Nordica (ND, Tallinn Lennart Meri) has approached the Irish Department of Transport over the potential takeover of a public service obligation contract covering services from Dublin Int'l to each of Donegal and Kerry, left unserved after the collapse of Stobart Air (RE, Dublin Int'l), The Irish Times has reported.

Kerry Airport is reported to have already reached out to potential replacement carriers already months ago when Stobart Air's financial problems became apparent. As such, the discussions with Nordica are at an advanced stage. However, the Estonian ACMI/charter specialist is not the only carrier interested in taking over the contract. Start-up Emerald Airlines (Ireland), which is the frontrunner to take over the Aer Lingus Regional franchise, has also gotten in touch with the authorities, reports said.

Stobart Air operated a total of 12 routes under an Aer Lingus Regional brand franchise agreement with Aer Lingus. Out of the dozen, the services to Kerry and Donegal were the only two partially subsidised by the government under a PSO contract running through January 31, 2022. The airline received a EUR3.9 million euro (USD4.7 million) annual payment for the Donegal route and EUR3.3 million (USD4 million) for the Kerry service.

In the event of a suspension of operations by the original carrier, PSO contracts permit the selection of a replacement operator without having to go through a full tender process, although only for the remaining duration of the original contract. As such, the replacement contract awarded to Nordica or any other carrier would only run through the end of January 2022.

Xfly (EE, Tallinn Lennart Meri), the operating subsidiary of Nordica, already flies PSO routes in Sweden, connecting Stockholm Arlanda with Arvidsjaur and Gällivare. It operates the route under the code of LOT Polish Airlines, its former technical partner and 49% shareholder, using ATR72-600s. The Estonian carrier has been actively trying to add more long-term ACMI contracts, but recently lost a Finnish PSO tender. Besides the Swedish PSO contract, Nordica/Xfly's main business is currently an ACMI contract with SAS Scandinavian Airlines.

Following Stobart Air's end of operations on June 11, Aer Lingus said it would start operating five of its former franchisee's routes under its own risk, namely from Dublin to Edinburgh and Manchester Int'l, and from Belfast City to Birmingham Int'l, Edinburgh, and Manchester. BA CityFlyer has said it would take over, on behalf of its parent British Airways, services from Belfast to Exeter and Leeds/Bradford starting on June 16. As of July 3, the airline will also connect the Northern Irish airport with Newquay, and from August 2, with Glasgow Int'l.

Besides the two Irish PSO routes, other services which have not immediately been taken over by other carriers include flights from Dublin to Glasgow and Newquay, and from Belfast to East Midlands, the ch-aviation schedules module shows.