Friday, September 30, 2011

Winnipeg too dangerous for Air Canada staff

WINNIPEG — This city's core area is so dangerous and riddled with crime that Canada's largest airliner is no longer allowing its pilots and flight crew to stay in downtown hotels during layovers.

In a rare move, Air Canada has issued a bulletin to its flight crews saying staff will no longer be staying at the Radisson Hotel downtown due to increasing concerns over violent crime in the area.

Flight crews will now stay at the Sandman Hotel near James Armstrong Richardson International Airport.

"Instances of public intoxication, resulting in several downtown locations being susceptible to crimes of violence and opportunity, have been observed by local police," the Sept. 23 bulletin says. "Based on concern generated by crew reports, corporate security, and keeping in mind our obligation, to the extent possible, for ensuring the safety of layover locations, a decision has been made to relocate."

And they won't be back for at least 12 months, or until the crime problem in downtown "improves," the bulletin says.

Air Canada officials said they take the safety of their staff very seriously and confirmed Friday that flight crews will no longer be staying in downtown Winnipeg.

"In this instance, 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 wrote in an e-mail. "As a result, we will be using a different accommodation for crew layovers in Winnipeg on an interim basis."

The Air Canada bulletin also makes reference to "approximately 1,000 displaced people from rural Manitoba" who have been forced into the downtown as a result of "recent environmental issues."

The bulletin appears to link that group to the ongoing problems downtown.

Neither Air Canada officials nor Winnipeg police would identify the group. Police said they are unaware of the 1,000 people Air Canada is referring to.

Violent crime in downtown Winnipeg has jumped 25% over the past two years, according to the Winnipeg police's most recent crime statistics.

http://www.torontosun.com

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