Irish regional carrier Stobart Air has announced it’s to enter liquidation after failing to find a new buyer, leaving passengers throughout the UK and Ireland stranded.
Stobart had a franchise agreement with Irish flag-carrier Aer Lingus, and regularly performed regional routes between major cities in the Republic of Ireland and the UK.
In a statement, Aer Lingus said it was informed late on Friday that Stobart had ceased trading, and was terminating its agreement with immediate effect. The news will likely see Stobart Air’s 480 staff lose their jobs.
The announcement forced Aer Lingus to cancel dozens of its scheduled regional flights over the weekend, in a move that is said to have left hundreds of passengers stranded.
Earlier this year, Stobart Air’s UK-based owner Esken reached an agreement with Isle of Man investment firm Ettyl for the sale of the airline, however the agreement never came to fruition as the COVID crisis continued to drag on.
“Given the continued impact of the pandemic, which has virtually halted air travel since March 2020, and in the absence of any alternative purchasers or sources of funding, the board of Stobart Air must take the necessary, unavoidable and difficult decision to seek to appoint [of] a liquidator,” Stobart said.
Aer Lingus apologised to customers affected by the cancellations, and said it was communicating with customers to advise them of their options for rebooking or requesting a refund.
Affected routes include those between Dublin and Kerry, Donegal, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Manchester and Newquay, as well as those between Belfast City and Birmingham, Edinburgh, Leeds Bradford, Exeter and East Midlands.
Aer Lingus noted that flights between Belfast City Airport and Heathrow are not affected.
The collapse of Stobart will also result in over 480 staff members now out of work.
Neil McGowan, aviation sector organiser of the Services Industrial Professional and Technical Union, said the collapse puts “hundreds of jobs at immediate risk”.
“The decision by Stobart Air to cease operations is the latest blow to the aviation industry and airports in Ireland,” he said.
“These routes are of vital importance to these regional airports. It is crucial that these routes are maintained and the government takes immediate steps to restore these services.”
Meanwhile, in response to Stobart’s immediate cease of operations, Ryanair announced a flash sale of tickets between cities most affected by Stobart’s withdrawal from the market, starting from €39.99.
A Ryanair spokesperson said: “Stobart Air customers whose flights have been cancelled over the coming days can enjoy the lowest fares and most reliable service by switching to Ryanair and we’ve released rescue fares from €39.99 on routes from Dublin to Edinburgh, Glasgow and Manchester to assist any customers stranded over the coming days by the collapse of Stobart Air.”