Start-up Emerald Airlines (Ireland) is on the verge of signing a contract to operate the Aer Lingus Regional service from the end of 2022 when its current contract ends with Stobart Air (RE, Dublin Int'l), newly-appointed Aer Lingus chief executive Lynne Embleton told the Irish Independent.

Conor McCarthy heads the start-up, a tycoon who founded local maintenance, repair, and overhaul provider Dublin Aerospace in 2009 and who was non-executive chairman of Stobart Air between 2018 and late 2019.

Emerald Airlines and the Irish flag carrier have already finalised the agreement and the contract is expected to be formally signed soon, Embleton said.

“We’re making really good progress with Emerald on the regional franchise,” she said. “That’s going along nicely.”

As previously reported, Aer Lingus named Emerald Airlines as preferred bidder to take over the contract in November 2020 and the two have signed a memorandum of understanding. Emerald expects its Air Operator’s Certificate to be awarded in July or August and has a senior management team in place, according to the newspaper.

“Our first two ATR72 aircraft are due for delivery later this summer, at which time we aim to have our respective approvals and operating licences in place,” McCarthy said, reiterating that Emerald Airlines will eventually operate a fleet of fifteen ATR72 Avions de Transport Régional turboprops.

The first two are being leased from Canada’s Chorus Aviation Capital, and starting from the second half of this year Emerald plans to operate wet-lease services to clients within the European Union.

The UK’s Esken recently agreed to sell Stobart Air to another start-up, Isle of Man-based Ettyl. Since the Covid crisis began, Stobart has been operating a skeleton Aer Lingus Regional service including taxpayer-funded PSO routes from Dublin Int'l to Donegal and Kerry and limited services from Belfast City.