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Perimeter fights for its airport service to Whistler

Vancouver Airport Authority in discussions with another provider

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Perimeter Transportation Ltd. is fighting to maintain its regularly scheduled bus service from the Vancouver International Airport to Whistler in the face of an ongoing legal battle.

But the Vancouver Airport Authority confirmed this week it is in discussions with another bus operator to provide service to Whistler.

“We are proceeding with our legal right to enter into a contract with another bus company to provide a scheduled bus service,” said Ralph Eastman, manager of communications for the airport authority.

Eastman said the discussions are taking place with Pacific Coach Lines (PCL) to provide a scheduled service from the airport to Whistler.

Perimeter’s last day of service to the airport was to be Tuesday Aug. 14, according to an earlier statement from the airport authority. That deadline changed later this week.

“Right now it’s status quo until we resolve these transitional issues,” said Eastman.

Perimeter vice president of operations Mike Cafferky said they have no intention of suspending service.

“We’ve suggested to the airport that we’re only a few short months away from this being settled in the courts and it be left to the courts to determine,” he said. “I can’t say and I don’t know what the airport intends to do when we continue to operate but we intend to continue to operate.”

The legal battle has been brewing at the Supreme Court of British Columbia for two years.

In April 2006 a judge granted Perimeter an injunction that allowed it to continue to have road, parking and pedestrian access to the airport similar to that provided to other scheduled bus services.

Last month the same judge found that Perimeter was not complying with the terms of the injunction order and issued several terms it had to meet to come into compliance.

It is not clear if those terms have been met.

PCL’s vice president, Martin Yeh, said there is no schedule or set dates for their service but discussions are continuing.

“Our goal is that we will make this transition as smooth as possible so that the passengers will not be affected,” he said.

The company operates out of the airport with service to Victoria.

Perimeter has been shuttling Whistler’s guests to and from the airport for more than 20 years. It has come a long way from its first year, when it carried 900 passengers, to an annual passenger count now of more than 100,000.

“Over the years we’ve been a part of the growth of Whistler and we’ve worked hard to refine our services to the point where we now run 365 days of the year,” said Cafferky. “And I can assure you, not all of those trips are profitable and certainly haven’t been profitable over the years. And the airport feels that they can come in and just take that business away from us and give it to somebody else. We find that very disturbing. It’s not an easy service to run. It’s a very sophisticated reservations and communications system that has to be established and the airport risks the level of service that we provide.”

Cafferky explained that the company has molded its service to fit Whistler’s unique challenges. It takes passengers to locations to get their keys and then on to their hotel locations.

“That’s a very sophisticated reservations and communications process and the notion that you can just build that out of thin air with no experience is, in our view, somewhat naïve,” he added.

“If there’s competition, fair enough. But the notion that the airport’s prepared to risk the experience and the expertise that we’ve developed over the years without regard for the communities of Whistler or Squamish is remarkable.”

Tourism Whistler has been apprised of the situation.

“Our primary concern is with safeguarding the visitor experience,” said Breton Murphy, manager of corporate communications.

He said both Perimeter and the airport authority have confirmed their commitment to a seamless travel experience for guests coming to and from Whistler despite the ongoing dispute.

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