Ferries revamps online booking

NANAIMO – Proposal would lead to discounts, shorter wait times.

B.C. Ferries is looking to revamp its booking system and website.

The company announced Wednesday that it has submitted an application to B.C. Ferry Commissioner Gord Macatee for a proposal that includes fare flexibility and online components. The initiative could lead to shorter wait times and discounted fares at non-peak times, according to a company spokesman.

Mike Corrigan, B.C. Ferries’ president and CEO, said the fare flexibility is a new way to price rates for the company.

“It basically takes into consideration the fact that in the airline industry and the hotel business and other places, there’s models in place now so the price you pay is dependent upon how far you book in advance, what restrictions you’re willing to put on yourself and when you want to travel or stay,” said Corrigan.

Another part of the proposal includes a new website and e-commerce platform, so customers can pay online via mobile device or computer and can book vacation packages. B.C. Ferries’ point of sale reservation systems are 25 years old and they need to be replaced, Corrigan said.

He said it hasn’t been yet determined how the proposal will affect fares.

“Over the next couple of years – hopefully we get the commissioner’s approval – then we have to go out and pick a vendor we want to work with both for the fare side and the digital/e-commerce side,” said Corrigan. “At the same time, we want to start building the actual models. We need to work with customers to determine what are the price points that customers are willing to change their travel patterns and willing to travel may incrementally more than they currently do,” said Corrigan.

Input will be sought related to specific pricing options and what customers would like to see in the systems going forward but there won’t be public consultation, Corrigan said.

The first phase of the plan could roll out in 2017 and will include a pilot project on a couple of routes across the system, testing the technology as well as the pricing engines and models.

Corrigan said it’s likely the first pilot will take place on a Nanaimo route.

He said Macatee has 60 days to make a decision.