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B.C. Ferries pushes prepaid fares, increases reservation fee

Those booking passage on the Swartz Bay-Tsawwassen, Departure Bay, Nanaimo-Horseshoe Bay, and Duke Point-Tsawwassen routes will now pay $20 to reserve instead of $18
The Spirit of Vancouver Island arrives at Swartz Bay Ferry Terminal. B.C. Ferries says it wants to discourage people from making multiple reservations they don’t intend to use, which make sailings appear to be fuller than they are. DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST

B.C. Ferries has boosted reservation fees for motorists on its busiest routes, and eased cancellation penalties for its prepaid and saver fares to encourage travellers to book and pay in advance.

Reservation-only fees rose to $20 from $18 on the Swartz Bay-Tsawwassen, Nanaimo’s Departure Bay-Horseshoe Bay and Nanaimo’s Duke Point-Tsawwassen routes.

The fee rose to $20 from $15 on the Horseshoe Bay-Langdale route and on the Powell River-Comox run.

The changes came into effect on April 1.

Spokesperson Jeff Groot said Tuesday that B.C. Ferries is trying to reduce the number of people booking multiple spaces with no intention of using them all, which takes away the opportunity for others to book, and makes sailings appear to be fuller than they are.

“We have many people who book multiple reservations and either don’t show up at all, or show up for one without cancelling the others,” he said. “We’re trying to discourage this practice so all our customers have better opportunity to book space to travel.”

Motorists wanting to book ahead on a ferry have three options: saver, prepaid and reservation-only.

Saver fares are available on less-popular sailings — often in the early morning or late at night — and are paid in full when the booking is made.

Prepaid fares are paid in full at the time of booking.

Those who opt for reservation-only fares pay a $20 fee due at the time of booking and the rest of the fare at check-in.

Typically, saver and prepaid fares cost less than reservation-only fares.

Saver fares remain unchanged at $39, not including fuel surcharge; more than double the space is now assigned to saver fares than in previous years.

In the past, B.C. Ferries did not provide refunds for cancellations on a departure day for saver fares, but it now has a no-show $20 fee for saver fares, which means customers who don’t show up will get some of their money back.

For prepaid fares, the cost to cancel has dropped to $5 from $15 up to one day prior to sailing. The prepaid fare on the Horseshoe Bay to Langdale route for a standard vehicle and driver has dropped to $68.40 from $70.60.

The goal is to encourage people to book ahead and choose off-peak sailing times, B.C. Ferries said.

“By offering more discounts for those who book and pay in advance, we expect less congestion at our busier times, more passengers will be able to find space to travel at the times they want and fewer will experience sailing waits,” B.C. Ferries’ president Nicolas Jimenez has said. “It’s nearly three times quicker for customers to check in with a prepaid or saver fare, so in addition to getting our best fares, the more people who book these, the better the experience we can offer for everyone.”

Ferry fares will increase on average by 3.2 per cent per year throughout the system for the next four years, under a rate-increase schedule established by the B.C. Ferries Commissioner last year. The first increase took effect April 1.

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