Quarantine-hit Brittany Ferries has laid up another ship and cut more services as it continues to lose passengers due to coronavirus restrictions and faces the worst crisis in its 47-year existence.
The Plymouth-headquartered firm said it continues to struggle due to a “terrible” summer season” and weak demand for services this autumn, and has therefore been forced to take “further decisive action”.
The company, which has already laid up two vessels and scrapped some services following the imposition of quarantine restrictions for passenger landing from France and Spain, had now made further schedule changes, which will be implemented within the next week. The aim is to reduce costs as part of the company’s five-year recovery plan, the firm said.
It will see the Connemara vessel, currently serving Portsmouth to Cherbourg and Le Havre, taken out of service entirely from September 7. This means the closure of these routes until further notice.
The company has already closed the St-Malo to Portsmouth route, with services terminating from September 7.
Cherbourg to Poole will also remain closed for the remainder of the year, having ceased operations at the end of March and not having resumed in June.
The company’s busiest route Caen to Portsmouth remains unaffected for the next two months. The ships Normandie and Mont St Michel will continue three daily departures as normal, with Armorique covering each ship’s technical lay-over in November and December respectively, running in freight-only mode.
In July, Brittany Ferries said it would put the Armorique into dock and will only use the Pont-Aven to make trips between Plymouth and France and Spain. The ferry Bretagne, which sails out of Portsmouth, will also be laid up.
The company said the UK Government’s decision to impose quarantine restrictions on those arriving from Spain, and more recently France, led to an immediate run on cancellations.
About 65,000 passengers have cancelled reservations since quarantine measures were announced. Furthermore, the company reports significantly weakened demand for services this autumn.
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“We carried virtually no passenger traffic between the months of April and June, as the Covid-19 crisis hit,” said Brittany Ferries director general and chief executive Christophe Mathieu. “When we resumed, we had hoped to salvage 350,000 passengers from a summer season that would usually achieve more than double that number.
“The reality however is that we are unlikely to reach 200,000. Passenger traffic accounts for around 75% of our income, so our bottom line has been hit hard. It is why we must continue to take decisive action to reduce our costs to get us through the worst of this unprecedented crisis.”
The company has re-affirmed that its foundations are strong even in the fact of the worst crisis in its history.
A “robust” five-year recovery plan is in place and the firm said reservations for the 2021 season are strong. About 100,000 more passengers have reserved a holiday next year, compared with those booking during the same period in 2019.
However, in the short term more passengers will be affected by schedule changes. The company apologises to all affected customers, and says it will do all it can to accommodate them onto alternative sailings.