The first sentence of a column I was writing about BC Ferries being chronically late had just been typed out when a BC Ferries tweet popped up in my feed warning that some of its sailings were possibly in peril.
The tweet went up Thursday (Feb. 2) warning that “expected adverse” weather conditions might cancel some of the Queen of New Westminster sailings.
The Queen of New Westminster seems to be a troubled vessel based on what I’ve seen since I started making regular ferry trips since November – with many sailings being late or outright cancelled.
I fell victim recently to the Queen of New Westminster with delays on my trip to Vancouver and then two days later on my return trip to Victoria.
Good times. (Wouldn’t have been so bad if the Swartz Bay food wasn’t so disappointing.)
But what does BC Ferries owe me and others who are routinely victimized by disrupted sailings?
That’s the question I’m pondering after hearing from a bunch of disgruntled BC Ferries passengers.
Friday’s issues are related to weather. That seems to be an issue during the winter, although it doesn’t seem to hit all of the sailings. Perhaps some boats are better equipped to handle weather issues than others?
Then there’s the issue of mechanical issues or “staffing” shortages – two reasons I’ve seen listed by BC Ferries on its Twitter account.
“I’m sick of it,” said Victoria resident Fred last week when the announcement of a delay was made at the Swartz Bay terminal. I chatted with him as we both fumed.
Then he suddenly started to yell at the ferries workers.
“I’ve lost so much time because of these delays or cancellations. You owe us for all of that lost time!”
I was taken aback at the outburst. Then I realized the workers couldn’t actually hear him.
Reader Paul Scott responded to my recent article about a local couple getting “evicted” from the Swartz Bay terminal after arguing with staff for not allowing them on the boat because they were four minutes late.
“The article forgot to mention the amount of times the ferries are late,” wrote Scott. “You must be one hour to 30 minutes at the terminal before your scheduled sailing time. I have been at the ferry terminal on time, yet the ferry is anywhere from 15 minutes to four hours late. There is no compensation for the people sitting in the heat or cold waiting. If the rule is you must be on time, should it not be the same for the ferry corporation? … We are forcing the airlines to be responsible for their running of the business, should not the other means of transport also be responsible? After all, it is essential service. I think the ferry corporation has forgotten who pays their wages.”
Scott even suggested passengers file some sort of court action.
That feels extreme.
But is it really unthinkable to suggest passengers get some kind of credit for a future voyage? I’m kidding, of course, because in no way would BC Ferries do that for being a few minutes late – or even 30 minutes. The scope of the compensation would be too big based on how unreliable the service is.
In the meantime, passengers will just have to continue to suffer with that lost time.
Chris Campbell is an editor with Black Press Media who works in the Victoria newspaper hub. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram @shinebox44.
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