Travellers experience financial hardships

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Labradorians waiting for Apollo ferry dug deep for hotels, expenses

Several residents of Happy Valley-Goose Bay are licking some financial wounds after being stranded in Newfoundland for more than a week earlier this month due to ferry delays.

The MV Apollo. — Telegram File photo

The MV Apollo, which runs between Western Newfoundland and Blanc Sablon, had been stranded from Jan. 2-10 due to the unavailability of an icebreaker.

Many Labradorians were visiting relatives on the island for the holiday season and were hoping to get back home by early January. For some, being left on the island meant missing a week of work, as well as racking up large hotel bills.

Jenny McCarthy was visiting family in Burin, along with her husband Jeremy and four-year-old daughter Annie. They were hoping to get back to Goose Bay on Jan. 3, but didn’t get back until Jan. 11.

“It was pretty frustrating. If we knew it was going to be more than a week, we would have taken the long way around (by driving through Quebec),” says McCarthy.

“We both missed a week of work without pay.”

Costly delays

McCarthy estimates that, after adding up lost wages, hotels, gas, and food, she and Jeremy are out $2,000 or more because of the delay.

Having a young, energetic child didn’t make the delays any easier for McCarthy and her family. But at least they knew some people who were stranded at the same time, and they could all keep each other company.

“We had a lot of friends stranded as well. So we got an adjoining room with another family (in Corner Brook), and they had a five-year-old,” says McCarthy.

“So at least Annie was occupied for some of the time.”

What made the delay most frustrating, according to McCarthy, was the lack of communication between the ferry company and the stranded passengers.

McCarthy says that some days they had no idea when to expect the ferry’s departure and from where it would be leaving. During their eight days waiting, McCarthy and her family spent five nights in Corner Brook, two in Deer Lake and one just outside of St. Barbe.

“It was very frustrating. The worst part was that there was no communication,” says McCarthy. “We didn’t know what was happening.”

Elizabeth Hicks and her boyfriend, along with their  dog, were on the Northern Peninsula, about an hour and a half outside St. Barbe to spend the holidays with his family.

They too were supposed to leave on the ferry Jan. 3, but didn’t get aboard until Jan. 10.

“When we showed up there that morning (Jan. 3) we learned that the ferry was cancelled, so we drove home. We then learned that the ferry would be leaving from Corner Brook,” says Hicks.

“So we drove (to Corner Brook) on Sunday. They told us the boat would be departing on Monday morning, but when we woke up to catch the ferry we learned that they had sent the coast guard elsewhere. ... So once again we were delayed.”

During their delay, Hicks and her boyfriend spent more than $1,500 on food, gas and hotels. And, just like McCarthy, Hicks felt confused and uninformed about the delays and changes of departure locations.

“Communication between the ferry company and passengers has been really bad. When we got to Corner Brook nothing had been updated, so we were under the impression that we would be catching the ferry the next morning,” says Hicks.

Having a dog with them made things even more complicated. They couldn’t simply leave the dog by itself.

“We have our dog with us. So we had to try to find a hotel that allows pets. The hotel we were in didn’t have enough rooms available to extend our reservation, so we were stuck trying to find a hotel.”

Discouraged by comments

Like many other stranded passengers, McCarthy and Hicks were discouraged by public comments made of Minister of Transportation and Works Nick McGrath.

In an earlier interview with TC Media, McGrath stated that the provincial government had no obligation to subsidize accommodations or other expenses.

“If I’m in Toronto and I have to get a flight back to St. John’s and Air Canada says weather is not permitting to fly and my reservations were with that airline, but another airline, say for example Porter says we are going to fly, I have that option, but Air Canada is not going to pay for my ticket on the Porter,” he says. “There’s no difference in this particular situation.

“If you choose to use a certain service and weather dictates that that service is not available, well then that’s a chance that you take. I don’t mean to sound crass or mean, but that’s not government’s responsibility.”

McCarthy said she has written a letter to the transportation minister about her family’s experience while stranded in Newfoundland.

She believes McGrath’s attitude was too dismissive of those who were affected by the ferry delay.

“It was very disappointing to hear (those comments) from a Labrador MHA,” says McCarthy.

“For him to act the way he did was very disappointing.”

The Labradorian

Organizations: Air Canada

Geographic location: Corner Brook, Western Newfoundland, Burin Goose Bay Quebec Deer Lake Northern Peninsula Toronto

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