It's good for business - but it's losing money.
So local taxpayers are subsidizing Lethbridge County Airport, though relatively few use it.
That's why city and county councils will meet Monday morning to discuss the facility's future. They'll review reports outlining the airport's current status and the possibility of redeveloping some of its land holdings as retail centres.
The joint meeting, open to the public, is set for 10 a.m. in City Hall.
City residents are being asked to provide up to $200,000 as an annual subsidy while the county, which owns the land and assets, picks up another $50,000.
"City council remains concerned for the long-term success of the Lethbridge Regional Airport," Mayor Rajko Dodic said in a letter to county officials, tabled as part of the joint meeting's agenda material.
The city wants the county to continue as the operating authority, he added.
"Governance issues will need to be discussed later."
Apart from a functional but aging passenger terminal, the airport's main buildings now consist of a military armory and several aircraft hangars built more than 70 years ago.
Council members will be told long-term strategies are needed to market the available land. A report to the councils also calls for a new form of governance for the facility, which now operates as a department of the county.
The airport, formerly operated by the federal government, once offered through flights daily to the Okanagan, the West Coast and northern Alberta, as well as shorter trips to Medicine Hat, Great Falls and Calgary.
Now, service is limited to a shuttle run to Calgary for Air Canada and business flights to Edmonton by locally owned Integra Air. Passenger counts, which climbed to about 130,000 seats in the 1980s, have slumped to about 60,000 now.
If WestJet adds Lethbridge to its service, consultants predict business could soar to 150,000 passengers by 2015. But the airport still might not turn a profit, they warn.
Capital costs are expected pass $19.2 million over the next 15 years, a consultant estimates, but revenues over that time will barely exceed $5 million.
If Lethbridge gains more service to Calgary, revenue could rise to $7.8 million but the consultant says costs would increase to $20.1 million. Local taxpayers could be expected to pay the difference, if no new businesses or industries are attracted to the airport lands.