BC Ferries looking into 'error' that led to people booking reservations on non-existent sailings

BC Ferries is looking into what caused an error that had people showing up for two reserved sailings on the busy holiday Monday that didn’t actually exist.

The mistake meant a longer than expected travel day for many surprised customers, and still has some questioning how things were handled.

Annette O’Shea was one of the people who showed up early at the Tsawwassen ferry terminal on Aug. 2 with her dog, for a reserved sailing to Salt Spring Island that was supposed to depart at 9:10 a.m.

O’Shea told CTV News Vancouver she made the reservation in May, and was hoping to avoid travelling in the hottest part of the day, due to having her pet along with her. She also said BC Ferries sent her a reminder email about the sailing on the Thursday before her trip.

“I found out when I arrived at the booth that there never was a 9:10 sailing, and that they had had a glitch,” she said. “There were hundreds of vehicles that were finding that out.”

O’Shea ended up being re-routed through Victoria, and arrived on Salt Spring in the afternoon.

“The staff at the gate were great, they were trying really, really hard,” she said. “Not at all the trip that I was expecting to have, not at all.”

Savinay Chaturvedi was booked on the same non-existent sailing.

“It was a bit of a shocker to know that, at that moment,” he said. “However the staff was quite courteous, and they put us on a different sailing.”

Chaturvedi was also re-routed through Victoria.

“We spent an extra three to four hours while reaching here (Salt Spring Island),” he said. “It also caused a bit of traffic and ruckus at the ferry terminal itself, because there were other folks who had to catch the next ferry and their sailings got full.”

Other passengers told CTV News they were supposed to depart from Salt Spring Island at 10:50 a.m. the same day, or from Pender Island at 11:40 a.m. All experienced the same confusion when they learned their sailing had never actually been scheduled.

CTV News Vancouver asked to speak with BC Ferries, but was told they couldn’t do an interview. In an email, spokesperson Astrid Chang said they are “sincerely apologizing” for the mistake, and are providing full refunds.

“Unfortunately, some sailings were incorrectly built in our system for the holiday Monday, and some customers booked for sailings that were not actually scheduled,” she said. “We are looking into how this error occurred to ensure it doesn’t happen in the future.”

She added BC Ferries “communicated with customers as soon as we became aware of the issue Monday," however the travellers CTV News Vancouver spoke to said they didn’t hear anything until they arrived at the ferry terminal, and would have appreciated earlier notification.

Chaturvedi said he might have chosen to travel on another day.

“Prior email or prior notification that there have been some updates, and these are your rescheduled sailings...that would have been nicer,” he said. “We could have gotten some extra sleep.”

O’Shea agreed.

“I could have travelled a day later, or come on the evening boat,” she said. “When you can use technology to make a reservation, but can’t use technology to warn of a change...I say do better.”