Gaining the attention of local news media, many Winnipeg limousine operators protested several regulatory changes made by the WAA, saying that new regulations aimed at improving customer service would only drive up prices and put smaller limo companies out of business. About 20 of the limousine operators whose on-demand contracts were not renewed convened outside the Manitoba legislature in April to protest what they claimed was an unfair deal that would negatively impact their livelihoods. In a press release, the operators said they “are now scrambling to figure out how to save their companies that have hard working employees,” and characterized the WAA’s decision as “allowing one limousine company to come in and take over.” While new contracts were offered to all operators for pre-arranged service, which makes up about 60 percent of airport limo services, the protesters’ spokesperson maintained that without the ability to make ondemand curbside pick-ups at the airport, upon which smaller providers rely, a majority of the companies are likely to go bankrupt.
The operators were also upset about new terms added to their contracts, including a two-fold increase in dwell fees—costs charged for waiting curbside at the airport for pre-arranged clients. Raised from $2.50 after five minutes to $5, with a $15 maximum after 40 minutes, the WAA advises operators to pass these additional costs on to the consumer which, smaller operators say, essentially forces them to increase their prices, weakening their ability to compete with larger players in the market. Additionally, a $250 monthly fee for pre-arranged pick-ups was added to operators’ contracts; the smaller operators argue that they simply cannot afford to pick up their customers with these added costs.
Despite intense criticism from the competing limousine operators who would be restricted from servicing on-demand airport customers by this deal, the WAA was able to reach an agreement with them, settling the grievances of all parties. The $250 monthly fee, according to the WAA, is only a temporary measure to fund a six-month secret shopper program that will improve the standard of customer service provided by contracted limousine companies.
Major players in the Winnipeg Livery business, including Winnipeg Limousine/Winnipeg Coach Service, London Limos, and Emerald Limousine Service, supported the WAA’s decision throughout the protests, lauding their initiative to standardize the customer service experience in response to a growing number of complaints received by the Manitoba Taxicab Board about rude chauffeurs, dirty vehicles and inconsistent service. “The consistency and the customer service just wasn’t there,” said owner of Hollywood Limousine, Ricky Brar. “Hollywood Limousine is committed to exceeding customer expectations through friendly, professional service.” As part of their proposal, the company has committed to a brand new fleet of Lincoln MKTs, offsetting their carbon footprint by supporting the Manitoba Forestry Association, and requiring their chauffeurs to pass a strict customer service training program.
The WAA is confident that their decision will improve and standardize the customer service experience for on-demand clientele. “Our goal,” said WAA President and CEP Barry Rempel, “is to provide passengers at the airport with an exceptional customer experience for the duration of their trip, including their ride to and from the airport. Today’s travelers have an expectation of services provided at airports around the world, and it is our responsibility to ensure they receive the best level of service available in our community.”
Hollywood Limousine began offering on-demand service at the Winnipeg Richardson International Airport on Tuesday, April 16. Sedan and limousine customers can expect the same flat rates from the airport that they currently enjoy.
by Adam Leitenberger