Aer Lingus Regional grows Ireland – UK connectivity

Irish regional carrier, Stobart Air is to further expand its Aer Lingus Regional franchise offer for the Irish national carrier with additional routes between Ireland and the United Kingdom. The airline has this week announced a new link between Cork and Southampton, the resumption of flights between Cork and Leeds Bradford and the return of Aer Lingus flights between Shannon and Edinburgh.

Stobart Air currently offers flights under the Aer Lingus Regional brand to 12 destinations across England and Scotland, comprising Aberdeen, Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Doncaster/Sheffield, East Midlands, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds Bradford, Manchester, Newcastle and Newquay. It already has flights to both Edinburgh and Leeds Bradford from Dublin and to Edinburgh from Cork, but Southampton will be brand new destination.

Aer Lingus Regional will offer an up to five times weekly link to Southampton from Cork from March 2016. It will add to the existing flights of UK carrier Flybe between Southampton and Dublin as well as to Belfast in Northern Ireland.

“This new air link will open important connections for our region, which will be useful for business, the cruise industry, yachting, the universities and those visiting friends and relatives,” said David Lees, Managing Director, Southampton Airport.

The new link to Leeds Bradford from Cork in south west Ireland will commence from March 15, 2016 and will operate on an up to three times weekly basis using an ATR 72 turboprop. The route was previously served by Stobart Air under its former Aer Arran guise between October 2006 and August 2008 having previously been flown by bmi british midland.

Tony Hallwood, Leeds Bradford Airport’s Aviation Development Director, described the new route launch as yet another positive indicator of the airport’s continued development as Yorkshire’s gateway airport as it looks forward to another year of growth in 2016.

“Leeds Bradford has been working closely with both Aer Lingus Regional and Cork Airport over the last 12 months to see the reintroduction of this important service to SW Ireland. We are confident that the Cork route will see strong two way traffic flows and it is especially pleasing to see the growth of Aer Lingus services after the launch of their Dublin services only last winter,” he said.

The Irish Republic is the fourth largest export market for Yorkshire companies and this new route between Leeds Bradford and Cork will provide increased opportunities for bilateral trade. Alongside the new routes to Leeds Bradford and Southampton, Stobart Air will also increase frequencies from Cork to Manchester, Newcastle and Glasgow, adding nine extra flights a week across the three destinations. This will all be facilitated by the arrival of an additional ATR 72 at the Irish airport from next year.

“Choice in regional connectivity is paramount for our business and leisure customers and key to our growth,” added Martin Saxton, Chief Commercial Officer Stobart Air.

Just weeks later, from March 28, 2016, Stobart Air will introduce an up to six times weekly link between Shannon and Edinburgh, boosting annual seats from the Irish airport by 35,000 in 2016, with the promise of growing further to 45,000 per annum from 2017.

“Edinburgh has been one of the services at the top of our list and Aer Lingus Regional’s announcement that it is to restore the service next year is really good news for Shannon and our passengers,” said Neil Pakey, Chief Executive Officer, Shannon Group.

“Edinburgh has proven a hugely popular service here in the past and in terms of feedback from the public, it is one of the routes we had most requests for over the past number of months,” he added.

The route was previously launched by Aer Lingus Regional in March 2011 and was flown on an up to daily basis until it was suspended in January this year. Before the Aer Lingus brand entered this city pair, low-cost carrier Ryanair had operated flights on the route for a four year period between October 2006 and October 2010.

“The new route is a direct response to the strong demand amongst business people and holidays makers in the west of Ireland looking for easy access to Edinburgh, one of Europe’s most popular weekend destinations,” said Stobart Air’s Martin Saxton.

According to UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) data more than ten million passengers per annum are flying between Ireland and the UK, just under 30,000 a day. This means it is the sixth largest country market from the UK after Spain, USA, Germany, Italy and France.

Around 14 million annual seats are available between the two countries, according to OAG schedule data, with this year’s offering the largest this decade and up 4.8 per cent on last year. Ryanair is the dominant carrier with a 53.7 per cent capacity share, ahead of Aer Lingus (including its Aer Lingus Regional operation) with a 32.4 per cent share.

Richard Maslen

Richard Maslen has travelled across the globe to report on developments in the aviation sector as airlines and airports have continued to evolve and…