Ticketing system – new quirk you need to know about.

We have been passing on to CalMac the many issues passengers have been experiencing with the new ticketing system. Slowly the kinks appear to be getting ironed out.

However, we’ve become aware of a significant issue that is a result of procedural changes brought in by the new system. It does not appear to be explained on the company’s website.

All sailings now have a ‘check-in opening time’, that is 2 hours before sailing. We’ve been used to having a check-in closing time (which varies by route, but is 30 minutes before sailing on Craignure-Oban). Check-in opening time is new, and it has a significant impact.

After Check-in opens, all ticket sales and amendments have to be handled by the port, rather than the call centre. So if you need to make an amendment less than two hours before sailing, the only way you can do it is by ringing CalMac and asking to be put through to the relevant port.

As well as this, after check-in opens the online ticketing system will indicate that all tickets are sold out, regardless of whether in fact the ferry is full or not. So if you are checking availability less than 2 hours prior to sailing time, be aware that even though the system says ‘sold out’, that may not be the case. The only way for you to find out if there is space is by phoning CalMac’s main customer services number and asking to be put through to the port. (Alternatively ring the port direct and press option 2, but often port staff don’t have time to pick up)

The image above illustrates the problem. It was generated at 10:20am today, and shows availability for a single foot passenger. In reality, neither the 11:25 nor the 12:15 sailings are sold out (in the summer there is always ample foot passenger capacity), but because they are less than 2 hours away, they are automatically shown as ‘sold out’.

We have raised this issue with CalMac, and suggested that the messaging needs to change. If spaces remain the system should show that, and direct you to the port if necessary.

The key takeaways are:

  • If you are travelling as a foot passenger on a Craignure-Oban sailing in less than 2 hours time, ignore what the ticketing system says about ticket availability. In the summer months with the Isle of Mull operating, it is very very unlikely that the ferry will have sold out. (The Isle of Mull carries up to 962 passengers, and the record number carried in the past five years is just 660). If you haven’t bought a ticket yet don’t worry – just turn up at the port and buy one there.
  • If you need to make a vehicle booking amendment or buy a new ticket and you are considering a sailing that departs in less than 2 hours, the only way you can find out if there is space is by ringing CalMac and asking to be put through to the port.

7 thoughts on “Ticketing system – new quirk you need to know about.

  1. Very confusing for those of us old enought to remember when our “award winning” ferry company were in the business of creating solutions,
    Hard to say just when they leapt the fence into creating problems, they are however to be complimented on their skill and determination in achieving this unbridled success.

  2. Does that mean that also mean that the port customer service desk will be manned up to the last sailing? When we were on a late ferry sailing from Oban a couple of months back the ferry terminal was closed.

  3. One of the biggest problems is, you can’t get through to the Port in the phone, it goes through to the call centre. I live on Lismore and I had to go to Oban to book a 7 meter lorry onto the ferry as it could only be done at the port.

  4. Nothing like making a simple system complicated! Someone justifying their job?

    1. There is a lot of ‘job justification’ going on throughout the entire system!

  5. Incredible that the Isle of Mull has capacity for 962 with staffing?, lifeboats and other safety facilities for that maximum number, and has only ever conveyed 660 (5 year record).

    1. The IOM was designed in the mid-eighties when the service only had one ferry, and pax loads on each sailing in the morning and afternoon would have been much higher. Now with two ferries, that demand is spread over more sailings. Its an example (one of many!) where an old an inappropriate vessel no longer matches the service need. Another is the Oban – Barra service, which for no other reason than its the only route that the ferry can fit on (aside from the Ulapool-Stornoway route it was originally designed for), is being operated by the second largest vessel in the fleet. In the winter, the crew outnumber passengers on half of all sailings.

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