BC Ferries releases open letter in response to Vancouver Island man's viral rant

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Image: BC Ferries / Shutterstock

A BC Ferries spokesperson has issued an open letter to Vancouver Island resident Sean Smith after his rant against BC Ferries’ onboard amenities and marketing strategy went viral.

The rant was published on Facebook on November 10 and has since received more than 8,600 likes and over 6,000 shares. A non-scientific Vancity Buzz online poll also received nearly 30,000 votes since Wednesday evening, with 97 per cent agreeing with Smith’s comments on the ferry service.

BC Ferries’ open letter, posted on the ferry corporation’s Facebook page earlier today, dissects Smith’s criticism of its new and improved onboard amenities.

“The income generated through our gift shops, food outlets, vacation packages and commercial services work to release the upward pressure on future fare increases and align with our effort to keep travel on BC Ferries affordable,” wrote Rhonda Daye, Manager of Customer Care at BC Ferries.

She also highlights that the ferry corporation follows federal government regulations that determine how many number of onboard crew are required. The staffing levels, which were criticized in some online comments, are needed to safely operate the vessel and to carry out evacuations during an emergency.

When it comes to BC Ferries’ advertising campaign at Rogers Arena with the Vancouver Canucks, Dayes notes that it ended in 2011. Documents retrieved through the freedom of information act earlier this year by Global News reveal that the 2010/11 season-long campaign to brand the arena with ferry corporation’s advertising cost more than $530,000.

 
Here is the full text of BC Ferries’ response to Sean Smith’s rant:

Sean, your 3 suggestions are definitely good conversation starters. However, as you know from our personal conversation a few years ago, perception of BC Ferries is not always a reality.

We understand that fare affordability is a big concern for our customers and always look for ways to keep costs down.

Some would like us to provide a ‘bare bones’ operation, while others appreciate the comforts available. Some are upset that we offer Wi-Fi at all (complimentary service available at Swartz Bay, Tsawwassen, Horseshoe Bay, Departure Bay, Duke Point and Langdale terminals as well as onboard select vessels operating these routes), others would like us to expand this service.

Reality is… the income generated through our gift shops, food outlets, vacation packages and commercial services work to release the upward pressure on future fare increases and align with our effort to keep travel on BC Ferries affordable.

Transport Canada dictates the required number of onboard crew. They are highly trained to operate the vessel in a safe manner and to evacuate the vessel in the unlikely event of an emergency. While safety is the number one priority of our onboard crew, some of them also work in the gift shops and food outlets.

A large portion of our operating expenses stems from having to fuel our fleet of 35 vessels. With over 500 sailings a day, we continuously look for ways to reduce our fuel consumption and to operate our vessels as efficiently as possible… again, with fare affordability in mind.

Along those lines, we have studied the feasibility of using liquefied natural gas (LNG) and believe that a move to this fuel source would reduce costs and emissions. Our new intermediate vessels are being built with dual fuel capability and we are also analyzing LNG as an option for existing vessels undergoing major retrofits. The cable ferry project is another example of us looking for innovative ways to operate as efficiently as possible.

Our partnership with the Canucks was discontinued in 2011, however, it is important to note that advertising our vacation packages does help to attract customers who have discretion with their travel choices. These packages promote the many incredible destinations and attractions British Columbia has to offer, with BC Ferries providing the link here on the west coast.

Second to safety, we strive to provide exceptional customer service. Information on current conditions including traffic at the terminals, parking, webcams, vessel tracking, service notices, etc. is available on our website athttp://www.bcferries.com/current_conditions/ and alternately, customers are welcome to call our customer service centre via 1-888-223-3779, 7am – 8pm Monday to Friday and 8am – 6pm on weekends, or reach out through our Social Media channels during the same hours.

You can find additional facts and financials to support that mentioned in our Annual Reports or please feel free to call me directly.

Many feel they have all the answers. Not to discredit Sean’s ‘rant’, but he has not said anything that has not been said before. Know that we listen and value customer feedback, but BC Ferries is a complicated business. There are many misconceptions out there and we will continue to work to educate the public on the realities of our business.

– Rhonda Daye, Manager of Customer Care at BC Ferries

 

Feature Image: BC Ferries via Shutterstock

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