Monday, 1 October 2012

Brittany Ferries - the saga continues...

I've used Brittany Ferries many times in the past when I was doing driving work for a British removals company, the sailings were normally always on time (within 30 minutes I guess) and quite comfortable. With the benefit of being a freight driver we had the privilege of having a separate dining room keeping us away from the general passenger population.

It's unfortunate though that BF have been going through some hard financial times, the past three years have all been loss-making years for them. No company can sustain these sorts of financial burdens for very long without the company crashing and going under. So they have been forced to look at ways of cutting costs, unfortunately this is - when employing French workers - not an easy thing to do, especially when it seems that the current workers enjoy a number of benefits that other cross channel operators do not give. So the unions and workers are split, some understand that this financial situation cannot go on indefinitely whereas others are stubbornly refusing to accept any changes to their working practices. As a result the company have taken, what I consider to be a brave route, to shutting down ALL operations undertaken by their own vessels.

Anyway, you're asking, "How has this affected the Ex-Expat?"  - well, we were booked with Brittany Ferries for an overnight crossing from Oustreham (Caen) to Portsmouth for us to visit relations and friends in the UK for the first time in a long while. BF have been, in my opinion although others may disagree, been very pro-active in keeping me updated as to whether the sailings would or wouldn't take place. Receiving both emails and phone calls to discuss my options - they also had a VERY active Twitter page up and running with BF staff responding directly to enquiries from concerned passengers.

Brittany Ferries took the decision that they would offer ALL of their Freight and Passenger clients affected by the lockout an alternative crossing from Calais to Dover using the services of P & O Ferries and MyFerryLink. We used the Berlioz of MyFerryLink for the northbound crossing and the Spirit of France coming back - a very good opportunity to make direct comparisons between the two operators 'top' vessels - one French the other British.

OK there is a vast difference in the age of the two vessels, but the Berlioz having just be recently cleaned up and put back into service (remember it was previously a SeaFrance vessel) still showed its age. Whereas the Spirit of France for P&O having just been put into service in November 2011 showed a vast difference in modernity. The catering onboard the Berlioz was quite off-putting, on entering the cafeteria we were assaulted by what can only be described as the smells that would be associated with school dinners, over cooked food, over used cooking fats and I'm sure there was somewhere some vegetables that had been on the boil for at least the last few days! The P&O ferry however was a pleasant experience, even my wife chose to eat on board, the food was fresh and hot and the staff involved much much more pleasant that the last crossing's.

On top of having these alternative options offered to us, we were also refunded to total cost of our crossings that we had paid to BF along with a contribution to the additional fuel costs of having to run up to Calais.

UPDATE: It now seems that the French workers have voted (again) to accept the management's offer, although only by a 58/42% margin - I suspect that this agreement might not last too long!

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