The loss of the daily Dublin-Kerry regional airline service has been described as a devastating blow for Co Kerry, where tourism and business interests relied heavily on the critical connectivity it provided.

The year-round twice daily service to Dublin from Kerry was one of the most popular routes.

It carried close to 60,000 passengers a year and it was a service that was growing each year.

Kerry Airport CEO John Mulhern said it was devastating news for the airport and for Kerry. He said they had hoped it would not happen and that a deal to save Stobart could be finalised.

He said they were thinking of all of the over 400 Stobart employees who were their colleagues for many years at Kerry Airport.

Mr Mulhern said they had prepared strongly for news they had hoped would not come, and the work now begins on getting a replacement service for what he described as "their precious flights to Dublin".

Kevin McCarthy, who runs the Garveys group of supermarkets in Kerry and Limerick as well as a number of hotels and is president of the Tralee Chambers Alliance, said it was shocking news for businesses in the region just as they were trying to recover after the devastation of Covid.

He said the service provided huge connectivity for businesses in the region linking them directly to Dublin and onto Europe and the US.

It is also a blow for a county so heavily reliant on tourism, which provides income of over €500 million to the region every year.

The flight also brought a lot of US tourists into the county who regularly used the direct flight from Dublin.

Local TD Brendan Griffin, who is deputy Chief Whip and a former Minister of State for Tourism & Sport, said it was devastating news for Kerry Airport and for the county in general as the service had a major economic impact as well.

It was a Public Service Obligation PSO route, which meant the provision of the service was heavily subsidised, but it did create a lot of economic activity right across the region.

Deputy Griffin said it was very important that the Department of Transport acts quickly to find a replacement for the route so that they can get flights going again between Dublin and Kerry without delay.

Job fears at Donegal Airport

Donegal Airport CEO Eilis Docherty said there are real fears for job losses at the airport if another airline cannot be found to operate the PSO service that Stobart Air had to Dublin.

The airport lost four flights per day due the decision.

It currently employs 30 staff but it said it would not be able to rely on private flights alone.

It had already lost its Loganair service to Glasgow due to the pandemic. This is due to return to a reduced level in July at two flights to Glasgow instead of six.

The airport said it has sought assurances from Government in getting a new airline into Donegal Airport quickly.

Local representatives have warned that the loss of the Dublin flights will deeply impact on cancer patients.

Belfast City Airport 'didn't expect things to unravel so quickly'

Belfast City Airport Chief Executive Brian Ambrose said the news was "very disappointing" and that the affected routes were "six of our more important routes".

"We have a 26-route network so losing six of those routes is a blow. It's been a shock to the staff today".

However, Mr Ambrose said the fact they are very popular routes gives him a lot of confidence that the airport can backfill them.

He said the Birmingham and Manchester flights were "key routes".

Mr Ambrose said there were "multiple airlines interested in the routes" but that the airports prime responsibility was to work with Aer Lingus.

Aer Lingus now has one remaining operational route from Belfast City Airport to London Heathrow.

"We are, as we speak, talking to Aer Lingus to try to find a solution," he said.

Mr Ambrose said he only learned of the news that Stobart Air was to cease trading just after midnight.

There had been speculation that Stobart was "having difficulties", he said, but that he "didn't expect things to unravel so quickly".

He said he was disappointed for the company and their staff, but if the routes can be filled again there will be further job opportunities.

Mr Ambrose said that passengers were contacted immediately last night by text message.

"It seems to have worked effectively, only about 25 customers turned up today for the flights. So most people got the message, and the message continues from Aer Lingus not to turn up to the airport for those flights until further notice."

Mr Ambrose said they have been trying to accommodate passengers on other flights if possible and that extra staff were brought in today to assist.

He said that the airport's priority now is to work with Aer Lingus, which is a "very important partner", and that is who they will speak to in the first instance.

"I would be hopeful about getting a solution in the very near future", he said.

Additional reporting Laura Hogan and Ailbhe Ó Monacháin