Perimeter Transportation halted regular service between Vancouver International Airport (YVR) and Whistler on Friday, Nov. 21 after losing a battle over fees.
Perimeter had sought a reduction in fees before their licence agreement expired in 2005, but the operators of the Whistler Express eventually broke off negotiations because of the lack of progress.
Since August 2007 Pacific Coach Lines has had the exclusive licence to operate a scheduled service between YVR and Whistler.
Perimeter continued to operate out of the airport but did not pay the full fees stipulated by the licence, which were a percentage of gross revenues earned by the Whistler Express Bus. Instead they paid the same tariff rate as other bus companies offering non-scheduled charter services to and from the airport.
The Vancouver Airport Authority then advised Perimeter that they could not continue operating the service, at which point Perimeter took YVR to court and won an injunction to keep operating.
According to court documents, Perimeter began deducting a 40 per cent booking fee from every ticket sold and putting that money into a subsidiary company, lowering their gross revenues. They also began to classify inbound trips from Whistler as charter bus trips rather than as a scheduled service, further reducing the fees payable to YVR under the terms of the injunction.
While Perimeter’s suit was still pending, YVR filed a counter
suit to dissolve the injunction, and received a court order to the effect that
Perimeter was in breach of the conditions set in the injunction. Perimeter had
a set time to meet the conditions, but Perimeter reportedly declined to do so
and the injunction was dissolved.
When Perimeter finally got their day in court they made the case that YVR is a public utility, and therefore bound to common law principles which would preclude YVR from signing private contracts with ground transportation companies, or charging Perimeter higher fees than other ground transportation companies. It also asked the court to return the extra fees paid over the years over and above the tariff fees charged to other ground carriers.
YVR argued that Perimeter is different than other charter transportation companies, and that it had the right to set licence fees. YVR also pointed to other cases involving ground transportation companies using airports and rail stations that rejected the idea that those transportation hubs operated as public utilities when it comes to ground transportation. They asked the court to award them all the fees they were owed after Perimeter’s licence expired in 2005.
In a ruling handed down on Nov. 7, the Judge rejected Perimeter’s claim in finding that YVR is not a public utility in its dealings with ground transportation providers, and awarded YVR $639,024 — the difference between the fees Perimeter owed and the fees of $730,457 they paid.
On its website, Perimeter said it would continue to operate charter services with its fleet of vans, mini coaches and full-size motor coaches. However, some employees were handed layoff notices as Perimeter scales down operations.
An employee of Pique Newsmagazine had booked a trip on Perimeter, and has so far been unable to get through to anyone at the Whistler office. A recording informed her that there are no refunds, and she was advised to contact her credit card company.