As it prepares for the first long weekend since face masks became mandatory in most situations on board its vessels, BC Ferries is reminding the public to plan ahead and be patient.

"High traffic volumes can be stressful for both customers and employees," the ferry service said in a news release Wednesday. "As a reminder, BC Ferries does not tolerate any abuse, including verbal abuse, towards its employees."

The reminder comes after a month in which BC Ferries workers sounded the alarm about an increase in verbal - and sometimes physical abuse - from passengers during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

"Please remember employees are doing their best to meet everyone’s needs," the company said in its release. "BC Ferries takes this matter seriously, and a customer who abuses an employee, including verbal abuse, will be denied service."

This Labour Day weekend, BC Ferries is requesting "responsible behaviour" from customers, including remaining in vehicles for the duration of the trip, wearing a face covering if outside a vehicle, and maintaining physical distance from other passengers when seated or moving around the vessel.

The company advises passengers to book in advance to guarantee a place on their sailing of choice. Those with flexible schedules are encouraged to consider travelling at less busy times to help spread traffic throughout the day.

Generally speaking, the busiest times on long weekends are Thursday and Friday afternoon, as well as Saturday morning for sailings departing the Lower Mainland, while Sunday and Monday are busier times for sailings departing Vancouver Island and the Sunshine Coast.

BC Ferries says it expects that sailings may reach capacity this weekend, and it advises all passengers - whether in vehicles or on foot - to arrive at least an hour before their preferred sailings.

More information about the mask mandate on BC Ferries, as well as details on other measures put in place in response to the pandemic, can be found on the company's website.