UPDATED - If complaining to Facebook groups or signing online petitions isn’t satisfying your concerns about BC Ferries (BCF) services, consider talking directly to its Board. You have that opportunity on Thursday, Aug. 18, at 10 a.m., when BCF hosts is 2022 Annual General Meeting. The event is scheduled to be hosted in person in Victoria and those wanting to attend virtually can get details by emailing email@example.com.
“Virtual and in-person participants will have the opportunity to ask questions and make comments,” the AGM invitation on bcferries.com reads. In an email that followed Coast Reporter's registration for the event, BCF wrote "You can submit questions in advance up until noon on Wednesday, August 17. There will be a live question period at the public meeting. You will be asked to state your name and affiliation. Persons asking questions or making comments will be allotted two minutes and may ask one follow up question. We want to ensure everyone who has something to say is heard and the dialogue is respectful."
FAC Chairperson chimes in
Southern Sunshine Coast Ferry Advisory Committee (FAC) chairperson Diana Mumford told Coast Reporter that she will be attending. In addition, Mumford will be spending the days before the AGM in a variety of other ferry-related meetings. She is set to sit down with BC Ferry Commissioners, the Ferry Services Board and Authority Board members, union representatives as well as BCF Senior Executive in her role at the head of the FAC Chairs group.
“We have a long list of issues and questions,” Mumford said when asked about the purpose of those gatherings.
Saver Fare issues
An issue that has come up frequently in recent social media postings about BC Ferries relates to problems with “saver fare” bookings. Those limited discounted fares must be fully paid for when booked. They cost as low as $39 on Route 3 for standard sized vehicle and driver passage, with a reservation. That compares to the regular fare of almost $65 (which can be lowered by as much as 30 per cent with use of an Experience Card) with an added $15 to secure a reservation.
There are change, cancellation and no-show fees on the saver fare bookings detailed in the fine print on the booking site. No fare refund is provided when cancellation is done on the day of travel. If a saver fare is not used on or cancelled an hour before the sailing it was booked for, including the $0 saver fare bookings on Langdale to Horseshoe Bay sailings, a $20 no-show fee is charged to the credit card used to make the booking.
Some travellers say they have had problems reaching the toll booth before the cut off time of 30 minutes before scheduled sailing to make a booked reservation. If a traveller is in transit, it can be difficult to connect with BCF to make a cancellation in time to avoid the no-show charge.
The BC Ferries website details that if you book a saver fare and arrive early or late, you can use your prepaid fare towards travel on a different sailing on the same route and day, for travel in the direction originally booked, but that only applies to late arrivals if the cancellation has been done in time.
“I have not had anyone reach out to us about issues with saver fares, but that sure does not mean it is not happening,” Mumford stated. “Some of our biggest issues are the wait times above the toll booth, where there are very minimal washroom facilities and no food or water services.”
Mumford gave a personal account of watching a woman lift a young child over a tall concrete barricade on the side of the parking lot at the Horseshoe Bay terminal so that he could relieve himself. She summed up that situation as “pretty sad.”
She also said that she had been advised by BCF staff that if the parking lot gets full above the Horseshoe Bay toll booths, they would turn travellers away, telling them to come back later. Mumford characterized that as “scary”, especially if someone is trying to return home from a hospital stay in the city, or tourists that have no idea where to go to wait.
Mumford encourages local residents to reach out the FAC if they have concerns about BCF services or ideas on to make the service better. Details on local FAC meetings and committee contact information is included on bcferries.com/in-the-community/ferry-advisory-committees. BC Ferries established the FAC’s as community contact points, to discuss day-to-day operations, planned improvements, fares, service changes and new projects. Meetings of the groups are open to the public.