My P&O Ferry Has Been Cancelled. What Are My Rights?
P&O has just (17 March, 2022) suspended services on four routes:
- Dover to Calais
- Larne to Cairnryan
- Dublin to Liverpool
- Hull to Rotterdam
Media attention has, quite rightly, focused primarily on the appalling manner in which employees were treated by the company. However the position of travellers affected by the suspension should not be forgotten. Their rights are determined by EU Regulation No 1177/2010 which, despite Brexit, is still part of UK law with only minor, inconsequential, amendments.
As far as cancellation is concerned the Regulation provides that you must be informed of the cancellation as soon as reasonably possible. Then, if the cancellation will involve a delay of more than 90 minutes, you must be offered the option of either:
- Re-routing to the final destination at no additional cost, at the earliest opportunity, under comparable conditions, or
- Reimbursement of the ticket price and, where relevant, a return service return service free of charge to the first point of departure set out in your transport contract at the earliest opportunity.
If you choose re-routing but this involves the need for overnight accommodation the ferry company must provide this for you for up to three nights but the cost will be limited to £70 per passenger per night. You are also entitled to snacks, meals and refreshments in reasonable relation to your waiting time in addition to the accommodation.
If you decide not to go for re-routing and opt for a refund you are not obliged to take vouchers. You are entitled to a cash refund which must be paid within seven days. You can of course accept a voucher if you wish.
You are also entitled to compensation while waiting for the re-routing on a scale related to the price of the ticket and the length of the delay. You will get 25% of the ticket price for a delay of at least:
- 1 hour in the case of a scheduled journey of up to 4 hours;
- 2 hours in the case of a scheduled journey of more than 4 hours, but not exceeding 8 hours;
- 3 hours in the case of a scheduled journey of more than 8 hours, but not exceeding 24 hours; or
- 6 hours in the case of a scheduled journey of more than 24 hours.
If the delay exceeds double the time set out in points (a) to (d), you are entitled to 50% of the ticket price.
However you will not get this compensation if the cancellation is caused by weather conditions endangering the safe operation of the ship or by extraordinary circumstances hindering the performance of the service.
This raises the question of whether the P&O cancellations amount to ‘extraordinary circumstances’. Ultimately this is a question which can only be answered by a court but all the evidence suggests that P&O are cancelling for commercial reasons and this would be unlikely to be regarded as ‘extraordinary circumstances’.
According to a statement by Robert Courts, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Transport, made to Parliament on 17 March, DFDS have stepped into the breach and will honour valid tickets issued by P&O but on routes not served by DFDS passengers may face significant delays and/or disruption to their travel plans.
If they suffer losses exceeding what the Regulation provides for e.g. the loss of hotel accommodation on the Continent there is nothing preventing travellers claiming this but they would have to establish:
- The cancellation being regarded as a breach of contract
- The losses being reasonably foreseeable
- The steps you took to mitigate your loss are regarded as reasonable.
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