Stobart Air was launched in 1970 as Aer Arann, a regional carrier in Ireland. In 2010, Aer Arann created Aer Lingus Regional with Aer Lingus, renamed Stobart Air in 2014. Prior to Covid-19, Stobart Air carried over one million passengers each year for Aer Lingus Regional, with 940 flights per week on 43 routes in Western Europe. Additionally, the airline has helped operate FlyBe services as part of the parent Connect Airways consortium. At one point, Stobart Air flew an Embraer E195 for KLM Cityhopper for flights to Geneva and Amsterdam.
However, in 2020, Connect Airways – a consortium formed by Stobart Group and Virgin Atlantic to buy UK regional carrier FlyBe – collapsed, prompting the takeover of the 49% Connect Airways owned by Stobart Group. Additionally, with low travel demand due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Stobart Air has performed fewer flights than ever before, with low load factors. In addition, Stobart Air lost its contract extension with Aer Lingus Regional, with the new company Emerald Air taking its place in 2023.
Before its collapse, the Dublin-based airline flew 12 ATR-72-600s and one ATR-42-600, using eight planes during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Late on the evening of June 11, Stobart Air informed Aer Lingus that it was terminating its franchise agreement with Aer Lingus with immediate effect,” Aer Lingus said in a statement. âAs a result, all regional Aer Lingus flights operated by Stobart Air are canceled. Stobart Air spoke of the continued impact of the pandemic which has resulted in almost no flights since March 2020. Stobart Air has ceased operations and is now in the process of appointing a liquidator. Aer Lingus apologizes to customers for the inconvenience caused by the cancellation at such short notice of all flights operated by Stobart Air. Aer Lingus is now communicating with customers to inform them of their refund or rebooking options. “
Around 11 routes are affected, from Aer Lingus Regional’s Irish hubs in Belfast City and Dublin to various cities in the UK and Ireland, including flights from Belfast City to Birmingham, East Midlands, Edinburgh, Exeter, Leeds / Bradford and Manchester, and Dublin to Donegal, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Kerry, Manchester and Newquay.
As a result, Aer Lingus has arranged alternate flights on multiple routes, with five routes using airliners and two routes temporarily operated for at least a week by BA CityFlyer. Specifically, flights from Dublin to Edinburgh and Manchester and flights from Belfast City to Birmingham, Edinburgh and Manchester will be operated by the main line Aer Lingus. Meanwhile, BA CityFlyer will operate flights from Belfast City to Exeter and Leeds / Bradford. However, regional Aer Lingus flights to London Heathrow are unaffected, already operated by the Aer Lingus core fleet.
In addition, the British regional airline Loganair has offered rescue flights to and from Belfast City. However, these flights apply to their current network and do not replace any flights on the Aer Lingus network.
According to Irish time, the Department for Transport plans to restore Irish-funded public routes, similar to Essential Air Service (EAS) in the United States, for flights from Donegal and Kerry to Dublin.
In a statement from the Irish Times, Irish Transport Minister Eamon Ryan said: âWe are engaging today with all stakeholders [Saturday] and over the next few days to restore connectivity to regional airports affected by today’s announcement.