They got the Jets—then lost the pilots

Air Canada stops sending its pilots into downtown Winnipeg "due to safety concerns"

You’ve heard of people moving out of downtown areas and into suburban neighbourhoods. Now the airline personnel are doing it themselves—in Winnipeg, at least. Air Canada has announced that “due to safety concerns,” it will stop using the Radisson Hotel in the city’s downtown core to house its pilots and crew. Instead, during layovers, Air Canada employees will be bussed to an airport hotel. A spokesman for the airline told the Winnipeg Free Press this came in reaction to an assessment by “local law enforcement officials, and our own security people,” and didn’t say when—if ever—it will be safe for flight attendants to venture back downtown.

’Peggers bristled at the suggestion their downtown is dangerous. Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz fumed that Air Canada should “say exactly what it is they’re saying” about the perceived threats, implying that safety issues might be an excuse for cutting costs: “There’s more to this than meets the eye,” he said. “The reasons don’t appear to be valid.” The decision comes as a blow at a time when, finally, Winnipeg’s reputation seemed on the mend. This summer, the NHL returned to Winnipeg, but now that the Jets are back, the jet pilots are fleeing.

The airline hasn’t yet given a full public justification for the decision, but an internal memo fingered the “1,000 displaced people from rural Manitoba” who were forced to flee their homes during summer flooding. Air Canada has since apologized for what the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs called a racist claim that Aboriginal flood victims were making the city dangerous. Airlines expect their pilots to be brave enough to withstand bad weather and the threat of terrorist attacks but, it seems, they must be protected at all costs from homeless people.

Looking for more?

Get the Best of Maclean's sent straight to your inbox. Sign up for news, commentary and analysis.