Surge in ticket sales for European ferries after Brexit delay

Gwyn Topham Transport correspondent


Ferry services to Europe have reported a ticket sales rise of more than 50% as holidaymakers book summer breaks after Brexit was delayed.

Holidaymakers had been warned of potential difficulties travelling to the continent, especially by car and ferry, in the event of a no-deal Brexit. The decision to put Britain’s date of departure from the European Union back from 29 March to at least the end of May, and possibly 31 October, has unleashed a wave of ticket sales.

Bookings on the Dover-Calais route have increased 55% on last year over the past seven days. Overall, there has been a 52% uplift in ticket sales across the 13 ferry routes between the UK and other European countries.

Direct Ferries, which sells tickets across Channel ferry routes and operators, said there had been triple-digit percentage growth in bookings on some longer channel crossings, such as those linking the south of England with Brittany and Spain.

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“It’s been clear that customers have been holding back at the beginning of the year and the formal confirmation of the delay has opened the bow doors,” said Niall Walsh of Direct Ferries. “It’s evident that Brexit concerns and uncertainty have weighed on holidaymakers’ decisions. Now that the deadline has been put back, families have begun to plan and book in earnest.”

In the week before the extension, bookings on some channel routes fell 20% year on year. Walsh said that in early 2019 there had been a significant rise in the number of short visits, believed to be panic shopping trips ahead of the original Brexit date of 29 March. Wine warehouses in Calais reported huge increases in shopper numbers and sales in the two months prior to the original deadline.


The route to Dover had been the focus of no-deal fears, with Highways England having been expected to turn much of the M20 approaching Channel ports into a holding pen for queueing lorries.

The Operation Brock emergency works were lifted last week, although a long steel barrier that was installed remains in place in case of future need. The government had warned drivers to pack spare food, fuel and water in the event of a disorderly Brexit, with delays anticipated due to new customs requirements.

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While the European commission and the UK confirmed that flights would still operate in the event of no-deal, there was confusion around insurance requirements for drivers holidaying abroad, as well as the need to buy international driving permits from post offices should Britain have exited the EU.