P&O Ferries faces public perception hangover a year on from mass sackings

P&O Ferries still has work to do to rebuild public trust following the abrupt sacking of 800 seafarers a year ago today (Friday), according to a new poll. 

Data from YouGov BrandIndex suggests that perceptions of the Dubai World-owned ferry company are improving but remain some way off where they were before the scandal.

The mass redundancies appear to have had a major impact on brand perceptions among two important groups – customers who have used P&O Ferries in the past, and those who have never used the company.

Both potential target audiences have a far worse opinion of the brand now than they did in March 2022, according to the study.

The brand fares better among former passengers, with most metrics still net positive despite the issue of a year ago.

Replacing hundreds of full-time staff with contractors also appears to have a serious impact on quality scores. 

YouGov said: “Overall, while P&O Ferries has shown signs of a partial recovery in public opinion, the mass redundancy scandal is continuing to sour its image among former customers, could-be customers, and the wider nation. 

“For now, the brand is still navigating choppy waters.”

A P&O Ferries spokesperson said: “Significant changes in the last year have saved this business, including the 2,200 jobs we secured in coastal communities across the UK. 

“As a result, we are now serving the needs of our passenger and freight customers much better than ever before. 

“During 2022, we carried more passengers between Dover and Calais than any other ferry operator. In addition, our market share for the second half of last year matched the level of February 2022.

“Through our new flexible operating model, we have optimised sailings to meet customer demand, something we could not have done before.

“We have invested £250 million in our fleet – with our new state-of-the-art hybrid propulsion vessels joining soon – enabling us to thrive in a highly competitive market.  

“There is strong customer demand, shown by the more than one million passengers we carried last summer and booking numbers that are now the highest we’ve had either during or since the COVID-19 pandemic.”

They added: “P&O Ferries is focused on meeting the long-term needs of our customers who want value for money, greener journeys and flexibility. We have improved our service, boosted our competitiveness, and are generating growth while significantly reducing our carbon emissions.”

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