THE VIEW FROM HERE CHRISTINE Gale, who up until this year had been holidaying on the IW since 1989, says she is now having to think twice about coming back to see us.
Planning a fortnight’s stay at the end of August, she was shocked when Wightlink quoted a minimum return fare of £177 for travel between Lymington and Yarmouth. She claims the same journey cost £110.60 in 2011 and £97.80 in 2010.
There is no reason to doubt her claims. Anyone who has regular dealings with Wightlink knows fares can shoot up on the merest whim to the same sort of impressive heights achieved by a testosterone-fuelled Romanian pole-vaulter.
I don’t know if Wightlink operates on testosterone but it certainly swig a lot of Bossyboots mixture. Christine Gale is a smart cookie (note her efficient habit of keeping old ferry receipts) and thought she’d bypass the ferry company’s eye-watering demand for £177 by getting two day returns and using each of them only one way.
Bad idea, Christine. Remember, Wightlink do not operate in order that you can save some money in these straitened times, even by buying a pair of perfectly legitimate tickets. If you have the nerve not to use one half of them (despite the fact you’ve stumped up the money) Wightlink will be very cross. They told Christine if she pulled her day-return trick she was likely to be banned from future travel on Wightlink.
Phew. I should imagine Christine was by now planning a holiday somewhere a great deal more relaxed, like North Korea or Zimbabwe. Fortunately, Wightlink’s super-sassy marketing managing Kerry Jackson, who is always wheeled out on these occasions, has explained why Wightlink is right and Christine is wrong.
"We have a yield management system in place," she says. A what system? Yield management? No, don’t bother telling me, Kerry. I expect it means we’ll all pay more.
What’s that you say? "Demand is extremely high for these sailings and the price reflects this demand." Yeah, told you so. Higher fares.
OK, I’m no Stephanie Flanders but I can see you’re on to a good thing if there’s a big demand for tickets and you fleece the customer in return. Or rather, "the price reflects this demand". But surely, if you’ve got a boat stuffed with passengers, it costs less per capita to transport them than if your vessel has hardly anybody on it? Supposing you charged what it actually costs to transport each passenger across The Solent? That would mean Christine and her car would cost, ooh, a great deal less than £177.
In practice, the more people want to come to the IW, the more Kerry and her mates will sting them. It’s how capitalism works. Or, if you prefer, it’s because Wightlink is greedy.
But these ferry companies had better be careful. There’s such a thing as saturation tolerance. Actually, I’ve just made up that phrase. Yield management to you too, Kerry. What it actually means is that people like Christine might just have had enough of being bullied by the ferry companies. You think you can keep ratcheting up the fares? Well, those who once holidayed on the Island might just decide to stay at home. Or possibly look at air travel to North Korea, which turns out to be a complete snip at £766 for a distance of 5,400 miles compared with £177 for less than ten miles.
Jokes are nothing to laugh about
IT'S a good thing Christine Gale kept her emotions reasonably modified when describing how fed up she was with Wightlink. "How can such an increase be justified?" she asked.Sensibly, she did not react like Paul Chambers who, on discovering Robin Hood airport was closed, sent a tweet saying he would blow the place sky-high unless it got its "sh*t together."
His little joke resulted in him being found guilty of menace and ordered to pay a £1,000 fine. Two years later, and after a great deal of hassle, the High Court overturned his conviction.
So next time the ferries are up the spout or you get quoted some exorbitant amount, please don't tell anybody what you think of Wightlink or what you'd like to do to the company. If it doesn't think the day-ticket wheeze is amusing, it is not going to react kindly to a ho-ho suggestion about scuttling its rotten ferries.
I don't know if Noel Coward ever came to the IW but he had the right idea about po-faced bigwigs. On one occasion, when arriving in America, he was asked on his immigration form whether he intended to overthrow the US Government. He simply wrote in reply, "Sole purpose of visit."
Paul Chambers may lack Coward's touch but at least he's got the old boy's spirit.