Summit County, helicopter companies reach deal to end flights during Sundance

Posted at 2:55 PM, Jan 23, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-23 23:22:25-05

PARK CITY, Utah – After Summit County reprimanded Uber for giving helicopter rides to Sundance Film Festival goers, the company announced Saturday they will stop all flights for the remainder of the festival.

The move happened before a hearing scheduled for Monday to decide whether Summit County’s restraining order against the ride sharing program will stand.

The Summit County Sheriff’s Office issued a cease and desist order against Uber Friday, asking them to stop flying helicopters into Park City, or they could be arrested and face criminal charges.

“They have violated county code,” said Summit County Sheriff Justin Martinez. “They do not have a business license, and they are operating without permits.”

The sheriff said they received hundreds of complaints from residents about the helicopters. Summit County filed a temporary restraining order against Uber and Blade Helicopters on Friday. Uber claims what they were doing was legal, and on Friday, a judge heard both sides of the argument.

“The way they did it this time was just wrong,” Martinez said. “I think they violated the public’s trust, I think they overstepped their limit, and as the sheriff, my job is to create order.”

Martinez said he was prepared to make arrests on Saturday if they continued operations. But after the backlash, Uber made the announcement they were grounding all flights for the duration of the festival.

“We’re not going to be flying today,” said Uber Spokesperson Taylor Patterson. “But what I can tell you, is we’re really thrilled to continue operating in this beautiful rider lounge that we have here. This is really the main focus for us for this festival.”

Uber says due to the popularity of the helicopters, they may resume flights at future festivals, but only after going through the proper channels of working with the local government to obtain the proper business licenses and permits.

Patterson reiterated they want to draw the focus to Uber’s ground transportation for the remainder of the festival.

“Really, our goal here is to create an easy and safe way for people to get around the festival, and we’ve seen tremendous response so far,” she said. “We’ve actually done 15,000 rides in Park City in the last 48 hours.”

The hearing for the temporary restraining order is still scheduled for Monday at 10:30 a.m. at the Silver Summit Courthouse before Judge Kara Pettit.

The full statement from Uber reads:

 "We may no longer be in the air, but Uber operations continue to soar on the ground where we remain committed to offering riders a world-class experience at the Sundance Film Festival, and to getting festival-goers from point A to point B reliably and safely. As an official sponsor of the Festival, we are thrilled to partner with the Sundance Institute to help facilitate a seamless transportation option for Park City visitors and residents."