Stobart Air, the franchise flying partner to leading airlines including Aer Lingus and Flybe, has invested in its fleet as the airline’s contract to operate the Dublin-Donegal and Dublin-Kerry Public Service Obligation (PSO) routes, under the Aer Lingus Regional brand was recently renewed.
The announcement comes following a report by the Killarney Chamber of Commerce released this week on the economic impact of tourism in Kerry, and the need for improved transport and accessibility.
The report found that the industry is worth over €400 million to the town annually, attracting 1.1 million visitors per year.
Stobart Air, operating as Aer Lingus Regional, has operated these routes, on behalf of the Irish Government, since 2015 and the renewed contract will run until 31 January 2022.
The airline has invested up to €13.8million in its fleet to operate its PSO services over the period. Stobart Air has invested in a new aircraft with Nordic Aviation Capital, while extending an existing lease with GE Capital Aviation Services.
Nordic Aviation Capital, the world’s largest regional aircraft leasing company, provides leasing and lease management services to airlines and aircraft investors worldwide.
The new aircraft will operate the Donegal services while the airline will deploy its larger aircraft (ATR72) to operate the Kerry route, increasing capacity by up to 50% on Kerry services in 2018.
More than 33,000 passengers used the service to Donegal in 2017, while 51,000 flew between Kerry and Dublin in the same period. These numbers are expected to grow significantly over the duration of the contract to a combined total approaching 100,000 passengers.
Last year, Stobart Air announced a €25-million investment in the airline, to include the creation of 60 new jobs and the addition of jet aircraft to its fleet.
Commenting today, Graeme Buchanan, Managing Director of Stobart Air, said that regional connectivity in Ireland is key, and the airline is keen to continue to operate and develop these vital routes with new aircraft on both routes this year.
“Aer Lingus Regional’s track record on the Kerry and Donegal routes is strong, with passenger numbers growing year-on-year. We have seen passenger numbers grow by 53% for Donegal and 35% for Kerry over the past two years. These are popular routes for tourism and for linking rural areas in Ireland with the capital, facilitating opportunities for work and business. We’re confident these routes will grow and develop further this year as we’ve invested in the service with new planes, meaning added comfort and service for passengers.
“At the heart of our offering is connectivity to Dublin and to international destinations, particularly to North America, through mainline Aer Lingus services. Passengers to and from North America can connect seamlessly to both Donegal and Kerry. The passenger convenience, and wider tourism benefits of this for both regions, are considerable.
“Working with our colleagues in Donegal and Kerry airports, we look forward to continued success of these important routes,” Mr Buchanan said.
Commenting on the study published by Killarney Chamber of Commerce this week, Mr Buchanan said: "We welcome this study which demonstrates the importance and potential of tourism to the local economy in Killarney. Ensuring a regular and reliable air service, connecting Kerry with our capital, is central to further growing and developing tourism in the area. We look forward to working with Kerry Airport and our tourism colleagues in achieving this.’
Commenting today, Chairman of Kerry Airport, Denis Cregan, said: “Kerry Airport sees as positive the confirmation from the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, that the contract has been awarded to Stobart Air to operate the Public Service Obligation (PSO) air route linking Kerry Airport with Dublin for the next four years.
"The contract, will allow the existing twice daily flights between Kerry and Dublin to continue uninterrupted until 31st January 2022. Passengers booking flights with Aer Lingus Regional (via www.aerlingus.com) between Kerry and Dublin will ultimately benefit from Stobart Air’s familiarity of the route while the continuation of the PSO will be a major positive step for both Kerry Airport and the business and tourist interests of the county."
“We are delighted that Stobart Air, operating as Aer Lingus Regional will continue the Dublin – Donegal route under the new PSO contract. The route has shown good steady growth over the last three years with a huge marketing effort involving the airline, airport and the tourism and business development agencies.
"The continuity with the same operator on the route will enable this work to continue with all of the stakeholders and enable access to markets throughout the Aer Lingus world network for the greater good of the entire North West Region,” said Anne Bonner, Managing Director Donegal Airport.
"We extend our best wishes to the airline and look forward to continuing our good working relationship with them to deliver this excellent service," she said.