Emerald Airlines, the regional operator of Aer Lingus, will take over state-supported Dublin-Donegal service starting next month.
Scandinavian carrier Amapola Flyg has been on the road under a temporary arrangement with the government since July after the collapse of former operator Stobart Air in June.
The Department of Transportation awarded a three-year contract to Emerald Airlines after the route was floated for tender across the European Union in August.
Emerald, operated by well-known aviation personality Conor McCarthy, will launch the Dublin-Donegal service from February 26, four days after Amapola’s contract expires.
The airline will fly the 72-seat ATR twice daily in each direction between the two airports.
Aer Lingus brand
Emerald will fly on the road under the Aer Lingus brand and flight numbers. Its schedule will allow passengers to connect to the larger carrier’s network.
Aer Lingus last year awarded its regional franchise to Emerald after several months of talks. This will begin on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17th. McCarthy said awarding the contract would ensure continued links between the two destinations.
« Not only will this be a huge boost to travel between Donegal and Dublin, but it will also re-establish vital tourism links to Donegal on the broader Aer Lingus network, » he predicted.
Donegal Airport Chairman Steve Colin and Managing Director Ellis née Duchartay said the additional emerald seats will help the gate recover post-Covid traffic. Passengers can book flights for the new service now.
Emerald’s contract is valid for three years. The deal is a « public service commitment » agreement, which means the government portion funds the flights. EU law allows governments to provide cash to support roads to airports in peripheral areas. Donegal has no direct rail or motorway links to Dublin.
The government leased Amapola under a temporary contract in July after Stobart closed. In August, officials sought offers for a three-year deal.
Emerald will start flying 340 times a week across 11 routes between Ireland and Britain under the regional Aer Lingus flag from 17 March.
Mr. McCarthy founded the airline in 2020 where he successfully bid for the regional Aer Lingus contract.
The airline was originally slated to replace previous operator Staubart in January next year, but has brought forward its launch to fill in the gaps left by the other company’s shutdown.
The potential loss of state-backed services between Dublin, Donegal, and Kerry sparked a political row in the wake of Staubart’s failure. The Department of Transportation offered temporary contracts to both. Ryanair is now on Kerry’s route without state assistance.
Eamonn Ryan, Minister of Transport, and Hildegard Naughton, Secretary of State in the department, welcomed the news that Emerald will take over Donegal service from next month.
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