Carlisle: Britain’s newest regional airport
Tuesday, April 24, 2018
An ambitious rebirth will take place in June at Britain's newest regional airport. Carlisle Lake District last handled scheduled flights in 1993, but with a new terminal and upgraded infrastructure it is set to come back to life with the hope of attracting hundreds of thousands of passengers to the tourist region it represents.
Carlisle is located close to the Lake District National Park in the English county of Cumbria. The region attracted 45 million visitors last year to experience its unrivaled natural beauty and historic towns and villages. It includes a collection of the United Kingdom's largest lakes, as well as England's tallest mountain. With a thriving outdoors and leisure break industry, it is a vital part of the country's tourism industry.
The only airport close to the National Park is at Carlisle. A former wartime airfield, its infrastructure had seen little improvement over the past 50 years, and it became relegated to a general aviation role with limited use by executive aircraft and the military.
Between the 1960s and 1990s, various regional links to other airports around Britain were attempted, but rarely lasted long. However, under owners Stobart Group, the airport is currently undergoing an upgrade to make it more attractive and usable to passengers and airlines. Already one airline partner has been announced.
With its main runway resurfaced and taxiway infrastructure upgraded, the airport has also built a new terminal on the south side of the site to replace the tiny structure formerly used.
Stobart Group, which made its name in the haulage industry, is also behind the revival of London Southend airport — considered a rising star and viable alternative to the capital's crowded hubs.
With an airline also part of the group (Stobart Air currently acts as a franchise carrier for Aer Lingus Regional and Flybe), it had been anticipated that the first flights from Carlisle Airport would be handled in-house. However, an announcement by Scottish regional airline Loganair identified that it would be the first tenant of the revived airport.
From June 4, Loganair will operate up to 12 daily flights using turboprop Saab 340 aircraft, flying to London Southend, Dublin and Belfast City George Best airports. It is hoped that this choice of destinations will attract inbound tourism to the Lake District, as well as provide a convenient choice for outbound travelers and business users. The alternative is a 45-minute-plus journey to Manchester or Newcastle airports.
Andy Tinkler, the boss of Stobart, which funded the airport development and no doubt put in place an attractive package for Loganair, is keen to discover whether this will be a success. He told The Cumberland News, "If everybody supports it, it will have a chance."
Much of the Lake District's tourism comes in the form of day-trippers who travel relatively short distances. Yet attracting just a small selection of visitors from further afield to these air services could see Carlisle handling around 160,000 per year initially, with more development a possibility, including outbound vacation flights.
The effect Stobart has had on Southend clearly shows their ability to turn airports around. Carlisle is much more rural, but attached to one of Britain's greatest tourist attractions and could soon be a thriving regional airport again.
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