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Major Changes As Brittany Ferries to Lay-Up Ships, Cuts Services As Demand Slumps After UK Quarantine

19th August 2020
Major changes as Brittany Ferries is to lay-up two cruiseferries among them Armorique (above) currently serving Roscoff-Plymouth, due to a slump in passenger demand notably arising from the UK's Covid-19 quarantine from France. AFLOAT adds Armorique is scheduled to boost capacity on the Cork-Roscoff route (albeit in 2021) running in tandem with flagship Pont-Aven currently maintaining 'seasonal' sailings linking Ireland and France and remains unaffected with these latest operational changes elsewhere. Also above in French waters is a pilot cutter. Major changes as Brittany Ferries is to lay-up two cruiseferries among them Armorique (above) currently serving Roscoff-Plymouth, due to a slump in passenger demand notably arising from the UK's Covid-19 quarantine from France. AFLOAT adds Armorique is scheduled to boost capacity on the Cork-Roscoff route (albeit in 2021) running in tandem with flagship Pont-Aven currently maintaining 'seasonal' sailings linking Ireland and France and remains unaffected with these latest operational changes elsewhere. Also above in French waters is a pilot cutter. Credit: Brittany Ferries

Major changes at Brittany Ferries have forced the operator to introduce a reduction in services following the imposition of (Covid-19) quarantine on travellers returning to the UK from France and the effect this has had on existing reservations as well as forward demand.

This has led Brittany Ferries from today confirming changes to scheduled services (as outlined further below).

The news follows a weekend in which 35,000 passengers (English Channel routes) either cancelled or delayed their travel plans with the company. Forward demand for autumn sailings is also extremely weak.

As a consequence, the company has been forced to change its schedules, with the first changes applying from the end of August. The following ships and route amendments have now been confirmed:

  • Brittany Ferries Armorique will be laid up from 31 August. This cruiseferry currently serves the Plymouth-Roscoff route (which Afloat adds notably launched the ferry company in 1973 and five years later the Cork-Roscoff route was introduced) 
  • Brittany Ferries Pont-Aven will replace Armorique on the Plymouth to Roscoff route from 10 September with three return trips per week. Pont-Aven will also continue to operate one return sailing from Plymouth to Santander and from Roscoff to Cork during the week. (Afloat adds the Irish 'weekend' seasonal service is unaffected) noting for the 2021 season there will be more capacity along with a new Rosslare-Cherbourg route).
  • Brittany Ferries Bretagne will be laid up from 7 September. She currently serves the Portsmouth to St Malo route.
  • Brittany Ferries Etretat will not resume crossings, as planned: Connemara will continue to operate the Cherbourg and Le Havre rotations from Portsmouth, but will no longer serve Spain.

“We warned over the weekend that schedule changes were likely, as quarantine measures have led to a significant drop in demand for our services,” said Christophe Mathieu, director general Brittany Ferries. “This is not something we want to do. However, in the context of a terrible summer season we have no choice but to consolidate sailings that, by virtue of lack of passenger numbers, are uneconomic to run. These extraordinary decisions are regrettable and we apologise in advance to all those whose travel plans will be disrupted.”

Around 50,000 passengers with existing bookings will be affected by the schedule changes. Brittany Ferries apologises in advance for the inconvenience and will do all it can to accommodate displaced customers on other services.

The call centre is expected to be very busy in the days ahead. Passengers are therefore asked to wait for notification of any change to their booking and – where possible – to make alternative arrangements via the My Booking facility on the operators UK website here.

Afloat adds for any further information /Covid-19 updates on Ireland-France routes visit the Brittany Ferries Irish website here.

Published in Brittany Ferries, Ferry
Jehan Ashmore

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Jehan Ashmore

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Jehan Ashmore is a marine correspondent, researcher and photographer, specialising in Irish ports, shipping and the ferry sector serving the UK and directly to mainland Europe. Jehan also occasionally writes a column, 'Maritime' Dalkey for the (Dalkey Community Council Newsletter) in addition to contributing to UK marine periodicals. 

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About Brittany Ferries

In 1967 a farmer from Finistère in Brittany, Alexis Gourvennec, succeeded in bringing together a variety of organisations from the region to embark on an ambitious project: the aim was to open up the region, to improve its infrastructure and to enrich its people by turning to traditional partners such as Ireland and the UK. In 1972 BAI (Brittany-England-Ireland) was born.

The first cross-Channel link was inaugurated in January 1973, when a converted Israeli tank-carrier called Kerisnel left the port of Roscoff for Plymouth carrying trucks loaded with Breton vegetables such as cauliflowers and artichokes. The story, therefore, begins on 2 January 1973, 24 hours after Great Britain's entry into the Common Market (EEC).

From these humble beginnings however, Brittany Ferries as the company was re-named quickly opened up to passenger transport, then became a tour operator.

Today, Brittany Ferries has established itself as the national leader in French maritime transport: an atypical leader, under private ownership, still owned by a Breton agricultural cooperative.

Eighty five percent of the company’s passengers are British.

Key Brittany Ferries figures:

  • Turnover: €202.4 million (compared with €469m in 2019)
  • Investment in three new ships, Galicia plus two new vessels powered by cleaner LNG (liquefied natural gas) arriving in 2022 and 2023
  • Employment: 2,474 seafarers and shore staff (average high/low season)
  • Passengers: 752,102 in 2020 (compared with 2,498,354 in 2019)
  • Freight: 160,377 in 2020 (compared with 201,554 in 2019)
  • Twelve ships operating services that connect France, the United Kingdom, Ireland and Spain (non-Covid year) across 14 routes
  • Twelve ports in total: Bilbao, Santander, Portsmouth, Poole, Plymouth, Cork, Rosslare, Caen, Cherbourg, Le Havre, Saint-Malo, Roscoff
  • Tourism in Europe: 231,000 unique visitors, staying 2.6 million bed-nights in France in 2020 (compared with 857,000 unique visitors, staying 8,7 million bed-nights in 2019).

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