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Family suffers nine-day ‘delay’ as Condor sailings hampered by storms

Family suffers nine-day ‘delay’ as Condor sailings hampered by storms

Wednesday 03 January 2024

Family suffers nine-day ‘delay’ as Condor sailings hampered by storms

Wednesday 03 January 2024


65mph winds are wreaking havoc on Condor’s timetable and the impact of Storm Henk has led to cancellations, delays and rescheduled crossings – leaving one family's travel plans nine days behind schedule.

Marie-Claire O’Connor's family were due back in Guernsey on 26 December, but delays and cancellations have pushed back their return until 4 January – meaning they have been forced to shell out for several additional nights in AirBnBs and hotels.

"We were due back on Condor on 26 December," she told Express. "[We] got a text on the 24th to say it had been cancelled.

"[We were] told we could go on the 28th - then that got cancelled... and we were told the next sailing would be 5 January."

Family frustration

Marie, her partner, two children and a dog then had to look for accommodation. They put themselves up in an AirBnB. 

I then found out two sailings were put on for the 28th [after we’d booked our accommodation]. We contacted Condor and [were told] they could get us on the 30th sailing as foot passengersif our van was put on as freight. 

The family made the trip away from their booked AirBnB to Portsmouth for the alternative 30th crossing, only to get a text on 29 December indicating that the sailing might be affected by the weather. Later that evening they were told it had been cancelled.

They were put on a 2 January sailing, but this again was rescheduled and the family are now set to return on the 4 January.  

“We fully understand the weather is not down to them,” said Marie, “but this surely cannot be classed as a delay.” 

She said Condor has offered no compensation and that their travel insurance provider will not cover the several nights of accommodation because “it’s classed as delayed [travel] not abandonment”. 

Cancellations and rescheduled crossings

When Express put Marie’s experience to Condor, the operator did not reply to the specific concerns but provided a statement.

The continuing spell of strong winds up to 65mph and 7m waves caused by Storm Henk is causing disruption for rail, air and ferry operators across the British Isles,” the ferry operator said on Tuesday.

Condor_Islander_bow.jpeg

Pictured: Condor said it was hopeful for an improvement in conditions today.

We are therefore rescheduling and cancelling conventional and high-speed sailings today and tomorrow morning.  

Whilst conditions are unpredictable, the weather forecast suggests an improvement during Wednesday. 

We therefore intend, provided it is safe to do so, to operate Goodwill and Islander overnight tomorrow [3 January] from Portsmouth, Clipper on Thursday morning and an additional Liberation sailing from Poole is also planned for Thursday.  

Passengers and freight clients affected are being notified and re-accommodated subject to availability.

Condor in the spotlight

Condor's service levels and financial situation have recently been in the spotlight. Amid mounting speculation that it was on the brink in December, which followed an announcement that it would be putting up freight fees by around 19% from the start of the new year, CEO John Napton issued a statement confirming that the company was undergoing a "temporary but challenging time" which he said was "very near to being resolved". He assured that this would have "no impact" on services "now or in the long-term".

The company declined to reveal the nature of its troubles. However, public financial documents available on the Companies House website showed that Condor had to refinance a loan in 2023. Interest rates have risen significantly since the firm's repayment was initially due – in 2022 – with the Bank of England base rate currently standing at 5.25%, following several successive rises.

The documents on the Companies House website also said the firm had been operating against a "challenging economic backdrop", caused by inflation and "uncertainty" arising from the war in Ukraine.

Agreement up for review

Condor's current operating agreement is up for review. Signed with Jersey’s Harbourmaster in 2014, it gave the company an exclusive ramp licence to run Roll-on, Roll-off services in return for a guaranteed level of service, including types of vessels, pricing and timetables. 

The decade-long agreement does not prohibit other operators entering the market, but they would have to provide the same level of service as that set out in its 80 pages – setting a high barrier to overcome.

The current 10-year deal between the Government and Condor is in its ‘winding down’ phase, with a new agreement on such matters as capacity and frequency due to be signed before July 2025.

Current Economic Development Minister Kirsten Morel previously said he would like to see more daytrips to France form part of any new agreement.

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