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This article was published 5/10/2011 (3396 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

WINNIPEG - Air Canada vehemently denies Mayor Sam Katz's assertions that it moved its flight crews out of downtown Winnipeg for financial reasons.

Earlier today, Mayor Sam Katz said he thinks Air Canada's decision to move its flight crews out of downtown Winnipeg was financially motivated.

Mayor Sam Katz says he thinks Air Canada was motivated to pull its flight crews from downtown hotels for financial reasons. However, Air Canada says money had nothing to do with it.

Mayor Sam Katz says he thinks Air Canada was motivated to pull its flight crews from downtown hotels for financial reasons. However, Air Canada says money had nothing to do with it.

Katz spoke to Air Canada president Calin Rovinescu this mornings and said Rovinescu told him flight crews may return to downtown Winnipeg after their contract with Sandman hotels expires.

Katz said Rovinescu told him the airline looked at other downtown hotels before moving crews to the Sandman, but could not come to a financial agreement.

"I think going to the Sandman was a financial decision because obviously they could not come to an agreement with some of the other downtown hotels because I guess the price was higher," Katz told reporters. "That's not to say that's what the entire decision was based on, but obviously finance comes into play at some point."

In an email, Air Canada spokesman Peter Fitzpatrick said it was "stated explicitly to Mayor Katz" that the decision was not in any way based on financial considerations.

"The safety and security of our employees was the sole factor in this decision," he said. 

Fitzpatrick's statement says Air Canada looked at alternate hotels, including the Inn at the Forks and the Clarion at Polo Park, but the hotels were unwilling or unable to accommodate airline crews due to capacity issues.

In a Sept. 23 internal memo, Air Canada stated its flight crews will move from downtown's Radisson Hotel to the Sandman Hotel near the airport because "several downtown locations" are "susceptible to crimes of violence and opportunity" due to intoxicated people displaced by "recent environmental issues."

Katz said it's unfortunate the story has made national headlines since it paints Winnipeg in such a negative light.

jen.skerritt@freepress.mb.ca