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'It's so stupid': Air Canada scared of our downtown

Hotel guest, city activist mock airline's plan to move flight crews to suburbs

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 1/10/2011 (3279 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Air Canada is taxiing its flight crews out of downtown Winnipeg due to safety concerns, but some Winnipeggers, tourists and downtown advocates think the airline should clip the wings on that move.

The country's largest airline said Saturday while it has been putting up its pilots and flight crews at the downtown Radisson Hotel during layovers, it would now be using a hotel closer to the airport.

"We are acting out of an abundance of caution after conducting a security assessment with both local law enforcement officials in Winnipeg and our own security people," Air Canada spokesman Peter Fitzpatrick said in an email statement.

Fitzpatrick didn't offer details about the assessment but said the move is on an interim basis. It's unclear when and under what circumstances employees may return downtown and whether a specific incident triggered the review.

A Radisson spokesperson was not available for comment.

Outside the hotel on Saturday, guest Pat Hull of Vancouver said he was surprised by Air Canada's decision.

"I think it's pretty bush," Hull said.

"I've been here many, many, many times in the last 15 years and I've never had a problem. I certainly don't have any problems downtown.

"I don't hesitate to take a walk outside at night."

Shortly after rolling past the hotel in his motorized wheelchair, downtown resident and community advocate Nick Ternette said "downtown is as safe as you can get, unless you are out at 2 a.m., in certain areas.

"Air Canada should reconsider this -- it's so stupid."

Winnipeg police said they have been in contact with Air Canada's corporate security division to help conduct a safety assessment around Air Canada Centre near Portage Place, but not around the Radisson Hotel.

Stefano Grande, executive director of the Downtown Winnipeg BIZ, is surprised by the move -- especially because he thought Air Canada's security was happy with the downtown.

"Air Canada's safety managers from Montreal were in town this summer checking things out," Grande said.

"We took them out on a tour and showed them our cadet program and other programs. They were quite impressed. They gave us the thumbs-up."

Grande said an increased police presence, as well as new developments such as restaurants and apartments and the return of the Jets show there are growing numbers of people who are helping to make the area safer.

"Frankly, you can't really walk on Portage Avenue these days without bumping into a cadet or a police officer or one of our outreach officers," he said.

"Down the road there are 15,000 NHL fans. None of them are saying they're not coming downtown every week."

Grande said both he and Mayor Sam Katz have called Air Canada.

"We'd like to address their problem if they feel there is a problem," he said.

Kevin Rollason

Kevin Rollason

Kevin Rollason is one of the more versatile reporters at the Winnipeg Free Press. Whether it is covering city hall, the law courts, or general reporting, Rollason can be counted on to not only answer the 5 Ws — Who, What, When, Where and Why — but to do it in an interesting and accessible way for readers.

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