April 25, 2023
BC FERRIES MAKES MEDICAL TRAVEL COMPLETELY COST-FREE
VICTORIA – British Columbians who must travel for medical reasons by ferry will now have their $18 booking fee (reservation) waived each way to help ensure they get to, and home from, medical specialist appointments not available in their own communities.
The new service is available on bookable routes for those who qualify for the provincial government’s Travel Assistance Program (TAP), which covers transportation costs for eligible B.C. residents who must travel within the province for non-emergency medical services not available in their own communities.
To secure a complimentary booking with BC Ferries for medical travel, customers must obtain a TAP form from their physician, nurse practitioner, or specialty clinic and obtain a TAP confirmation number from Health Insurance BC. Travelling with a confirmed booking helps to provide travel certainty by reserving a spot in advance and avoiding wait times at the terminal.
“We understand that travelling while unwell, or to treatments and surgeries, can be stressful,” said Janet Carson, Vice President, Marketing and Customer Experience. “Removing the booking fee is our way of helping with travel certainty while removing the financial burden when travelling to and from doctors’ offices, clinics or hospital.”
Customers can continue to use a Medical Assured Loading (MAL) letter on all routes, except those that are fully bookable. MAL is only available for those travelling under the TAP and who have a MAL letter from their medical practitioner that states that it is necessary for them to avoid a wait at the ferry terminal. Customers must present a completed TAP form along with a MAL letter to a ticket agent or a vessel crewmember to get priority boarding.
Over 300,000 customers sailed with BC Ferries last year on the provincial government’s TAP.
The cost of waiving booking fees for medical travel is projected to be in the range of $250,000 to $350,000 annually in foregone revenue and aligns with the TAP program’s goal of removing financial barriers to healthcare.
“The Travel Assistance Program is so important in helping people living in rural or remote communities access critical health-care services,” said Jennifer Rice, Parliamentary Secretary for Rural Health. “Making reservations for people travelling with TAP free is another great step in removing barriers to accessing health care and I am grateful to BC Ferries for this action.”
Complimentary booking fees for medical travel are now available on the following bookable routes:
- Victoria (Swartz Bay) – Metro Vancouver (Tsawwassen)
- Nanaimo (Departure Bay) – Metro Vancouver (Horseshoe Bay)
- Metro Vancouver (Horseshoe Bay) – Sunshine Coast (Langdale)
- Metro Vancouver (Tsawwassen) – Nanaimo (Duke Point)
- Sunshine Coast (Powell River) – Vancouver Island (Comox)
TAP bookings continue to be available for all customers on routes that are 100 per cent bookable:
- Vancouver Island (Port Hardy) – North Coast (Prince Rupert)
- North Coast (Prince Rupert)– Graham Island (Skidegate)
- Vancouver Island (Port Hardy) – Central Coast (Bella Coola, including sailings to Bella Bella, Klemtu, Shearwater and Ocean Falls) Metro Vancouver (Tsawwassen) – Southern Gulf Islands
If customers are not able to find space on the sailing they need, or do not have a credit card or Visa/Mastercard debit card to make a booking contact the Customer Service Centre at 1-888-BC FERRY (1-888-223-3779) and an agent will assist.
Residents relying on the Langdale – Horseshoe Bay route (Route 3) were the most frequent users (73,000) of the TAP. Customers on the Comox Powell – River route (Route 17) were the next highest users of the program (27,800). For more information on how to make a TAP booking, visit bcferries.com.
BC Ferries, Media Relations
Victoria: (250) 978-1267
Victoria: (250) 410-1465
Toll-free: 1-888-BCFERRY (1-888-223-3779)
Note to newsrooms: For urgent media inquiries off-hours, call our off-hours line at (250) 516-7211.