AER LINGUS has been approached by other parties interested in operating its Aer Lingus Regional service, according to IAG chief executive Willie Walsh.
He said that Aer Lingus has not yet extended a contract currently held by Dublin-based Stobart Air to continue operating the service beyond the end of 2022.
"We'll see what happens," said Mr Walsh as Aer Lingus owner IAG published first-quarter results.
"We've not extended the contract. There are other opportunities. We have had approaches from other carriers who'd like to provide that service to us. We've got an open mind. It will be a decision that will be taken by Sean [Doyle, the Aer Lingus CEO].
"We've been very relaxed about it."
Stobart Air was recently acquired by the UK-based listed Stobart Group, which had previously owned the Dublin airline outright.
But 51pc of Stobart Air was ostensibly handed over to its staff last year to ensure continuing compliance with EU airline ownership rules.
Stobart Group subsequently created Connect Airways in conjunction with a unit of Virgin Atlantic and hedge fund Cyrus Capital to buy failing Flybe. Stobart Air and Flybe became part of Connect, with Stobart Group owning 30pc of Connect.
Flybe collapsed in February, while Stobart Air was close to examinership in recent weeks. Stobart Group, which has extensive liabilities connected to Stobart Air, bought a 49pc stake in the carrier from EY, which is the administrator of Connect.
"We've had a good relationship with them," said Mr Walsh yesterday of Stobart Air.
"I think they got distracted by what they thought were faraway hills. It didn't quite work out for them. I think they're getting back to the core focus."
Stobart Group told the Irish Independent last week that the routes Stobart Air operates would be attractive to a range of other airlines if its contract with Aer Lingus is not renewed.
Mr Walsh also said that London City Airport - where Dublin-based CityJet had been operating a route on behalf of Aer Lingus - has been challenged. CityJet is in examinership.
"It's an expensive airport to operate, it's a very niche airport, so I suspect that it will be the last airport to recover in the London market," he said.