Elderly man unable to travel on Swift ferry as lift not working

Pricewatch: Delay caused huge inconvenience for passengers and medical staff

A reader called Chris contacted us in connection with Irish Ferries. Towards the end of April he wanted to bring his father-in-law from Castlebar to Todmorden in England. The man is "an elderly MS patient who has recently suffered a second debilitating stroke". He is originally from the UK and has been in Ireland for 12 years.

“We had a window of opportunity to get [him] back to the UK and I booked the Swift craft with Irish Ferries to minimise the journey time and to reduce the potential stress on both him and his wife and carer,” Chris says.

He needed to ensure that the journey ran smoothly. After picking his father-in-law up from the nursing home in Castlebar they made good time on the motorway and arrived promptly for the Dublin Swift sailing leaving at 2.30pm.

“We checked in as normal and were directed to the entrance of the vessel. On arrival at the ramp we were asked to pull over to one side. After a good while it became apparent that there may be a problem. After another while I got out of our vehicle to try to clarify what was happening as a stream of other vehicles was being let on.”


He said it was “an extremely stressful situation as we had medical staff waiting to facilitate [his father-in-law] for our scheduled arrival. Eventually we were told that we would not be able to travel on the boat as the lift wasn’t working.”

Strict schedule

Chris stressed a number of times to the staff the urgency of the situation and that they had a strict schedule to adhere to “and that as a matter of priority we needed to travel on the sailing we were booked on. We were told that that would not be possible and that we would have to travel on a later craft.”

Then Irish Ferries staff said the party could travel on a Stena Line ferry that was due to arrive later on that evening in Holyhead. "Faced with no other option we returned to check-in where we were directed onto the Stena Line ferry. This vessel didn't arrive in Dublin until much later that evening which meant that our scheduled arrival in Todmorden around dinner time would now be approaching midnight.

“This journey was a lot longer than we anticipated and a lot longer than we had planned for. This was not only deeply stressful but necessitated making contingent plans at the nursing home we were travelling to which had been informed days previously of our travel plans and had allocated staff especially to deal our situation,” he says.

He adds that all the stresses of the family “were exacerbated by the fact that we hadn’t anticipated and were never informed that we may not be able to travel on a newly refurbished vessel that had only been in operation with Irish Ferries for a short while.”


When we contacted Irish Ferries the company said it had “sincerely apologised” for the issues that arose. A spokeswoman said the company “makes significant efforts to accommodate passengers with special requirements. We were aware of [this passenger’s] requirements in advance but, unfortunately, on the day, the lift for wheelchair access was suddenly and temporarily out of service.”

She said the company immediately sought to put alternative arrangements in place and booked him on the next sailing out of Dublin. “We fully understand that this caused inconvenience as the Irish Ferries Dublin Swift was due in Holyhead at 16.30, while the Stena ferry was not due to arrive til 18.20 and was, we believe, further delayed.”

She said the company recognised “that the events on the day caused problems. As well as arranging alternative travel with Stena free of charge, we refunded Mr Leach’s meals, upgraded his return journey, offered a €100 voucher and a further free trip on Dublin Swift. We would like to apologise once again for the inconvenience and to assure our customer of our best efforts to provide a smooth journey on his next trip.”