Santa Claus has delivered an early Christmas present for air travellers in rural southern Alberta near Lethbridge.
The recent announcement that Calgary-based airline WestJet will begin providing flights at the Lethbridge Airport starting next March was welcome news for the city and smaller surrounding communities alike.
It was also an unexpected about-face from a year ago when WestJet indicated it had no interest in operating out of Lethbridge because it didn’t see enough of a market to support two competing airlines.
But circumstances change and now WestJet apparently has a different view of the situation. The airline says it will provide three daily flights between Lethbridge and Calgary under the “WestJet Link” program through a capacity purchase agreement with Pacific Coastal Airlines.
In what was termed a “significant achievement” for the Lethbridge Airport, the arrangement will offer additional opportunities for air travel to Calgary and beyond. As Lethbridge County Reeve Lorne Hickey noted in a press release, the additional lineup of daily flights to Calgary will provide added convenience for business and leisure travellers.
This latest news certainly aids efforts of Lethbridge County and the City of Lethbridge in working toward improving services at the airport and ensuring it continues to be a key economic asset to southern Alberta. With Lethbridge closing in on a population of 100,000 (2017 census figures show the city has surpassed the 98,000 mark), the community and the surrounding area like Vauxhall warrants the kind of air service that will now be provided thanks to WestJet’s impending arrival next spring.
Let’s hope the announcement will also help the County and City in nudging the provincial government to provide capital funding for needed upgrades at the airport. Provinces such as British Columbia, Ontario and Manitoba provide financial assistance for smaller community airports.
The Lethbridge Airport could certainly use such support from its provincial government. Transportation is an important consideration for any community, and for cities the size of Lethbridge and neighbouring rural towns, a proper network of air travel is crucial. That requires sufficient infrastructure to provide the necessary services, and anyone who has used the Lethbridge Airport knows it could stand some upgrades. This becomes especially important with another airline set to share the facility.
WestJet’s plans to bring additional flights to the Lethbridge Airport will lead to improved pricing for air travellers by providing competition.
More flights from the Lethbridge Airport will be a welcome convenience, but, as the saying goes, “use it or lose it.”