Stobart Air is to invest €13.8 million in its fleet after renewing a contract to operate public service obligation (PSO) routes under the Aer Lingus Regional brand from Dublin to Kerry and Donegal.
Stobart has operated these services on behalf of the Irish Government, since 2015 and the renewed contract will run until 31 January 2022. Both services runs twice a day.
The airline has invested up to €13.8 million in its fleet to operate its PSO services over the period. Stobart is to lease a new ATR42 aircraft with Nordic Aviation Capital, while extending an existing lease with GE Capital Aviation Services.
The new aircraft will operate the Donegal services while the airline will deploy the larger ATR72 aircraft to operate the Kerry route, increasing capacity by up to 50 per cent 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. Stobart feels it can increase this to 100,000 passengers.
Stobart Air managing director (MD), Graeme Buchanan 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.
He added: “We have seen passenger numbers grow by 53 per cent for Donegal and 35 per cent 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.”
Stobart started operating the PSO services in 2015, when Loganair stopped operating the taxpayer-funded routes. The airline also runs services for Flybe.