Aer Lingus 'committed' to regional Stobart service
The new chief executive of Aer Lingus has insisted the carrier remains committed to its franchise arrangement with Stobart Air.
The comment comes as Stobart Air's operations are set to be amalgamated with those of a new entity -backed by Stobart and Virgin Atlantic - that is buying Flybe.
Speaking as Aer Lingus unveiled its new brand identity at Dublin Airport, Sean Doyle said the Flybe takeover is in "very early stages". He insisted that Aer Lingus Regional worked for the IAG-owned carrier, and that it's "very committed" to retaining Aer Lingus Regional as a franchise operation.
Ailing Flybe will be rebranded as Virgin, which hopes to use the operation to feed its long-haul network - exactly what Aer Lingus Regional does for Aer Lingus. It threatens to put Virgin and Aer Lingus on a war footing if both ultimately vie for the same regional UK passengers.
Stobart Air, part of the UK's Stobart Group, will be subsumed into a new vehicle called Connect Airways.
That entity is 40pc-owned by funds managed by US investment firm Cyrus, while Stobart Aviation and Virgin Travel Group, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Virgin Atlantic, equally own the remainder.
Aer Lingus uses Aer Lingus Regional to feed its long-haul network from Britain. The service operates on a franchise basis with a contract that runs to 2022.
Connect Airways has pledged to support Flybe with as much as £100m (€111m) in much-needed cash. This week, the consortium rushed a £10m loan to Flybe to keep it flying.
"For us, Aer Lingus Regional works. It works for Stobart and we're very committed to retaining Aer Lingus Regional as a franchise operation in our network," said Mr Doyle.
Aer Lingus Regional operates 20 routes between Britain and Ireland, while Dublin-headquartered Stobart Air employs more than 500 people.