Aer Lingus has entered into a 10 year franchise agreement with Emerald Airlines to operate its regional flights from January, 2023.

It follows the unexpected closure of Stobart Air, which had been operating Aer Lingus regional services, in June.

Aer Lingus said that although the contract is not due to commence for 18 months, it continues to work closely with Emerald Airlines to evaluate options with respect to an earlier contract start date in light of Stobart Air recently ceasing operations.

The new franchise agreement between Aer Lingus and Emerald Airlines will support Aer Lingus's Dublin Hub strategy by providing connectivity of UK provincial airports to North America via Dublin.

The agreement will offer connectivity between the island of Ireland and Regional Airports in UK, the Isle of Man and Jersey, with options for network expansion to more regional airports in the future.

Under the agreement, Emerald Airlines will operate ATR turboprop aircraft on the regional routes with associated Aer Lingus branding and livery. Over 400 staff will be required between now and commencement of services.

Lynne Embleton, Chief Executive, Aer Lingus, said, "Aer Lingus’s strategic intent to develop Dublin Airport as a hub between Europe and the US, to deliver greater connectivity and aviation jobs, is significantly boosted by today’s announcement.

"This franchise agreement with Emerald Airlines marks a new chapter in Aer Lingus Regional services and brings choice and certainty to our customers flying between Ireland, the UK and beyond," she said. "We very much look forward to partnering with Emerald Airlines, and to growing and developing Aer Lingus Regional over the coming years."

Conor McCarthy, Founder and Chief Executive of Emerald Airlines said the agreement is a major development for Irish aviation and the wider tourism industry.

"The combined strengths of both airlines will allow us to offer optimised connectivity from popular cities and routes across Ireland, the UK and beyond. Emerald Airlines have ambitious plans to grow and develop this partnership over the next few years with the first ATR aircraft joining shortly.

"As we add additional aircraft to our fleet we will be recruiting 400+ new staff members which is a great boost for the industry which has been so badly impacted by the pandemic."

Since Stobart Air ceased operations, Aer Lingus has been operating a replacement schedule for regional customers, operating six routes until at least the end of March 2022.

BA CityFlyer is operating four additional routes for the rest of Summer 2021 period.

Aer Lingus has been transferring customers on to replacement flights in order to minimise disruption. Where no replacement flight has been scheduled, Aer Lingus is booking customers onto alternative flights.