THE launch of passenger flights from Carlisle Lake District Airport opens a new economic chapter for north Cumbria, redefining the city as a dynamic regional capital for the Borderlands region, say senior politicians.

In 118 days, passengers will be able to take flights from the Crosby-on-Eden airfield directly to London Southend, Belfast, and Dublin.

According to Carlisle MP John Stevenson, the development is hugely significant, coming as it does just months after the government confirmed it will invest £100m in a southern Carlisle link road, paving the way for a brand new 10,000 home garden village on the city’s southern fringe.

Stobart Group has teamed up with Loganair to launch the service.

Despite setbacks, which last year saw the start date for flights delayed twice, officials are said to be quietly confident that the flights will begin on July 4, with tickets to Dublin and London costing £49.99 and a flight to Belfast priced at £39.99.

Experts say the service will boost both business investment across the county and tourism, which in 2017 pulled in 47m visitors to Cumbria and contributed an estimated £2.9bn to the county’s economy.

“Carlisle is in a really exciting place right now,” said Mr Stevenson. “This city is now a different place to what it was 10 years ago. There has been a lot of positive news.

“It demonstrates Carlisle really is becoming a regional player in the north of England and that it is starting to get noticed. We’re going to see further investment on the back of this.

“It puts Carlisle very much in the centre of the Borderlands region. Our city is now punching above its weight. Credit has to go to the entrepreneur Andrew Tinkler for his contribution to this.

“It would never have happened without his personal drive. Now Stobart Group are taking it to the next level.”

That praise for Mr Tinkler was echoed by his successor at Stobart Group, current chief executive Warwick Brady, who was recently embroiled in a High Court battle with the Cumbrian businessman.

“Andrew Tinkler was the founder who put this group together, creating the foundations and having an enormous influence,” said Mr Brady.

“This is the airport he fought for. Our job is to take the foundations that he created and build on them. This has been hard fought for, and we are very proud to be where we are today. Andrew pushed for it and we have supported it.”

Mr Brady stressed the commercial passenger airport could never have got off the ground as a stand-alone business.

“It could only be viable as part of a bigger picture,” he said. “It needs to be much more than a pure airport. we have a 400 acre site and we have 31 acres of industrial land. We want to create an industrial hub.”

At this week’s launch event, speakers highlighted the strategic significance of the rebranded airport. Among the more significant comments was one from Aviation Minister Liz Suggs.

“The return of commercial flights from Carlisle Lake District Airport means better connections for the region, a boost to tourism and significant opportunities for businesses in the area,” she said.

“Regional airports are vital for strengthening links and increasing growth across the whole of the UK, and through our Aviation Strategy the government is identifying ways to maximise these benefits.”

Lord Inglewood, who chairs Cumbria Local Enterprise Partnership, said the airport had potential to be an increasingly important travel hub for tourism, related business and freight. “New passenger air routes into the county will give the visitor economy a boost, with easier access to our two World Heritage sites and a host of Cumbria’s other attractions,” he said.

Gill Haigh, managing director of Cumbria Tourism, said: “This is great news for Cumbria’s connectivity and will be welcomed by businesses across the county’s thriving £2.9bn tourism industry.

“The flights through Carlisle Lake District Airport will open up new markets and give potential visitors new alternative transport options to come and explore iconic landscapes and experiences throughout Cumbria.We will continue to work with the Airport, businesses and partners to ensure we can all make the most of this exciting new development.”

Carlisle City Council leader Colin Glover said the relaunched airport sends out a positive statement about the city. “This is a big day for Carlisle,” he said. “We’re already the regional capital of the Borderlands and this just cements that.”