Parents are calling for compensation after their sons waited nearly 20 hours on a coach at the Port of Dover at the weekend without food.
Debbie Morley and Nadia Becker’s two 18-year-old sons James and Martin were part of a group of about 41 children from Bryn Elian High School in North Wales going on a school ski trip in Austria. They arrived at the port about 9.30pm on Saturday but were unable to get to passport control until 5pm on Sunday.
“[Martin] was absolutely starving, exhausted, thirsty, he felt dirty because at that stage they hadn’t had a shower for a long time,” Ms Becker said, who was in regular contact with her son.
Port of Dover officials have announced a review of its plans for Easter weekend with ferry operators early this week, after declaring a critical incident amid chaotic scenes where coach passengers were stuck in queues for hours on end.
Both the Port and the DFDS firm, which operates some of the ferries, said that increased passport checks post-Brexit – where officials now must stamp and check each passport – has caused the delays.
Ms Becker said the children spent their entire wait without food. They were eventually provided with a bottle of water by P&O ferries on Sunday and a meal and drink voucher after passing through passport control and boarding the ferry on that night.
The ski trip was expensive, costing nearly £200 a day. The ski company has organised for the group to stay an extra night in Calais but the children lost at least one of the days of the holiday, she said.
“He was really looking forward to it, and to be honest these trips are not cheap – he’s been working extra shifts to pay for it, he’s been working so hard to contribute to this trip.”
When asked for her assessment of the ferry companies and port organisations, Ms Becker said: “I think they need to start putting customers first, before the profits, and they need to start taking the duty of care seriously.
“I would like compensation for the future and I think they need they need to plan for the future.”
Ms Morley agreed: “I don’t know whether P&O will compensate families and give them money back, but they should do really, there’s a lot of people who would struggle to pay for their kids to go on a holiday of a lifetime skiing – what a disaster for them.
“They will miss a day’s skiing now, because they should have been arriving in Austria now and would have had their first day on the slopes tomorrow – and they are going to be absolutely shattered.”
She said the school’s staff had dealt with situation very well given they must also have been “frustrated, annoyed and shattered”.
The Port of Dover and P&O ferries did not respond to questions about whether it would be providing any compensation to passengers who faced lengthy delays, or whether it would be adjusting the numbers of passengers allowed into the port.
A Port of Dover spokesperson said: “We continue to offer our sincere apologies to all those affected by the prolonged delays that have occurred over this weekend.”
By Monday morning, ferry companies and the Port of Dover said the queues at the entrance had finally cleared.