PLANS to open up the Lake District to Essex tourists have taken a blow with the delayed opening of Carlisle Lake District Airport.

In March, Southend Airport announced fliers could now purchase tickets to the new airport, which aimed to be a gateway to the Lake District.

But now, the planned June 4 launch has been pushed back to September.

The growing global shortage of qualified air traffic control staff available to meet training and regulatory deadlines has resulted in the airport being unable to open for commercial air services in time.

Kate Willard, head of corporate projects for Stobart Group, said: “It is with enormous regret that we must advise that the launch of scheduled services from Carlisle Lake District Airport has been delayed.

“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 4 June, 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.”

Loganair has informed all affected passengers.

Stobart insists it is confident of meeting a new September 3 launch and apologised for the delay.

Loganair’s managing director Jonathan Hinkles said: “This is hugely disappointing for everyone, especially our customers.

“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.”