Everything you need to know about Irish Ferries cancellations

Q&A: Travel plans for thousands of holidaymakers thrown into disarray

What is going on with Irish Ferries?

After spending months talking about its big new boat and even organising the naming competition which led to it being called the WB Yeats, the company has gone and thrown the travel plans of thousands of holidaymakers into disarray by cancelling more than two weeks worth of crossings to and from France in July.

So who’s not going to arise and go now on the WB Yeats?

Anyone who has booked a place on the fancy new boat between July 12th and July 29th.

How many people are we talking about?

By its own estimates Irish Ferries has had to cancel about 2,300 bookings. Given the nature of the ferry business which counts a car or a coach as a single booking, an individual booking may cover six people travelling in a car or even more on a coach which means as many as 10,000 people may now not be able to travel on the days they had intended.

What is the ferry company going to do for them?

It has offered people alternative spaces on the MV Oscar Wilde for times close to their booked sailing dates. But as ferries rarely travel to and from the same places on the same days, people who chose to be rerouted on a different vessel will have to leave a day or two earlier than intended or a day or two later than planned. They will also have to leave from Rosslare rather than Dublin which is obviously good (ish) news for those leaving from the sunny southeast but not so good for those travelling from the north, west or east. If alternatives are unacceptable passengers can get a refund. Oh, and all customers have been offered a €150 voucher by Irish Ferries, for sailings next summer.

Next summer? Surely you mean this summer?

No, the company has not won itself any friends by offering people a voucher which they can redeem in 2019. It has been called derisory with some caught up in the wave of cancellations saying they will never travel with the ferry company again.

The Commission for Aviation Regulation looks after consumer rights when it comes to air travel, where do I go when it comes to sea travel?

The National Transport Authority is the enforcement body in Ireland for consumers travelling by sea. And as with air travel, passenger rights are governed by EU regulations.

Are the regulations any good?

On paper they seem to be. If a ferry is cancelled, passengers have a right to a re-routing or a full reimbursement of the ticket price – which is standard enough. The rules also say that if an overnight stay is necessary as a result of a ferry cancellation then the ferry company must pay for accommodation which is limited to €80 per night per person for a maximum of three nights.

And what about compensation?

That tends to be decided on a case by case basis and whether or not you get any money back can vary, depending on how long the crossing is and how long the delay is. In this case people might be in line for 50 per cent of their ticket price.

Might be?

Compensation does not apply if delays or cancellation are caused by weather conditions endangering the safe operation of the ship, or if extraordinary circumstances affect the performance of the service.

This is hardly extraordinary circumstances is it?

Irish Ferries was very careful to use that exact phrase in its correspondence with passengers.

But is the failure of a company to get its boat into the water on time really extraordinary circumstances?

It is hard to say. Ultimately any decision rests with the NTA and it is the transport authority that will have to rule on whether widespread compensation will be due to affected passengers. While mass flight cancellations are commonplace, it is a very different story when it comes to non-weather related ferry cancellations and the eight-year-old EU regulations governing sea transport has yet to be tested in any significant way.

How do I go about claiming compensation?

First you must contact the company making your claim. They have a month to pay or not pay. If you’re unhappy with its response you contact the NTA which will make a ruling.

I have paid for car hire and a hotel for the day I was due to arrive but I am not arriving until two days later. Will I get the money back?

Not under EU Regulation 1177/2010 you won’t. Your travel insurance might come to your aid and if you booked a camping package holiday you will be fully covered.

Conor Pope

Conor Pope

Conor Pope is Consumer Affairs Correspondent, Pricewatch Editor and cohost of the In the News podcast