Esken Limited, known as Stobart Group until it formally changed its name on February 3, remains committed to offloading its Ireland-based production carrier Stobart Air (RE, Dublin Int'l) by the end of February.

A spokeswoman for the UK company told the Irish Independent newspaper that it had committed last year to sell the carrier, which operates the Aer Lingus Regional service, by the end of the group’s financial year on February 28.

“The strategy and guidance remain unchanged. The strategy is to exit Stobart Air, and the company said they would be disappointed if they hadn’t successfully exited the business by the end of this financial year,” she said.

Esken is understood to be especially keen to rid itself of about USD100 million worth of liabilities connected to Stobart Air and the affiliated Propius Leasing.

As previously reported, Esken - which also operates businesses such as London Southend Airport, ground handler Stobart Aviation Services, and biomass fuel supplier Stobart Energy - had been in talks to sell Stobart Air and Propius to UK-based asset manager Falko Regional Aircraft.

Falko also owns regional carrier CityJet (WX, Dublin Int'l), which bid to take on the Aer Lingus Regional contract when the existing contract held by Stobart Air expires at the end of 2022. According to the Irish Independent, the talks to sell Stobart to Falko were dependent on Stobart to continue operating Aer Lingus Regional beyond 2022.

However, in December it was reported that Aer Lingus and parent IAG International Airlines Group had named the fledgeling Emerald Airlines (Ireland), a start-up carrier founded by former Stobart non-executive chairman Conor McCarthy, as the preferred bidder to operate the contract. Emerald has said it is negotiating the lease of ATR72 turboprops, initially on a power-by-the-hour basis, for the job.

Meanwhile, in related news, CityJet’s chief executive, Pat Byrne, has said he would relish the idea of talking to Aer Lingus again about taking on its regional business, despite failing in the tender last year. CityJet, which currently wet-leases aircraft to SAS Scandinavian Airlines, exited examinership in August 2020 and submitted its bid together with Air Nostrum, a carrier it had previously planned to merge with.

According to Byrne, Emerald Airlines had secured a period of exclusivity as preferred bidder for four to six weeks, but this was likely to have been extended. However, he added, if they want to resume the talks “we’d be delighted.”

Byrne made the comment during a CAPA online event. He also revealed that CityJet was considering applying for an Air Operator’s Certificate (AOC) in the United Kingdom to take advantage of wet-leasing and charter opportunities arising in Britain post-Brexit. Such an AOC is now required for carriers to operate between the UK and the European Union. A UK AOC would complement CityJet’s existing Irish certificate.