Flybe revival hopes hit by Irish contract miss

Flybe’s hopes of returning to the skies have been dealt a blow after missing out on a key contract to run flights to Ireland.

By Oliver Gill 15 November 2020 

Aer Lingus sprung a surprise over the weekend by handing control of its regional operations to Emerald Airlines, a new carrier set up by to Irish businessman Conor McCarthy.

Hedge fund Cyrus Capital, Flybe’s former owner, announced plans in October to restart the airline next year.

Flybe was one of a number of regional carriers bidding to run the Aer Lingus Regional franchise, The Telegraph understands.

Others are believed to have included Loganair and Stobart Air, which had run services on behalf of Aer Lingus for the past decade.

Stobart Air has been put up for sale by its listed parent, who also owns Southend airport. Boss Warwick Brady was hopeful earlier this month that a deal could be struck to continue running services for Aer Lingus for another 10 years.

Mr McCarthy was Stobart Air’s chairman between 2018 and 2019. He previously worked for Aer Lingus and Ryanair, and set up Dublin Aerospace, an engineering firm that has maintenance contracts with the likes of Lufthansa and Saudi Airlines.

Flybe collapsed into administration in March after ministers rejected a plea by its owners, which also included Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Atlantic, for a bailout of up to £100m.

Cyrus Capital relaunched the carrier last month after acquiring Flybe’s brand, stock and equipment from administrator EY.

At the time, Flybe’s new owner warned the relanch was subject to “certain confidential conditions” and was hoping to convince the UK’s aviation regulator to grant it a new operating licence.

Mr Brady said: “Whilst a disappointing decision by Aer Lingus, we believe that Stobart Air is a strategic and attractive asset for a potential buyer with a number of options open to it in terms of continued operations beyond its current franchise agreement with Aer Lingus.”

Flybe declined to comment.