How to claim for ferry cancellations or delays

If travelling by sea is your style, you may have your eye on booking a ferry for your next getaway, especially if you want to take your car with you. But what are you entitled to if your ferry is delayed, or even cancelled?

Abbie Laughton-Coles
Abbie Laughton-Coles
Updated 1 December 2022  | 4 min read

Know your rights when faced with a ferry delay or cancellation

Delayed or cancelled transport can really scupper your travel plans, but it’s important that you’re clued up on how to get compensation for the inconvenience.

When you travel by ferry, you’re covered by the Maritime Passenger Rights Regulations, which help to make sure you’re not left out of pocket if you fail to set sail when you’re supposed to.

More detailed information can be found on the government website.

Key points

  • You’ll only receive compensation if you’ve been delayed over a set period of time
  • Complaints should be directed towards the ferry operator who will compensate you within one month of the delayed or cancelled trip
  • If you think you’ve been handled unfairly, you should contact ABTA to investigate

Ferry delay compensation

According to the government website, you’re entitled to compensation equivalent to 25% of the ticket price if the ferry is delayed by:

  • One hour for a journey lasting up to four hours
  • Two hours for a journey lasting between four and eight hours
  • Three hours for a journey lasting between eight and 24 hours
  • Six hours for a journey of more than 24 hours

You’ll be given compensation equal to 50% of the ticket price if the delay is twice as long as the above, for instance if your ferry is delayed by two hours for a journey lasting up to four hours.

Compensation will be paid by the ferry operator within a month of the delayed departure.

It’s worth noting that if the compensation amounts to £5 or less, it will not be paid.

If you’re delayed for 90 minutes or more and there are facilities available to provide them, you should receive refreshments. This will be equivalent to:

  • Light refreshments (water or tea) – For delays of 90 minutes or more
  • Snack or light meal – For delays of four hours or more
  • Hot meal – For delays of eight hours or more

Your entitlement will then begin at the top of list again every four hours after the initial delay.

Ferry cancellation compensation

If your ferry is unfortunately cancelled or your departure is delayed by 90 minutes or more, you’ll be able to choose between:

  • Taking the next available crossing at no cost to you
  • Being reimbursed for your ticket within one week

If you choose to join an alternative ferry journey, you can still claim compensation for the delay to your original booked trip.

In certain circumstances, a delay or cancellation could mean that you have to stay overnight near the port until the next available journey. You should receive alternative accommodation valued up to £70 for a maximum of three nights.

How to make a claim

You can raise a claim with the ferry company if you have experienced a delay or cancellation.

This must be done within two months of your initial departure date and the ferry company should compensate you within a month of receiving the claim.

If your complaint isn’t resolved, you can contact ABTA (The Travel Association), which is the voluntary complaint handling body for ferry trips. However, the operator must be a member of ABTA to receive help.

Exclusions

You won’t be compensated if a delay or cancellation is caused by:

  • Extreme weather conditions that threaten the safety of the ship and passengers
  • Natural disasters
  • Industrial or strike action

You also won’t be entitled to overnight accommodation if the above reasons mean that you’re unable to travel.

Extra peace of mind from your travel insurance

Although you’re covered in certain instances by the Maritime Passenger Rights Regulations, it’s still no replacement for the travel insurance, which will also protect you financially for:

  1. Holiday cancellations

    This will pay out if something unexpected means that you can’t go on holiday, for example if you become unwell or are called up for jury service

  2. Holiday curtailment

    If you need to return home early from your holiday, for instance if you have an accident or there’s a bereavement in the family, this will reimburse you for the unused part of the trip and reasonable travel expenses to get home

  3. Travel disruption

    If you’re delayed, miss your departure, have to return home early or stay longer on holiday for reasons outside your control, like poor weather conditions or your ferry company going bust

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