Christmas has come early for people riding B.C. Ferries.
From today until Jan. 31, ferry users will get a 33 per cent break on all sailings on all routes.
The temporary ferry-fare cut was announced in October by Premier Gordon Campbell as part of the B.C. Liberal government's efforts to protect the province's economy in the face of a global financial crisis.
The government will pay B.C. Ferries the difference between the full fare and the lower fare, Dan Wong, vice-president of corporate relations, said yesterday.
The corporation has already restored service levels on all routes -- some sailings were cut after the company experienced a significant drop in passenger traffic this fall.
"We hope to see an increase in traffic. That's obviously the intent by an offer like this," said Wong. "It's not a hard science and probably all kinds of other factors -- the price of gas, the overall economic climate, consumer confidence and mood -- will play a part. But certainly our hope is that with this kind of an offer, it will spur people to travel in the holiday season."
And there's more relief on the horizon. Fuel surcharges will be removed on minor routes Dec. 5, and on major routes on Dec. 19.
In August, B.C. Ferries imposed a 10.3 per cent surcharge on major routes.
And fares increased 17.6 per cent on 18 minor routes.
In October, B.C. Ferries announced it would cut its fuel surcharge in half by Nov. 3, to reflect dropping oil prices.
B.C. Ferries estimates at its highest, the price for a family of four travelling between Swartz Bay and Tsawwassen was $91.15. With a reservation fee of $17.50, the total came to $108.65.
Today, B.C. Ferries says, that same family of four will pay $59.60. By Dec. 19, the price for a family of four will be $54.90.
B.C. Ferries is now working on a plan for February, said Wong. "The arrangement will end, but I don't know how. We're working on how to come out of the sales period. There might be a few other things we can contemplate to make the transition," he said.
The ferry-fare cut -- called the "Winter Super Sail" -- applies to all passengers and all vehicles on all sailings and all routes throughout December and January. The only exception is pre-paid paper tickets bought before today and assured loading tickets.
Reservations are recommended Dec. 26 through Dec. 28 -- the busiest days for ferry travel during the holidays.