Stobart to restart Flybe's Dublin-Southend route
Just over two years after pulling the route, UK regional carrier Flybe is planning to relaunch its Dublin-to-Southend service in October, the Irish Independent has learned.
The service will be operated by Stobart Air, which also operates the Aer Lingus Regional franchise.
Stobart Air pulled out of a plan to sell itself to Dublin-based CityJet last December, bringing a 10-month long process to a bitter end.
Under the planned deal, CityJet would also have operated 18 routes from London Southend Airport, which is owned by the Stobart Group, using four jets based there.
When the merger collapsed, Stobart Air announced a deal with Flybe to operate 12 routes from Southend under a Flybe franchise arrangement.
Flybe is now headed by Christine Ourmieres-Widener, a former Air France executive and an ex-CEO of CityJet.
Stobart Air is basing two Embraer E195 jets at Southend to provide the new Flybe services.
It's thought that the planned Southend-Dublin route will also use a jet.
The previous Southend-Dublin service operated by Flybe used slower, turboprop aircraft.
Apart from being slower, they are also unable to fly in certain adverse weather conditions when jets can.
When Flybe cancelled the Dublin-Southend service in 2015, it said that passenger numbers on the route hadn't matched expectations.
Figures from the UK's Civil Aviation Authority show that 61,599 people flew between Southend and Dublin in 2014, before dropping to just 4,450 in 2015. Southend is about an hour's train journey from central London.
Dublin-based Stobart Air, which was previously known as Aer Arann, had also previously operated an Aer Lingus regional service between Dublin and Southend.
It began the service in 2012 and it was cancelled in 2014. It also used ATR turboprop aircraft.
It's understood that plans for the new Flybe Dublin-Southend service are at an advanced planning stage and that it could start operating at the end of October.
Stobart Group is headed by CEO Andrew Tinkler, who is also chairman of Stobart Air.
Earlier this year, Stobart Air entered into a sale and leaseback agreement for eight turboprop aircraft with German Operating Aircraft Leasing.
Those aircraft were previously part of a firm called Propius, in which Aer Lingus previously had a stake.