MIAMI – Beginning in September, a new regional airline is due to begin flights across Ireland as the Aer Lingus (EL) regional franchise. EL selected Emerald Airlines (no IATA code as yet), financially backed by founder Conor McCarthy and a number of private investors, following the collapse of EL’s most recent contractor, Stobart Air.

On day one, two ATR-72 turboprops, obtained from Virgin Australia, will fly the routes. Plans are to have the two 68-seat aircraft with all-economy configuration be joined by a dozen more by the end of the year. Emerald is preparing the planes for service at Exeter Aerospace, a company owned by McCarthy’s Dublin Aerospace.

Emerald’s routes will fly out of Dublin, Belfast, and Cork. EL expects Emerald to funnel up to 200,000 passengers a year to its transatlantic flights.

ATR aircraft. Photo: Alberto Cucini/Airways

Virgin Australia reports that Virgin Australia (VA) at its peak had 14 of the turboprops in its fleet. But in 2017, the airline began to streamline its operations to reduce costs. VA returned the ATR-72s to their leasing firms in 2020 while it was in bankruptcy.

According to, “Emerald has signed a memorandum of understanding with Aer Lingus for a ten-year contract to run the regional franchise from late 2022 until 2032. Aer Lingus and BA CityFlyer (CJ) will operate most of Stobart’s former routes until at least the end of August.” says that Emerald hopes to secure its Air Operators Certificate (AOC) and its Irish operating license by September. The startup airline has already hired its first dozen pilots and 12 cabin crew. They are undergoing operational conversion courses in Toulouse.

McCarthy said Emerald should have 14 aircraft in service and about 400 staff by the end of next year.

Featured image: ATR 72-600. Photo: Alberto Cucini/Airways