THREE bidders have emerged to buy a controlling interest in Stobart Air, the airline behind plans for scheduled flights from Carlisle Airport.

The News & Star reported in December that Stobart Group and the investment house Invesco were looking to sell their 85 per cent stake in the airline, which operates Aer Lingus Regional services.

Press reports in Ireland suggest that the Dublin-based Aviation Finance Company has tabled a bid, as has Stobart Air’s management led by its chief executive Sean Brogan.

And it is understood that Stobart Group is considering merging Stobart Air with the Irish carrier CityJet in a move that could create one of Europe’s largest regional airlines.

It is not clear what, if any, impact a change of ownership at Stobart Air would have on plans for flights from Carlisle.

The Government confirmed in November that proposed routes from Carlisle to London Southend, Belfast and Dublin are among five to share a £7m start-up subsidy for new services from regional airports.

Stobart Group owns Carlisle and Southend airports, giving a strong incentive for a Stobart-owned airline to operate services between them.

That would no longer be the case if the company sold its stake.

At present, Stobart Group says, “developments at Carlisle airport are continuing as before”. Chief executive Andrew Tinkler has said that scheduled flights from Carlisle could start this year.