Dublin-based Emerald Airlines has confirmed plans to open a base at George Best Belfast City (BHD) in Northern Ireland and launch routes to six destinations in England and Scotland.
The startup, which won a contract last July to operate flights under the Aer Lingus Regional brand, intends to offer “high-frequency” service to Birmingham (BHX), Edinburgh (EDI), Exeter (EXT), Glasgow (GLA), Leeds Bradford (LBA) and Manchester (MAN).
The launch dates and frequencies are expected to be announced once the carrier secures an air operator’s certificate and operating licence for its UK subsidiary from the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority.
Emerald already has an AOC in place from the Irish Aviation Authority for its operations in Dublin (DUB), from where it will open its first base in the coming weeks.
Speaking about the planned BHD operations, Emerald CEO Conor McCarthy (pictured to the right of Aer Lingus CEO Lynne Embleton) said there was a “huge opportunity” for the airline in Belfast, with more routes set to be added from the base later this year.
“We’re confident this news will be welcomed by the business community across the region which depend on connectivity more than ever as the recovery continues, and also to all those looking to get away for a much-needed break or to visit friends and family this year,” McCarthy said.
He also confirmed that Emerald Airlines is in advanced talks with Aer Lingus’ sister carrier British Airways (BA) over a codeshare agreement.
Belfast City CEO Matthew Hall said: “Emerald’s commitment to Northern Ireland will ensure not only the continuity of these regional routes that have been operated by mainline Aer Lingus and British Airways since last summer 2021, but also presents a significant opportunity for new routes and additional frequency.”
Aer Lingus and BA took over a string of routes in the UK and Ireland last June after Stobart Air, the previous Aer Lingus Regional franchisee, ceased operations.
In December 2021, it was confirmed that Emerald would begin commercial flights from Dublin in March as Aer Lingus Regional using leased ATR 72-600 aircraft. About 340 flights per week will be on offer across 11 routes, including providing up to four daily connections from Dublin to both Glasgow and Edinburgh.
Earlier this month, the carrier also won a contract to fly a public service obligation (PSO) route between Donegal (CFN) and Dublin. The airline will take over the three-year contract from Feb. 26, with the option of a 12-month extension.
Emerald received its first aircraft last September as part of a deal for six ATR 72-600s from Chorus Aviation. The airline also has an agreement in place to lease four more ATR 72-600s from Nordic Aviation Capital.