Travellers have been left stranded in cities in the UK and Ireland and nearly 500 jobs are at risk after a regional Irish airline announced it was going into liquidation.
Aer Lingus said a number of regional flights had been cancelled after the operator, Stobart Air, ended its contract with the Irish airline.
The announcement, which comes after Stobart Air failed to find a buyer and ceased trading, affects several flights from Dublin and Belfast airports to UK cities.
An Aer Lingus statement said it had been notified late on Friday that Stobart was terminating its franchise agreement with immediate effect.
The statement said: “Stobart Air referred to the continuing impact of the pandemic, which has resulted in almost no flying since March 2020. Stobart Air has ceased trading and is now in the process of appointing a liquidator.
“Aer Lingus apologises to customers for the inconvenience caused by the cancellation at such short notice of all flights operated by Stobart Air.”
The airline said it was communicating with customers to advise them of their options in terms of rebooking or requesting a refund.
The announcement affects flights from Dublin to Kerry, Donegal, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Newquay. Flights from Belfast to Manchester, Birmingham, Edinburgh, Leeds Bradford, Exeter and East Midlands airports have also been cancelled.
Aer Lingus flights to Heathrow are not affected.
A spokesperson for Belfast City airport said it was working with Aer Lingus to ensure the routes affected would be operating again as soon as possible.
A spokesperson for Stobart Air said: “It is with great regret and sadness that Stobart Air can confirm that the board is in the process of appointing a liquidator to the business and the airline is to cease operations with immediate effect.”
The airline apologised to its customers for the inconvenience caused at short notice and said all 480 staff had been informed.
The spokesperson said: “Last April, Stobart Air announced that a new owner had been identified. However, it has emerged that the funding to support this transaction is no longer in place and the new owner is now unable to conclude the transaction.
“Given the continued impact of the pandemic which has virtually halted air travel … and in the absence of any alternative purchasers or sources of funding, the board of Stobart Air must take the necessary, unavoidable and difficult decision to seek to appoint a liquidator.”
Customers who have booked flights are advised not go to the airport and to check the Aer Lingus website.