Reports in the Irish media over the weekend confirm that Conor McCarthy’s Emerald Airlines has entered into exclusive negotiations with Aer Lingus to operate the Aer Lingus Regional services from 2023. 

It is thought that Aer Lingus owner IAG will have to authorise the contract.  (See BTN 9 November)

The new regional services agreement will run from January 2023 for ten years.

“Emerald Airlines looks forward to these negotiations in the coming weeks with a view to concluding a binding contract and progressing with our ambitious plan to roll out a fleet of 15-plus ATR72 Aer Lingus-branded aircraft from Dublin, Belfast, Cork and Shannon,” he told the Irish Independent.

Stobart Air confirmed to staff at the weekend that it has not been selected as the preferred bidder, but pledged to continue operating the routes until its contract ends in December 2022.

“Our immediate aim is to maintain services in the short-term, and to work hard to resuming normal operations in 2021 post the impact of Covid-19,” the airline told its staff.

The loss of the Aer Lingus contract will hit efforts by the airline’s majority owner UK-based Stobart Group to find a purchaser. Whether Emerald Airlines buys Stobart or sets up an entirely new airline over the next two years remains to be seen.  Its first requirement is to gain an Irish AOC, and demonstrate funding.  The majority of shareholders must be in the EU.

Mr McCarthy is the largest shareholder in aircraft maintenance group Dublin Aerospace. Previously he was head of the Aer Lingus commuter division, before working for Ryanair for a period.