Emerald Airlines (Ireland) (EA, Dublin International) will start feeder franchise operations under the Aer Lingus Regional brand from February 26 with twice-daily flights between Dublin International and Donegal, as part of a four-year government-funded public service obligation (PSO) contract on the route, Chief Executive Officer Conor McCarthy has confirmed to ch-aviation.

This followed an announcement by Irish transport minister Eamon Ryan, who said the Irish startup would take over from Swedish carrier Amapola Flyg (HP, Stockholm Arlanda) which has been running twice-daily flights under a temporary arrangement with the Irish government since July 2021 after the collapse of the previous operator, Stobart Air (Dublin International). Ryan said the PSO contract provided an essential air link between the North-West and Dublin without a motorway or rail network in the region.

"We are delighted to have been chosen as the new operator of the vital air route between Donegal and Dublin for the next four years. This announcement is a great boost for re-establishing connectivity from Donegal to Dublin and beyond, and we are really looking forward to welcoming passengers on board from 26 February next," commented McCarthy.

"Emerald Airlines will be offering up to two flights daily each way linking Donegal and Dublin with convenient flight timings, which enable same-day trips to Dublin, and seamless connections with the Aer Lingus network from Dublin with a record number of seats. Not only will this be a huge boost for travel between Donegal and Dublin, but it will also re-establish vital tourism connections to Donegal on the wider Aer Lingus network," he added.

Donegal Airport welcomed the announcement saying Emerald Airlines' 72-seater ATR72-600 service would provide additional seat capacity on the route, which would help the airport regain passenger numbers post COVID-19 and help promote the region.

The launch comes three weeks ahead of the earlier-announced March 17 commencement of Emerald Airlines' service under the Aer Lingus Regional brand with two ATR-72-600s.

As reported, Aer Lingus and Emerald Airlines entered into a ten-year franchise partnership in August 2021.

McCarthy confirmed the startup secured its Irish Air Operator' Certificate (AOC) in September 2021.

The company has also established a subsidiary in Northern Ireland (Emerald Airlines (United Kingdom) (EAG, Belfast City)) which is still completing processes for a UK AOC and Operating Licence in order to launch services between Belfast City and destinations in Great Britain. McCarthy said the UK AOC application was "progressing very well" and was expected to be completed by June 2022. "In the meantime, we’ve got workaround solutions for Belfast from March 2022 in place," he disclosed.