CalMac are proposing a sliding scale of up to 100% of vehicle fare would be forfeited if you fail to travel on the intended sailing. In addition, a £10 fee would be charged if you need to change your booking.
This is intended to address the issue of ‘no shows’, and to reduce the number of unused car spaces on each sailing.
We have not yet had the opportunity to discuss this with CalMac, but have a letter detailing the proposals that you can read below. In response to press inquiries, we have responded with the statement below. If you have any comments on this policy please contact us or comment.
We have just learned of CalMac’s proposal to charge for failure to use a booking. We will have to consider it fully before responding in detail. We acknowledge that ‘no-shows’ are a problem for the service, and we often witness ferries departing with much less than a full car deck, even though online ticket sales had closed because the sailing was ‘full’. We are not convinced however that punitive charges are the best or fairest way to address this problem, nor that ‘no-shows’ can by themselves account for the under-utilisation witnessed.
There are often many legitimate reasons for failing to arrive at a sailing on time – for example, as a result of traffic delays en-route to the port, or changes to travel plans due to weather (for example moving livestock to and from the mainland). This initial proposal from CalMac seems to be that if we are held up by a traffic jam in Glasgow and miss our intended sailing, we will forfeit our entire ticket fare. That cannot be right or just.
We would also point out that any policy or service being applied to the islands must have an Island Communities Impact Assessment (ICIA) carried out on it, under the terms of the Islands Act. The government guidance on the Act – “…stresses the importance of consultation and robust community engagement so that islanders are given a platform to voice their opinions, concerns and suggestions. It is also important that you make sure islands receive fair and equitable treatment and that your policy, strategy or service outcomes are tailored to their unique circumstances.”
We have already written to the company pointing out that no ICIA was carried out on their new ticketing IT system, planned to be introduced this year. CalMac denied that an ICIA was needed on the grounds that it was a ticketing ‘system’ and not a ticketing ‘service’ (The Act requires an ICIA to be carried out on ‘services or policies’). Use of such semantic arguments to circumvent proper consultation does not suggest respect for the Act or empathy for islanders. There can be no such semantic argument in the case of these proposed charges, because they describe it themselves as a policy.
These new punitive cancellation charges are being proposed together with the explicit justification that it is “…comparable to the policies of other UK ferry operators.” The Islands Act requires that policies and services are “tailored to the unique circumstances of Scottish islands”. Enacting a policy in the Hebrides because it is comparable to the policies of P&O or DFDS across the English channel is the exact antithesis of being ‘tailored to unique circumstances of Scottish islands’. We understand that CalMac intends to begin consultations with Ferry Committees this month, and we trust that indicates the beginning of a full ICIA consultation process.
CalMac say this policy is aimed at “discouraging those who make multiple reservations, then cancel the ones they no longer require at late notice”. With the introduction of CalMac’s new IT system, identification of repeat offenders would be a relatively simple task – surely a more targeted and fair approach would be to identify those few repeat abusers of the process, rather than penalising all islanders. It will also be far less bureaucratic and complex. They appear to be using a punitive and indiscriminate hammer to break this particular nut.