Car bookings

CalMac plans driver penalties to prevent ‘fully booked’ ferries from sailing with empty car spaces

The west coast operator is struggling to keep up with demand on its busiest routes, but some passengers are making multiple bookings for different sailings to keep their travel options open as they can get a full refund for canceling them .

However, CalMac said some of those reservations were canceled or postponed at the last minute, leaving other drivers unable to travel even though there was space available overseas.

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The company provides a sliding scale of cancellation fees, with the “cancellation fee” ranging from 25% of the vehicle fare if a reservation is canceled 29 days or more in advance, to 100% of the fare less than 24 hours. . notice.

CalMac said drivers making multiple reservations to keep their travel options open meant there were empty spaces for vehicles on “fully booked” crossings. Photo: John Devlin

Cancellations made between eight and 28 days before travel would result in a 50% deduction, while those made between 24 hours and seven days would result in a 75% deduction.

Additionally, passengers would only be allowed to change their bookings up to 48 hours before travel, incurring a £10 ‘change fee’.

Exemptions would include death of an immediate family member, debilitating illness preventing travel, involvement in a road traffic accident, a multi-ship voyage where a leg of the voyage has been canceled by CalMac and the NHS canceling an appointment.

Penalties would not include bulk bookings for commercial vehicles.

In a letter to MSPs, CalMac Chief Commercial Officer Diane Burke said: “These changes would address an important issue – at this time, customers are not encouraged to promptly notify us of changes or cancellations to their reservation.

“Some customers therefore cancel their reservations at very short notice.

“This results in unused deck space, preventing other customers from traveling.

“This proposal is intended to discourage those who make multiple reservations and then cancel the ones they no longer need with late notice, often too late for us to reallocate the space.”

Ms Burke said ferry traffic had increased by 37 per cent over the past seven years following the introduction of fare reductions under the “road equivalent fare”, designed to bring the cost of sea and road travel into line.

She said the eight ferry committees and transport forums representing passengers would be consulted on the proposals and the conclusions of the process published in June.

In a letter to MSPs, CalMac communications director Stewart Maxwell said: “We hope these proposals will be well received by those who have complained about ships sailing with available spaces despite being “complete” in the days preceding departure.”

CalMac is Britain’s largest ferry operator, with some 500 services a day in summer and annual passenger numbers totaling 5.7 million.