A couple who planned a relaxing day trip to Aberdeen to look round the shops ended up angry and out of pocket after a series of unfortunate incidents.
Weisdale couple Donnie and Evelyn Morrison decided to go south last week to use up their concessionary travel vouchers before they expired on 1st April. These are vouchers issued to senior citizens and disabled travellers and entitle them to two trips per year in which customers get a free foot passage and a free berth in a shared cabin.
Mrs Morrison has an inoperable brain tumour and suffers from various side effects. She is not able to fly, hence she and her husband only travel by ferry. But because of her condition the couple need a cabin.
The Morrisons travelled south last Monday and expected to come back that night, however at lunchtime they received a phone call from NorthLink saying that due to severe weather the ferry was cancelled.
They tried to re-book for Tuesday night, 31st March, but were told there were no cabins. There were, however, cabins for the following night, 1st April, one of which they booked.
The disruption to their plans meant they had to spend two nights in an Aberdeen hotel, an unforeseen occurrence which cost them £152, a special rate for Shetlanders.
They had to buy meals out and even a few new clothes, having virtually nothing with them. Mrs Morrison ran out of medication but a phone call to Scalloway surgery enabled a chemist to dispense an emergency prescription.
However these inconveniences were not as upsetting as the shock they got at NorthLink’s Aberdeen check-in desk. Initially they were told the fares had gone up that day, 1st April, and they would have to pay an extra eight pence.
But then the girl at the desk noticed the date and informed the Morrisons that as their return vouchers had expired they would have to pay £93.
Although the couple have new vouchers for this year NorthLink were not willing to let them present them on arrival in Lerwick.
Mrs Morrison said: “I told them we were willing to come in with vouchers [when we got to Lerwick] but they said no.”
She continued: “I know NorthLink can’t help the weather but it seems as if they’re responsible for nothing and you’re responsible for everything.”
And she was not impressed with the attitude of the staff member: “She was very officious and not helpful in any way. She was lacking in any form of empathy and there was no apology.”
Fortunately the Morrisons were able to pay the £93, but, as Mr Morrison pointed out: “Some old person could be faced with this, it’s horrible.”
He said that as the Scottish government would have already paid NorthLink for the fare, the company was in effect getting paid twice.
Since the fiasco Mr Morrison has noticed that the small print on the back of NorthLink’s booking confirmation does include a paragraph about travel insurance, but he has never thought it necessary for a trip to Aberdeen. “It’s a lifeline service,” he said.
A spokesman for NorthLink said: “The couple were travelling with Scottish government national concession vouchers. These vouchers are valid for an entire year and expire on 31st March. The expiry date is not of our making and those travelling by means of these vouchers are aware or the expiry date because it is clearly printed on them.
“In light of the weather-related cancellation which affected sailings on 30th March, passengers sailing northbound on 1st April by means of the the Scottish government vouchers were advised that they would have to be charged for the voyage but if they wrote to our customer care department outlining their circumstances then we would investigate. We have no record of the Morrisons having been in touch with us but if they do get in touch then their case will be investigated.”
Mrs Morrison said she had never been told about getting in touch with customer care but has now done so and is awaiting a reply.