Aer Lingus has confirmed a start date of March 17, 2022 for its new franchise agreement with Emerald Airlines.

The Irish flag carrier had signalled in 2020 that the contract to operate Aer Lingus Regional flights would pass to start-up Emerald Airlines at the start of 2023.

Following the collapse of incumbent franchise operator Stobart Air in June this year, it had been hoped that Emerald Airlines would bring forward the launch of flights by a year to January 2022.

But Aer Lingus says that franchise flights will now commence from Dublin to Glasgow and the Isle of Man on March 17 next year, followed by Birmingham, Bristol, Edinburgh and Manchester on March 27, Leeds and Newcastle on April 15, Exeter and Newquay on April 29, and Jersey on May 28.

It means Emerald Airlines will operate over 340 weekly flights across the 11 routes by mid-summer using its fleet of ATR72-600 aircraft, with further destinations set to be announced in the coming weeks. In particular Edinburgh and Glasgow will be served with up to four flights per day.

Commenting on the news Conor McCarthy, CEO of Emerald Airlines, said:

“We’re delighted to be able to commence operations under our franchise agreement with Aer Lingus well ahead of plan in line with the recovering customer demand. The time is right for Emerald Airlines to begin operations under the Aer Lingus Regional brand and we truly look forward to welcoming our customers onboard our flights as soon as February next.

“Our customer-focused schedules will offer choice, convenience and great value for both regional and transatlantic air travel. This announcement is a great boost for connectivity from Ireland to the U.K, including cities such as Edinburgh, Glasgow, Isle of Man, Newcastle, Bristol, and Leeds. Emerald Airlines will be offering a high-frequency schedule with convenient flight timings to facilitate both business and leisure passengers.

“Emerald has also established an airline company in Northern Ireland (Emerald Airlines UK Ltd) and has applied to the UK CAA for a UK AOC and Operating Licence. We are very confident that this will result in long-term connectivity being maintained across the Irish Sea and will boost business and leisure travel between Northern Ireland and Britain.

“We have already reached a long-term commercial agreement with George Best Belfast City Airport and look forward to connecting Belfast to many cities in the UK as soon as possible in 2022. Further details, routes and launch dates in relation to the Belfast operation will be announced in the New Year.”,