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Emerald Airlines, a start-up carrier founded by Conor McCarthy, is in exclusive talks with Aer Lingus about the operation of Aer Lingus Regional services starting in 2023, The Irish Independent has reported.

While the contract has yet to be finalized, McCarthy said Emerald Airlines was looking forward to these negotiations in the coming weeks intending to conclude a binding contract and progress the airline's ambitious plan to roll out a set of 15 or more ATR- 72 Aer Lingus-branded aircraft from Dublin, Belfast City, Cork, and Shannon".

McCarthy was the Chief Executive of Aer Lingus Commuter the now-defunct in-house regional unit of Aer Lingus, between 1991 and 1996. In 2018-9, he was a non-executive chairman of Stobart Air, the carrier which currently holds the Aer Lingus regional contract.

The loss of the crucial Aer Lingus contract will spell trouble for Stobart Air and its parent Stobart Group. Aer Lingus Regional flights are Stobart Air's only business at this moment with the current deal set to expire at the end of 2022. Despite the setback, Stobart Group's Chief Executive Warwick Brady said the group remains hopeful that it would be able to sell the Irish regional carrier by March 2021.

"The group remains in positive discussions with a number of interested parties and continues to target an exit from Stobart Air before the end of the current financial year," Brady said.

Stobart Group also said that it had an option to break existing lease agreements for thirteen turboprops in April 2023, should it fail to secure the Aer Lingus contract. 

Since Emerald Airlines is currently a virtual carrier with no Air Operator's Certificate or aircraft, it has been touted as a potential buyer for Stobart Air's assets. Falko Regional Aircraft, which already owns CityJet, has also been named as a potential investor, although the talks have reportedly broken down once it emerged that Stobart Air was unlikely to extend its Aer Lingus Regional contract.

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