Passengers pay more for midweek sailings

SPIRIT of Tasmania passengers are being forced to pay cabin fares if they choose to travel on a midweek evening voyage through the peak months of January and February.

The state's only ferry service, the TT-Line Company, which is a state government business enterprise, has been closing off the cheaper ocean recliner seats on almost all Tuesday to Friday evening crossings and forcing customers to upgrade to a cabin for five years.

However, come March, the 146 ocean recliners become available every evening of the week.

Long-time visitor to Tasmania Peter Williams said when he phoned the company this week to book an ocean recliner on the 7.30pm sailing from Melbourne to Devonport on Tuesday, February 18, he was told he would have to pay for a cabin instead as ``they were not operating'' the recliners.

He was told the cheapest cabin option, a shared cabin, would incur an additional cost above that of the recliner of about $45.

``Tasmania has to rely on tourism now because everything is closing down, like the logging, so they have to rely on other things and give it 100 per cent or there won't be anything,'' Mr Williams said.

He said it was unbelievable such a measure was in place in the peak tourist season when more people were likely to travel to Tasmania for holidays.

The 76-year-old Melbourne resident said the midweek evening crossing fitted in with the connecting bus to Launceston early the next day.

Tourism Minister Scott Bacon was not aware of the situation and said it was a matter for Infrastructure Minister David O'Byrne.

Mr O'Byrne said he would discuss the matter with the company, yet ``the significant increase in bookings for the 2013-14 financial year shows more and more visitors are travelling on the Spirit and visiting the state as a result of this approach''.

A spokeswoman for the company said it offered a flexible sailing schedule with  fare options.

``The reason we offer ocean recliners for purchase on all day sailing departures and on weekend departures is because we need to ensure we operate as many sailings in and out of Tasmania,'' she said.

She said Mr Williams had the option to travel on one of the eight day sailings or at weekends if he wanted to have an ocean recliner.

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