Brittany Ferries passengers have expressed concern at the way the company is managing summer bookings. The ferry operator says it is working on the basis that Irish holidaymakers may be in a position to travel to France as early as June – even though the Government's phased exit from lockdown means people will be unable to travel far from their homes until the second half of July at the earliest.
One customer who has contacted The Irish Times says he was told that, unless they paid the balance in full, his family would lose a substantial deposit they had put on a sailing that they believe is extremely unlikely to go ahead because of the Covid-19 crisis. He says he was also told that, if the ferry crossing were eventually cancelled, he would then be given a credit note instead of a refund.
Another customer says an outstanding balance was taken from his account over the bank-holiday weekend, before he had time to contact Brittany Ferries to stop the payment.
Brittany Ferries knows there will no sailing on June 6th but only cancels it at the last minute, and I am being asked to pay the balance for a sailing that will 100 per cent be cancelled
Other would-be passengers have expressed concern that they are only being offered credit notes instead of refunds for trips that are almost certainly going to be cancelled because of wide-ranging coronavirus restrictions in place in Ireland and in other countries where the company operates.
Ger Marshall says he had booked a crossing to France for June 6th. “The problem I have is that Brittany Ferries knows there will no sailing on June 6th but only cancels it at the last minute, and I am being asked to pay the balance of the money for a sailing that will 100 per cent be cancelled.”
He has already paid €449, or 50 per cent of the total, and is now being asked to pay the same again, he says. “I realise I will get a voucher, but I may never use that. If I don’t pay the additional €449, I am being told, I will lose the deposit I have already paid.”
He says Brittany Ferries should cancel the sailings now or “stop hassling customers to pay for a sailing they know they cannot provide based on the French and Irish government advice”. On June 6th “it will not even be legal for me to drive to the ferry port in Ringaskiddy”.
Philip Barry has a trip booked for July 4th. He paid what he says was a large deposit on January 10th and received an email last weekend, on Saturday, May 2nd, saying the balance would be collected on Tuesday, May 5th.
“Because they chose to do this on a bank-holiday weekend, it meant it was impossible to contact them before payment was taken, since their offices are not open for phone calls and no emails were replied to until business reopened, on Tuesday morning.”
He points out that Government advice means travelling to France on July 4th will be impossible. “This was announced by the Taoiseach on Friday, May 1st, and hours later, on Saturday, May 2nd, Brittany Ferries chose to secure full payment for a service they are not going to be able to provide.”
Paul O’Dwyer and his family are also due to sail from Ireland to France on July 4th. They have already paid half of the fare, with the remainder due, as in Philip Barry’s case, in early May. O’Dwyer also says the company is offering him vouchers instead of full refunds for cancelled sailings, contrary to long-standing rules governing ferry crossings.
Brittany Ferries says it has offered passengers the option of moving their sailings to a later date or receiving a credit note for the deposit paid, valid for a two-year period
The company says in response to these readers’ concerns: “At this point in time all Brittany Ferries sailings out of Cork to Roscoff from June onwards are still scheduled. It is our hope that the many Irish people who have booked with us will still be able travel this summer.”
The company points out that these are “unprecedented times, and we must be guided by, and adhere to, the restrictions laid down by the governments in Ireland, France and Spain. In the meantime, given these unprecedented times, any customer deciding to cancel will be given a credit note valid for two years for the value of their deposit. Equally, we are happy to transfer bookings to later in the year.”
But what about the restrictions here that mean many people will be unable to leave their region, even to travel within Ireland, until July 20th? The company says it has “taken the decision to keep sailings live for as long as is possible”, given what they believe is a “lack of clarity in relation to international travel”.
A spokeswoman says Brittany Ferries is “continuously assessing sailing schedules and policies, taking into account the rapidly evolving government guidelines in the four countries in which the company operates. Once it is known a sailing is no longer possible, the company are contacting all affected customers as quickly as is possible.”
She says that the company has been in touch with the three readers whose concerns are highlighted in this article and that nobody is “being forced to pay a balance”. Passengers have “been given the option to move their sailings to a later date or they have also been offered the option of a credit note for the deposit paid, valid for a two-year period. If they wish to recontact the company to discuss the matter further, they should do so.”