British Columbia

BC Ferries plans to cut reservation fees, offer off-peak discounts

BC Ferries customers may eventually be able to reserve trips without extra fees and receive discounted fares during off-peak travel times, when they book online.

Current online reservation system is out of date and needs a major overhaul, says president

B.C. Ferries vessel Spirit of Vancouver Island passes between Galiano Island and Mayne Island while traveling from Swartz Bay to Tsawwassen, B.C. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

BC Ferries customers may eventually be able to reserve trips without extra fees and receive discounted fares during off-peak travel times, when they book online.

Company president Mike Corrigan said Wednesday that the service has submitted a plan to BC Ferry Commissioner Gord Macatee as part of a cost-cutting operation to reduce the pressure on potential fare

He said the Fare Flexibility and Digital Experience Initiative will modernize how BC Ferries sets prices, markets travel, manages loads and discounts fares at off-peak travel times through e-commerce and information and-technology upgrades.

Corrigan said fare discounts haven't been determined, but the current reservation-fee system will be dropped for customers who book online, while travellers who arrive at the ferry terminal without booking will pay more.

"When people book, the beauty will be they have certainty of travel," Corrigan said. "They will go online, they will plan, book and pay online and when they show up at the ferry terminal it will just be confirmation that they've done so and they will travel aboard the ferry."

Prepay system for 2017

Currently, ferry customers arrive at terminals and wait in line to pay with cash or credit cards. Customers who purchase a reservation prior to arrival are placed in a separate line where they are guaranteed a spot on a specific ferry sailing.

"We actually want to reverse that model and do what other companies are doing and basically have everybody pre-pay," said Corrigan.

"Some airlines and other companies have 95 per cent to 98 per cent of their transactions paid for before their customers even show up. That's where we want to get to."

He said the plan, which won't be ready until 2017, will cost up to $15 million to implement but could be paid off within three years because traffic is expected to increase by up to five per cent.

Macatee must approve the plan.

BC Ferries is currently undergoing an efficiency plan to cut $54 million in costs in an effort to keep fare increases in check.

After it was revealed last month that BC Ferries was looking at cutting the Horseshoe Bay to Nanaimo service to avoid a costly ferry terminal upgrade, Transportation Minister Todd Stone stepped in and squashed the proposal.


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