14 JUNE 2021
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The planned sale of Dublin-based Stobart Air, which operates the Aer Lingus Regional services on a franchise basis collapsed on Saturday (12 June).
All flights were initially cancelled. Whilst there is inconvenience to many and a loss of up to 480 jobs directly, plus in support services, Aer Lingus booked passengers will not suffer financially. It is possibly the first time ever a franchise operator has collapsed, opening up more problems for IAG.
The Stobart sale had already been thrown into doubt last month over proposed purchaser Ettyl’s ability to fund the deal. (See BTN 7 June.)
Pre-Covid, Stobart Air, as the franchise operator of Aer Lingus Regional (under a franchise agreement with Aer Lingus), flew over 900 flights weekly across 30 routes throughout Ireland, the UK and Western Europe.
Aer Lingus itself has stepped in to take over some of the routes in the short term, and surprisingly sister company British Airways CityFlyer (BACF), itself technically a franchise, the airline trading as British Airways. This is the first time a franchise has failed in many years and calls into question the Emerald Airways 2023 operation. (See BTN 24 May.) If some of the routes are not taken up by Aer Lingus other carriers might be interested, as happened with several Flybe services.
Here is the full statement from Stobart Air.
“It is with great regret and sadness that Stobart Air can confirm that the Board is in the process of appointing a liquidator to the business and the airline is to cease operations with immediate effect.
This unavoidable and difficult decision means that all Aer Lingus Regional routes, currently operated by Stobart Air under its franchise agreement with Aer Lingus, have been cancelled.
Stobart Air operated 12 routes from Dublin Airport and Belfast Airport and all passengers booked on the following Aer Lingus Regional routes are advised to check the Aer Lingus website for up-to-date information on refund or rebooking options:
Belfast Airport to: Birmingham, Edinburgh, Exeter, East Midlands, Leeds and Manchester.
Dublin Airport to: Donegal, Kerry, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Manchester and Newquay.
Last April, Stobart Air announced that a new owner had been identified. However, it has emerged that the funding to support this transaction is no longer in place and the new owner is now unable to conclude the transaction.
Given the continued impact of the pandemic which has virtually halted air travel since March 2019 and in the absence of any alternative purchasers or sources of funding, the Board of Stobart Air must take the necessary, unavoidable and difficult decision to seek to appoint a liquidator."
Initially Aer Lingus will operate the Dublin – Edinburgh, Dublin – Manchester, Belfast City – Manchester, Belfast City – Birmingham and Belfast City – Edinburgh routes using its own aircraft and BACF the Belfast City – Exeter and Belfast City – Leeds Bradford services. Passengers will quickly notice the upgrade from ATR to Embraer E190.
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