Aer Lingus has announced that it will step in to provide service to some of its passengers who found themselves stranded following the immediate shutdown of Stobart Air.
Aer Lingus Regional was operated by Stobart Air under a franchise agreement.
Of the 12 immediately affected by Stobart Air’s decision to cease operations, Aer Lingus will operate five routes, and for at least next week BA CityFlyer will operate two.
Alternative operations for the outstanding routes are still being determined.
All affected customers are contacted directly and offered details of an alternative flight where possible. Affected customers also have the option of a full refund.
It is not clear whether Aer Lingus’ move is intended to be temporary or to replace Stobart Air permanently.
Stobart Air announced on Saturday morning that it had ceased operations and was in the process of appointing a liquidator.
Transport Minister Eamon Ryan said the announcement was “about news” for affected workers and for regional connectivity.
“We will engage with all stakeholders today [Saturday] and over the next few days to restore connectivity to regional airports affected by today’s announcement, ”said Mr. Ryan.
The Transport Department said it is currently reviewing the implications and cancellation of the government-funded public service obligation routes that operate between Kerry and Dublin and Donegal and Dublin.
Minister of State at the Department for Transport, Hildegarde Naughton, said restoring regional connectivity is “of critical importance” and will be a priority for the government in the coming days.
The Fórsa union, which represents the airline’s 120 cabin crew and pilots, called on the government to “wake up” from the current crisis in Ireland’s aviation sector following the announcement of Stobart Air.
Forsa said staff based in Dublin, Cork and Belfast were “devastated” upon hearing the news on Saturday morning.
Neil McGowan of the Siptu union said: “Stobart Air’s decision to cease operations is the latest blow to the aviation industry and airports in Ireland. This decision put hundreds of jobs at immediate risk.
“These routes are vitally important to these regional airports. It is crucial that these roads are maintained and that the government take immediate action to restore these services. “
The Irish Air Line Pilots Association (IALPA) said it was helping members who have been affected.
Stobart Air said it was with “great regret and sadness” that the board of directors was appointing a liquidator for the company and that the airline was to cease operations with immediate effect.
“This inevitable and difficult decision means that all regional Aer Lingus routes, currently operated by Stobart Air under its franchise agreement with Aer Lingus, have been canceled,” he said in a statement on Saturday.
Stobart Air operated a number of routes from Dublin Airport and Belfast Airport and all passengers who have booked on the following regional Aer Lingus routes are advised to check the Aer Lingus website for get up-to-date information on refund or rebooking options:
Belfast Airport to: Edinburgh; Exter; East Midlands; Lyon; Birmingham and Manchester.
Dublin Airport to: Kerry; Donegal; Edinburgh; Glasgow; Newquay and Manchester.
Stobart Air said the airline’s 480 employees had been briefed and apologized to customers “for the inconvenience caused in the short term.”
“Last April, Stobart Air announced that a new owner had been identified. However, it appeared that the financing to support this transaction is no longer in place and the new owner is now unable to complete the transaction, ”he added.
“Given the continued impact of the pandemic, which has virtually halted air travel since March 2019 and in the absence of alternative buyers or sources of funding, Stobart Air’s board of directors must make the decision. necessary, inevitable and difficult to seek to appoint a liquidator.
“A franchise partner of major national and international airlines, Stobart Air has recognized the significant contribution, loyalty and dedication of its team of 480 skilled and talented aviation professionals. “
John Mulhern, managing director of Kerry Airport Ireland, called the announcement “a most unfortunate development” and said a line of communication on the takeover of the Dublin-Kerry route had already started with the Transport Department.
“We were contacted this morning by Deputy Chief Government Whip and Kerry TD, Brendan Griffin, who assured us that he was ahead of the situation and that he would support the return of the Kerry-Dublin route”, Mr Mulhern said.
IALPA said the news reflected a failure in government policy to support the Irish aviation industry, despite being “effectively shut down for almost 18 months”.
“Today’s news should sound the alarm bells for the government that it is sleepwalking to more announcements like this one.”
IALPA said the reopening of air travel as provided for by the European Union’s digital Covid certificate, including antigen testing, should “take place immediately.”
“This is the bare minimum that must now be done to avoid thousands of additional job losses in the months to come,” he added.
Ashley Connolly, Fórsa’s national secretary, said Stobart had worked with the union to try to fight his way through the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The collapse of Stobart means services to Kerry and Donegal are now on the line, just a month after Aer Lingus announced the closure of its Shannon base,” Ms. Connolly said.
“Stobart’s loyal and long-time staff, who have gone through 16 months of financial hardship and uncertainty, are devastated this morning.
“The industry has effectively lost a second summer to the pandemic, with no rapid recovery on the horizon. What will it take for the government to wake up and take action? “
Ms Connolly said the government had to decide whether the crisis in the aviation industry “should be permanent or temporary”.
“Only the state has the power and the resources to preserve Ireland’s vital international connectivity – the connectivity that supports thousands of businesses and hundreds of thousands of jobs – over the next few months, if not years.” , she added.
Seanad leader Regina Doherty of Fine Gael said “the country’s risk balance needs to be adjusted” in response to news that Stobart Air is shutting down.
Ms Doherty, former Minister of Employment and Social Protection, commented on the number of people hospitalized with Covid-19.
She said in a tweet “we are losing [sic] jobs unnecessarily and they will not be recovered ”.
An earlier statement from Aer Lingus said the company was informed by Stobart Air late Friday evening that Stobart was terminating its franchise agreement with the airline.
“As a result, all regional Aer Lingus flights operated by Stobart Air are canceled,” the statement said.
“Customers who have booked to travel on flights operated by Stobart Air are advised not to go to the airport and check the Aer Lingus website for up to date information on refund or refund options. new reservation, “Aer Lingus said.
The statement added: “Stobart Air made reference to 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 advise them of their options for refunds or rebooking. “
Rory Boland, which one? travel editor, said passengers will want to know their money and reservations are safe.
He added: “It is fair for the carrier to contact passengers to discuss their options for refunds or rebooking.
“He must also ensure that all passengers stranded as a result are reassigned to another flight as soon as possible.
“Stobart Air’s shutdown will be sobering news for the industry as the impact of the pandemic continues to wreak havoc on the travel industry. With most overseas travel still on hold, it is essential that the government intervene with tailored support for the travel industry.
In Northern Ireland, Alliance Party MP Stewart Dickson said new Economics Minister Paul Frew must call for an urgent meeting with Belfast City Airport and Aer Lingus.
He said: “This is incredibly disappointing news for the families and businesses affected by this news and my thoughts are with them and all whose jobs are affected.” Additional reports: PA