Saturday, October 1, 2011

Winnipeg irked Air Canada won't let employees stay downtown

WINNIPEG – A Winnipeg city councillor said she is “incredibly disappointed” that Air Canada is no longer allowing its flight crews to stay in downtown hotels.

“I think that our downtown has a lot to offer,” said Paula Havixbeck city councillor for Charleswood-Tuxedo.

“Yes, there is the need to take precaution, but I think that our downtown is pretty safe. I’ve stayed there. I think that it’s disappointing that Air Canada has made that decision.”

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

“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 reads.

“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.”

Crews will now stay at a hotel near James Armstrong International Airport.

Havixbeck admitted there are some safety concerns, and just a few days ago, her own car was broken into downtown.

“My window was smashed and some things were taken,” she said. “We have to continue to be more vigilant, and have good policing downtown. I think adding cadets has been an improvement.”

Stefano Grande, executive director of the Downtown Winnipeg Business Improvement Zone , said downtown is “relatively safe.”

“Crime downtown has been going down quite a bit, and continues to be going down quite a bit,” he said.

Public intoxication and panhandling are issues they continue to deal with, Grande said.

“Our outreach program is there for everyone, including the Radisson and other hotels. When there is public intoxication, we respond within minutes.”

Grande said new apartments going up and the Winnipeg Jets bringing thousands of people downtown will help deal with the negative perception.

“There are a lot of positive things that are happening,” he said, adding he would like to see more cadets in the downtown area. “We continue to find solutions to those social issues and, obviously, there’s a lot of work that we have to do, but it’s an unfortunate call by Air Canada,.”

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