February 15, 2018 1:09 am
Updated: February 15, 2018 2:43 pm

BC Ferries rolling out flexible fares with time-of-day and seasonal discounts within 1.5 years

Some ferry passengers are set to get a big break on fares ahead of the busy summer season. Jordan Armstrong has the details.

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BC Ferries is on the cusp of introducing a new fare system that would include time-of-day and seasonal discounts in an effort to “return fares to customers,” company CEO Mark Collins said Wednesday.

In a speech delivered to the Greater Nanaimo Chamber of Commerce, Collins said BC Ferries is set to introduce a new website, app and reservation system that will be “considerably more flexible.”

Coverage of BC Ferries on Globalnews.ca:

Flexible fares on BC Ferries would work similar to how rates do for air and train travel.

Applying only to major routes, and not to inter-island travel, flexible fares would allow customers to choose different rate levels — some would allow them to change their reservations with 20 minutes to go before sailing time.

Say you’re a business traveller, and you’re not sure what traffic is going to look like on your way to the terminals in Horseshoe Bay or Tsawwassen.

Before you even arrive at the terminal, you’ll be able to use the BC Ferries app and change your reservation with no extra fees or charges, so long as you paid for that service.

“Other cost-conscious travellers will say, hey, I’ve got more certainty in my travel, I want absolutely the lowest fare,” Collins said.

“You get a lower fare but you get less flexibility.”

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Collins estimated that flexible fares would be rolled out over the course of 12 to 18 months.

BC Ferries’ new website, however, could arrive as soon as November or December.

READ MORE: Horseshoe Bay terminal getting $250M makeover

In the past five years, Collins said BC Ferries has spent close to $400-million on IT, but added that the changes haven’t been customer-facing yet.

He said it’s taking time to roll out because the company want to make sure everything works correctly.

“For me, a disaster looks like rolling it out, oops, something’s wrong, pulling it all back,” Collins said.

“We’re not into the Phoenix pay system here. We’re into when it goes out, I want you to be happy from day one going whoa, this is great stuff.”

In his speech, Collins noted that BC Ferries has frozen fares for the last two years.

He also noted a provincial government commitment that ferry fares are set to go down starting April 1.

Fares are set to drop by 15 per cent on smaller routes and held flat on major ones.

“I welcome that, and I’m sure ferry riders will welcome that too,” Collins said.

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