After two bleak summers, Brittany Ferries sees sunshine on the horizon

10th November 2021

Brittany Ferries has reported a surge in reservations for travel next summer. The ferry company has recently navigated a path through two disastrous summer seasons, as Covid-19 consigned passenger numbers to the doldrums. However, the boost for summer 2022 has brought renewed optimism and the prospect of sunnier skies ahead.

By the end of October 2021, 188,878 passengers had booked travel for the period July to September 2022. That’s 48 percent more than the 127,517 who had booked for the 2020 summer season – at the end of October 2019 (the last pre-Covid comparison year).

In terms of breakdown by market, UK-France reservations were up 40 percent. On UK-Spain routes reservations rose by 35 percent while France-Ireland soared 234 percent.

Supporting Brittany Ferries

This positive news for Brittany Ferries follows welcome assistance from the French state. A grant of €45 million was recently authorised by Paris to compensate for passenger travel restrictions that caused Brittany Ferries’ turnover to plummet by €220m in 2020 alone.  Alongside the grant, the French state also announced a 10 million waiver for debt contracted with ADEME* and 6 million aid from the Brittany Region.

Furthermore, Brittany Ferries has welcomed the extension of so-called “net wage” provisions for French sailors. Announced by president Macron at Les assises de l’économie de la Mer conference in September, this tax break has been extended for three years.

“The storm clouds are beginning to lift and I welcome the boost in reservations for next year,” said Christophe Mathieu, CEO of Brittany Ferries. “We are so grateful to our loyal customers and, of course, to the French state for acknowledging our plight. The support of French government combined with the loyalty of our British and Irish customers will allow us to continue the beautiful voyage of this company.”

“Amid a renewed sense of optimism, I must also add a note of caution,” he added. “We still have much work to do in the years ahead. For example, we must not forget the €117 million loan granted last year, which we have repay. Nor must we change path on our internal project to maximise efficiencies. Called Vital, this has been embraced by our hard-working seafarers. To them I would like to reiterate the words of our president Jean-Marc Roué: we are absolutely committed to your future – and there will be no job losses as a consequence of this essential plan.”

Further good news for 2022 comes in the form of a brand-new ship. Brittany Ferries Salamanca will be the first vessel in the fleet to be powered by cleaner, greener liquefied natural gas (LNG). She will run on services connecting the UK with Spain and will join sister ship Galicia which joined the Brittany Ferries fleet in December last year.

Summer passenger volumes 2019, 2020 & 2021

Figures for the summer seasons of 2020 and 2021 underline just how difficult the last two years have been for Brittany Ferries, as well as the size of the challenge ahead. Around 80 percent of the company’s income comes from passenger traffic and on some lines this dropped to virtually zero.

In total, the last two summer seasons combined drew in fewer than half of the passenger volumes of a pre-Covid summer season (480k for 2020+2021 v 982k for 2019).

Passengers July-Sep 2019


2020 Up/down 2019 v 2020 2021 Up/down 2019 v 2021
Roscoff-Plymouth 155,126 38,106 -75% 17,654 -89%
St Malo – Portsmouth 124,484 31,059 -75% 31,656 -75%
Cherbourg – Poole 85,276
Cherbourg – Portsmouth 85,183 7,463 -91% 2,663 -97%
Caen – Portsmouth 294,339 101,036 -66% 88,850 -70%
Le Havre – Portsmouth 60,090 4,372 -93%
TOTAL MANCHE/CHANNEL 804,498 182,036 -77% 140,823 -82%
FR-Ireland 48,153 5,520 -89% 20,753 -57%
UK-Spain-Ireland 129,095 47,820 -63% 83,359 -35%
TOTAL PAX ALL LINES 981,746 235,376 -76% 244,935 -75%


*ADEME is a French state institution that helps companies transition to more environmentally friendly practices. For Brittany Ferries that included support to retro-fit exhaust emission scrubbers to six ships, cutting sulphur and particulate emissions from funnel gases.


About Brittany Ferries

Brittany Ferries was born in 1972, starting operations as a freight-only service on 2nd January the following year. Since first links were forged between Brittany and Plymouth in the South West of England, the company has progressively launched, then strengthened its shipping routes. These are now relied upon by millions of passengers every year as well as by companies transporting goods by sea across the so-called Atlantic Arc (France, UK, Spain and Ireland). In addition to cutting congestion and emissions on busy roads, these motorways-of the sea have also helped enrich local communities, create jobs and develop economic growth while nurturing international tourism.

More details here: 

Key figures (2020)

  • Revenue: €202.4 million (€469 million in 2019)
  • Fleet renewal: Four new vessels on the horizon, two powered by LNG entering service in 2022 and 2023; two LNG-hybrid powered ships arriving in the years that follow
  • Employment: 2,474 employees, including 1,600 seafarers (full-time equivalent)
  • Passengers: 752,102 in 2020 (2,498,354 in 2019)
  • Freight: 160,377 in 2020 (201,554 in 2019)
  • 12 vessels connecting France, the United Kingdom, Spain and Ireland, via 14 maritime routes
  • 12 ports: Roscoff, Saint-Malo, Cherbourg, Caen, Le Havre, Plymouth, Portsmouth, Poole, Cork, Rosslare, Santander, Bilbao.
  • Tourist impact: 231,000 unique visitors to France, generating 2.6 million overnight stays in 2020 (857,000 in 2019 with 8.7 million overnight stays in 2019)

Press contacts:

Nigel Wonnacott  [email protected]

Christopher Jones  [email protected]



(Image file)