The managing director of Loganair has voiced “huge disappointment” that plans to re-open Carlisle Lake District airport to commercial flights have been put back until after the summer.
Airport owner Stobart Group blamed a lack of air traffic controllers on the decision to postpone the re-establishment of passenger services until September.
Loganair was forced to delay the start of services to Southend, Belfast City and Dublin as it emerged that the planned June 4 airport opening had been postponed until September 3.
Passengers with bookings on the routes over the three months are being offered full refunds or help with alternative flights from Manchester or Glasgow airports.
A growing global shortage of qualified air traffic control staff available to meet training and regulatory deadlines was blamed for the airport being unable to open for commercial air services in time to proceed with the planned June 4 launch date.
Jonathan Hinkles, Loganair managing director, said: “Together with our partners, Stobart Aviation, we reluctantly had to take the decision to delay the launch of flights to London Southend, Dublin and Belfast City.
“This is hugely disappointing for everyone, especially our customers.”
However, he added: “We remain fully committed to our partnership with Stobart Aviation to commence regular commercial services from Carlisle Lake District in September.
“We’re working hard to inform all passengers and we completely appreciate the frustration which disruption to travel plans can cause.
“We have taken the decision to delay to September to provide the greatest level of certainty that the new target date for the introduction of services will be met, allowing the travelling public to book with confidence.”
Kate Willard, Stobart Group head of corporate projects, added: “This major project to launch air services from a new airport relies not only on the airport’s infrastructure being complete but also on a full complement of essential operational staff being in place.
“Regrettably, changing circumstances around staffing means that this cannot be completed in time for the airport to receive scheduled flights as planned on June 4, despite every possible human effort being made.
“We know just how much this airport means to the people of Cumbria, South Scotland and the wider north west region and remain fully and wholeheartedly committed to working with all of our partners towards the new September launch date.”
The airport will still be open for general aviation, requiring a lesser level of air traffic control provision than that required to support scheduled services, according to Stobart.
Commercial flights have not operated from the airport six miles from the city of Carlisle since 1993.
James Duddridge, MP for Rochford and Southend East, commented: “A three-month delay is obviously frustrating but not unheard of in major infrastructure projects like a new airport.
“The decades of debate about new capacity in the south-east of England, to which London Southend is part of the answer, place this hiatus in perspective.”
Loganair is selling tickets from Carlisle for flights from September 3 to Belfast, from £39.99 one-way and £44.99 to Southend and Dublin.