P&O Ferries has suspended all passenger services on the Dover-Calais route over the Easter bank holiday weekend, causing further disruptions for UK travellers.
Two of the beleaguered ferry firm’s eight vessels – the Pride of Kent and Spirit of Britain – are still being detained by Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) over safety concerns, resulting in ferry shortages on a key route in the run-up the busy travel period.
The company confirmed in a tweet that it was cancelling all Channel crossings over the Easter weekend, and said it would offer alternative routes or refunds to affected travellers.
The company is allowing customers to transfer to its ferry crossing at Hull, landing in Rotterdam, or to Brittany Ferries with routes running between Portsmouth and Caen in France.
P&O added that it would reimburse customers for any extra mileage, as well as onboard meals on any overnight crossings, on top of a 25% discount on their original fare.
“We apologise unreservedly to all customers whose scheduled journeys with us between Dover and Calais have been cancelled whilst we are unable to sail,” a spokesperson for P&O said.
“We also recognise that these options will not be suitable for everyone, therefore any customer who booked directly with P&O Ferries will be able to claim a full refund and a free trip for future travel,” the company added.
#PODover #POCalais for travel between 15/04 00:01 – 18/04 23:59, we will provide a full refund of your ticket. We will also pay back the difference in cost between your P&O Ferries ticket and your new booking with another operator. Claims should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org 2/2
— P&O Ferries Updates (@POferriesupdate) April 13, 2022
The P&O difficulties add to wider travel chaos in the UK, where staff shortfalls have led to flight cancellations and long waits at airports. Meanwhile, rail passengers have been warned of delays by Network Rail, which is carrying out 530 engineering upgrades on routes including on the west coast mainline from London Euston to Milton Keynes.
The AA estimates 27.6m car journeys could take place over the weekend. Motorists are advised to travel on Thursday or early on Saturday if they can, to give themselves the best chance of avoiding long queues.
Edmund King, the AA president, said: “All our polling suggests Good Friday will be the busiest getaway day for Easter trips and staycations. If some drivers can leave on Thursday or early Saturday, they may miss some of the jams.”
While the Department of Transport urged holidaymakers to plan ahead and allow extra time for travel, long queues were already forming near the port of Dover on Thursday morning. The transport minister, Robert Courts, said his department was “working closely with operators to minimise disruption”.
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P&O had planned to resume cross-Channel services between Dover and Calais for the Easter weekend, but the MCA said on Wednesday it would not release the two vessels until the agency was satisfied they could “fulfil the requirement of the Port State Control regime and are safe to put to sea”.
The agency, which is inspecting all eight of P&O Ferries’ vessels, first detained the Pride of Kent on 28 March after a failed inspection and said on Wednesday it had found additional deficiencies after a reassessment.
The Spirit of Britain was detained this week, compounding troubles for the firm, which is under fire for sacking all 800 of its UK workforce and replacing them with cheaper foreign agency workers in March.