Perimeter has lost the rights to its exclusive bus service from Vancouver International Airport to Whistler.
The company is also no longer allowed to lease desks in the airport and its prime parking spots have been given to its new competitor.
As of Monday, Oct. 1 the official passenger carrier between the airport and Whistler is Pacific Coach Lines (PCL), which is now offering daily service at a slightly lower rate.
“Adding the YVR (Vancouver airport) — Whistler route to existing services means value for customers, as Pacific Coach has already earned a reputation as a safe and reliable motor coach company that provides excellent service,” said PCL vice president Martin Yeh.
The change comes amid an ongoing legal dispute between Perimeter and the Vancouver International Airport Authority.
Sue Ross, spokesperson for the airport authority, said an opportunity arose for using a different service while maintaining a high level of service.
“From time to time we go out and seek what other options there are,” she said.
Switching to PCL, however, does not change much from a customer service perspective.
“Basically the service between the airport and Whistler remains the same,” added Ross.
She would not comment on the legal issues.
The two parties are expected to be back in court in the New Year.
For Perimeter the change marks an end to a long-standing relationship with the airport authority.
“We continue to operate our service,” assured Mike Cafferky, Perimeter’s vice president of operations. “I guess the major change for us is that the airport is no longer allowing us access to desks inside, but because all of our service is pre-booked… we’re actually providing an improved service. We’re meeting and greeting all of our passengers with staff at the airport and moving them on to our buses where service continues.”
In anticipation of losing its desk space, Perimeter has been dispatching uniformed staff into the lobby areas of both the domestic and international terminals for the past two weeks to meet their customers.
Perimeter’s buses, which were once parked immediately outside the airport, are now in the charter bus space. On the domestic side that’s a short walk across the street, said Cafferky. On the international side, the new parking spot is immediately adjacent to the old location.
“It’s an inconvenience to us but at the same point in time I think it actually offers a better service,” said Cafferky.
PCL’s airport to Whistler route is called Whistler Skylynx. Service will be made up of seven daily departures each way, expanding to nine departures over the winter season.
With short notice to begin its service, the first runs have only had a few passengers but that’s without any marketing or promotions, said Shannon Peters, PCL’s manager of sales and marketing.
The company will be ramping up for the winter season with a marketing campaign and there will be a discounted rate for Whistler residents.
“We will definitely be offering special rates for Whistler residents,” she said.
PCL has been working for more than 40 years as the primary scheduled inter-city bus service between Vancouver and Vancouver Island. That service expanded to include routes from the airport 10 years ago. Now the company will be traveling north.
The posted rates on each company’s website show PCL offering tickets at a slightly lower rate. A one-way adult ticket on Skylynx is $61.50 including GST, while the same ticket from Perimeter is $67 without GST, or $71 including GST.
Cafferky said a lot of Perimeter’s business is through international tour wholesalers who get discounted rates.
He is not concerned about the added competition to their business in the short-term. Long-term business, however, will depend on who provides the best service for cost.
“Whenever there’s an added competitor in the marketplace they take some market share,” admits Cafferky. “Certainly it’ll have some impact on the service. At the same point in time, we’ll maintain a substantial piece of our market share. We’ve been operating for 25 years. We are well known in the industry for the level of service that we provide. That level of service will not diminish. Most of the clients that we service are international wholesalers. We have ongoing contractual arrangements with them and so we don’t expect a significant impact in the short term and I guess it’ll depend on who continues to provide the best quality service in the future.”