Carlisle Lake District Airport wants to take advantage of the national park’s popularity by launching commercial passenger flights from 2018.
The regional airport, owned by the Stobart Group since 2009, has been handed nearly £5m to upgrade its terminal and runway – and is now planning links with London Southend, Belfast and Dublin. Flights will be operated by Stobart Air, which runs scheduled services under the brands Aer Lingus Regional and Flybe.
Andrew Tinkler, Stobart’s CEO, outlined the firm’s ambitions for the airport.
“If you look at the tourism in this area, it’s massive – probably second biggest after London – so I think through the summer it’d be very busy,” he said, adding that services could start within a year.
It isn’t the first time Tinkler has made that promise, however. In May 2016 he pledged that passenger services would start at Carlisle “by this time next year” after a grant towards runway improvements was promised from the Government’s Regional Air Connectivity Fund.
The money for the latest upgrade was awarded by the Cumbria Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), which uses funds from the Government to help boost the region’s economy.
Rob Johnston, a Cumbria LEP board member, said: “Carlisle Airport is crucial to Cumbria’s growth ambitions. It is a key strategic asset for the county. Developing the airport’s passenger offer will play an important role in maximising Cumbria’s tourism potential by helping to increase international visits. It will also allow easier business travel to and from the county.”
The news comes with the Lake District about to learn whether it is to become Britain’s 31st World Heritage Site. Unesco meets in Poland next month to make a decision on the national park’s bid for inclusion. Success could further boost visitor numbers to the area.
Carlisle Lake District Airport opened in the Thirties as an RAF base before being sold to local authorities in 1960. It had several owners before the Stobart Group stepped in.
There have been many failed efforts to establish passenger flights. British European Airways briefly flew from the airport to the Isle of Man and Belfast in 1946 and 1947; Court Line Aviation offered flights from London between 1967 and 1969; Air Ecosse launched services in the early Eighties; and in 1993 New Air began flights from Carlisle to Stansted, but collapsed after just two months.
Manchester is the closest airport to the Lake District after Carlisle.
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