Renovations unveiled at Lethbridge Airport with hope for future growth

From CBC News – link to source story

Airport used to serve as principal hub for airline service in Western Canada

Joel Dryden · CBC News · December 07, 2021

The improvements to Lethbridge’s airport will be revealed to the public in early 2022. The renovations include the installation of various amenities in the airport building as well as upgrades to the airfield and pavement. (Joel Dryden/CBC)

Boarding a flight at the Lethbridge Airport used to be a somewhat taxing experience. 

For example, the tightly packed security area had no washrooms, meaning one would need to leave the area and then re-enter should nature call.

New renovations in the security area have solved that problem.

The upgrades also include the addition of a water bottle refill station, more seating and other modern conveniences common at major airports.

Upgrades to the airport include replacing the old, aged seating with modern furniture that includes charging stations for phones and laptops. (Joel Dryden/CBC)

It’s all part of a larger renovation of the airport, which was unveiled to media on Tuesday. The grand opening of the newly renovated airport is scheduled for late January 2022.

“It’s super exciting,” said Lethbridge Mayor Blaine Hyggen. “I’ve been out here numerous times flying out of Lethbridge, and to be able to see the changes, are extraordinary.”

The city initially invested $2.6 million into the airport and was able to secure an additional $23 million in provincial and grant funding. 

The hold room at the airport has been expanded, meaning more passengers will be able to board additional airlines, and larger aircraft will be able to be housed.

A new baggage carousel is also part of the facelift. The airfield and pavement have also been updated, which the city hopes will eventually attract more airlines and aircraft to Lethbridge.

“This has been huge,” said Cameron Prince, airport operations manager. “I’m excited to see where we’re going, and see the investment in the airport going forward.”

The Lethbridge Airport facelift is mostly complete and will be unveiled to the public in January. (Joel Dryden/CBC)

WestJet is the only airline providing service at the Lethbridge airport. Air Canada stopped providing service as of April 1, 2020, amid the airline industry being hard hit by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Before the pandemic, the airport had about 40 flights per week from Lethbridge to Calgary. Now it’s around 11 per week. 

A former hub in Western Canada

Though it functions today mostly to provide airline service to and from Calgary, Lethbridge’s airport officially opened in 1939 as the principal hub for Western Canada.

“If you were going from Vancouver to Calgary, you had to fly from Vancouver to Lethbridge, change planes and fly north to Calgary,” said Ian MacLachlan, professor emeritus at the University of Lethbridge in the department of geography and environment. 

“So we were a real airline hub at a time when air traffic was a much, much smaller volume than it is today.”

Two unidentified men stand in front of a sign in this historic photo of the Lethbridge Airport. (Submitted by the Galt Museum and Archives)

At that time, navigation was not nearly as sophisticated as it is now. For that reason, airlines had to follow a chain of airports that spanned the country, MacLachlan explained — and in Western Canada, that chain of airports essentially hugged the border with the United States.

“They followed the southernmost CPR line all the way across, and it was a lot easier to get across the Rockies at the Crowsnest Pass than it was to go way up north to Calgary and go further north through the Kicking Horse pass,” he said.

On the British Columbia side of the line, there were multiple good candidates for emergency airports, which was important given the less reliable airports at the time.

“And the weather was a little bit better through the southern route,” MacLachlan said. 

“So, that’s where the Trans-Canada Air Lines followed. So Lethbridge was the hub of Western Canada from 1939 until, really, the North Star — which was a pressurized aircraft, far more advanced than the old Lockheed Electra — took over.”

This photo, taken in February 1969, shows a collection of buildings at the Lethbridge Airport. (Submitted by the Galt Museum and Archives)

Ownership of the Lethbridge Airport was transferred from Lethbridge County to the City of Lethbridge in 2018, a move that city officials cited as being integral to the airport competing at an international level.

Today, the city said it hopes that the new renovations will increase passenger traffic and raise funds, suggesting that the fully developed lands at the airport could provide $10 million annually in lease revenue and an additional $10 million in tax revenue.

Rik Barry is chairman of the Time Air Historical Society, a group that aims to preserve aviation history in southern Alberta.

He said these renovations are important, allowing for a much better interaction between the travelling public and the airport itself.

“Hopefully, that will bring an impetus to having more service into Lethbridge,” he said. “It would be great to again see direct service out to the coast, which was lost about 30 years ago.”

WestJet flights between Dawson Creek and Calgary take off

Air service returns to Dawson Creek as WestJet Link connects city to WestJet’s global hub

CALGARY, AB, Sept. 8, 2021 /CNW/ – Today, WestJet launched its newest route with the departure of WestJet Link flight 3027 connecting Calgary and Dawson Creek, B.C. The inaugural marks a new link for the regions’ business, travel and tourism markets as WestJet becomes the only carrier to provide nonstop service between the Peace River Region and its largest hub in Calgary, where the airline is the largest carrier, offering the most seats and flights.

“Our guests in both Calgary and the Peace River Region have been patiently awaiting this important milestone and we are thrilled to bring air service to the community,” said John Weatherill, WestJet Chief Commercial Officer. “As we continue to build back our network, Dawson Creek will benefit from lower fares and connectivity across our network as we strive to reconnect Canadians for business and leisure.”

Upon flight 3027’s arrival in Dawson Creek, the inaugural service was celebrated by Dawson Creek Mayor Dale Bumstead alongside Chris Hedlin, WestJet’s Vice-President of Network Planning and key regional business leaders.

“The City of Dawson Creek is so pleased to welcome WestJet into our city and the entire South Peace region of Northeast BC. This new direct service to Calgary is so important to the economic development of our city,” said Dale Bumstead, Mayor, Dawson Creek. “The Energy, Forestry and Mining sectors are all very important to our region and this new service will be a welcome addition for industry while also providing our residents with nonstop air service to WestJet’s global hub in Calgary for their leisure and business travel.”

The new service and new route for WestJet operates four times weekly on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays.  WestJet Link flights are operated through a capacity purchase agreement with Pacific Coastal Airlines using its fleet of WestJet-branded 34-seat Saab 340 aircraft.

With the addition of Calgary-Dawson Creek service, WestJet Link now operates five routes between Calgary and Cranbrook, Lethbridge, Lloydminster and Medicine Hat and three between Vancouver and Cranbrook, Nanaimo and Comox.

Details of WestJet’s service between Calgary and Dawson Creek:

RouteFrequencyStart DateDepartureArrival
Calgary – Dawson Creek4x weeklySeptember 8, 20213:30 p.m4:37 p.m
Dawson Creek – Calgary4x weeklySeptember 8, 20215:15 p.m8:13 p.m

Additional quotes

“With many development projects happening across western Canada, the addition of WestJet’s Calgary to Dawson Creek, B.C. route is an important connection that supports economic development, benefiting both provinces,” said Chris Miles, Vice President, Operations & Infrastructure for The Calgary Airport Authority. “This route also provides guests in Northern B.C. direct access to Alberta and destinations across the country with YYC’s extensive connecting flight network.”

“We are very excited to be a part of the new air service to Dawson Creek,” says Pacific Coastal Airlines President, Quentin Smith. “We are pleased to see WestJet Link grow and look forward to our continued partnership and linking communities to the WestJet network.”

About WestJet 
In 25 years of serving Canadians, WestJet has cut airfares in half and increased the flying population in Canada to more than 50 per cent. WestJet launched in 1996 with three aircraft, 250 employees and five destinations, growing over the years to more than 180 aircraft, 14,000 employees and more than 100 destinations in 23 countries, pre-pandemic.

Since the start of the pandemic the WestJet Group of Companies has built a layered framework of safety measures to ensure Canadians can continue to travel safely and responsibly through the airline’s Safety Above All promise. During this time, WestJet has maintained its status as one of the top-10 on-time airlines in North America as named by Cirium.

For more information about everything WestJet, please visit westjet.com

Seven regional airports across the Prairies receiving more than $4 million to maintain regional connectivity and jobs

Targeted Government of Canada support will be provided by Western Economic Diversification Canada

WINNIPEG, MB, Aug. 4, 2021 /CNW/ – Regional air transportation is crucial to local economic growth, the movement of goods and the connectivity of Canadians across the country. The pandemic has had major impacts on regional air transportation ecosystems, affecting communities and local businesses from coast to coast to coast.

Prairie regional airports get an economic boost (CNW Group/Western Economic Diversification Canada)
Prairie regional airports get an economic boost (CNW Group/Western Economic Diversification Canada)

The Government of Canada’s Regional Air Transportation Initiative (RATI), launched in March 2021, fosters access to air transportation and supports regional ecosystems. In particular, it enables regional air carriers and airports to remain operational in these difficult times and to continue contributing to regional economic growth, while adapting to new post-COVID-19 realities and requirements.

Prairie airports to benefit from funding

With this in mind, Terry Duguid, Parliamentary Secretary to the Honourable Mélanie Joly, Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages, and Minister responsible for Western Economic Diversification Canada, announced up to $4,012,480 in RATI funding for seven regional airports in Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba. This funding will enable these airports to overcome challenges that were brought on by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Regional air transportation is key to the economic development of communities and businesses across Canada. Since it helps draw Canadians to rural and remote communities to work and raise their families, while also providing reliable connectivity with urban centres, it plays a crucial role in a just, inclusive recovery for all, throughout the country.

Quotes

 “It is important to protect our regional air transportation ecosystems for the thousands of workers employed by this sector and for the many businesses and communities that depend on it. We know that air connectivity to all regions is essential to healthy, inclusive economic growth, and supporting it is part of our plan to build back a stronger, more resilient economy.”

–       The Honourable Mélanie Joly, Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages, and Minister responsible for Western Economic Diversification Canada

“Regional airports and infrastructure are important to residents and businesses across the Prairies. They play a critical role for the economy as people depend on them for both personal and business travel and to access services in larger centres. This funding will go a long way to getting these assets back on their feet as Canada begins to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and we reopen our economy.”

–       Terry Duguid, Parliamentary Secretary to the Honourable Mélanie Joly, Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages, and Minister responsible for Western Economic Diversification Canada and to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change (Canada Water Agency)

“We are excited to welcome news of support for regional connectivity. Remote communities such as ours depend on air connectivity to bolster economic activity and growth of entire sectors and industries. Reliable air connectivity not only supports thousands of jobs, but also ensures the viability of our airport which is critical to the sustainability of our community.”

–       RJ Steenstra, President & CEO, Fort McMurray Airport Authority

 “The Town of La Ronge is very appreciative for the $300,000 investment from the federal government in the La Ronge airport. The investment will not only help a critical asset in our region economy recover from COVID, it will help improve the competitiveness of our airport and speed up the recovery timelines. On behalf of Council, we are very thankful for the investment.”

–       Colin Ratushniak, Mayor of the Town of La Ronge, Saskatchewan

“As a small community, connectivity is vital for both for our economy and our residents. As the operator of a regional airport, we appreciate any help we can get as it lessens the burdens on us and our taxpayers and allows us to remain connected.”

–       Herb Jaques, Mayor of The Town of The Pas, Manitoba

Projects being funded:

RecipientLocationFunding
City of LethbridgeLethbridge, ABup to $583,480
City of Medicine HatMedicine Hat, ABup to $549,840
Fort McMurray Airport AuthorityFort McMurray, ABup to $1,596,160
Town of High LevelHigh Level, ABup to $348,000
City of Prince AlbertPrince Albert, SKup to $300,000
Town of La RongeLa Ronge, SKup to $300,000
Town of The PasThe Pas, MBup to $335,000
                                                           Total Fundingup to $4,012,480

Quick facts

  • RATI, administered by the regional development agencies (RDAs), has a national budget of $206 million.
  • The Initiative supports regional air ecosystems—which include regional air carriers and airports, as well as small and medium-sized enterprises and non-profit organizations—in developing and implementing enhanced services for improved regional connectivity.
  • RATI complements measures implemented by Transport Canada.

Associated links