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Transport / NorthLink boss defends sleeping pods

NorthLink ferries Hjaltland and Hrossey. Photo Will RodgerNorthLink ferries Hjaltland and Hrossey. Photo Will Rodger

THE MANAGING director of Serco NorthLink has defended the boats’ sleeping pods, saying the majority of feedback in customer surveys has been “positive”.

The pods, which the operator says are “extra comfortable seats” which recline up to 70 degrees, came under fire at Thursday’s meeting of Shetland’s external transport forum.

They offer a cheaper option than a cabin, but councillor Ian Scott told the forum that “whoever thought of those pods should really be ashamed of themselves”.

The pods have often been criticised by local people, with some believing a night on the floor is more comfortable.

But NorthLink managing director Stuart Garrett said “like them or lump them, they are there”.

He pointed to customer satisfaction surveys where between visitors and islanders, 88.8 per cent of passengers had a “positive experience” in the pods.

This was broken down to 16.6 per cent of islanders and 6.6 of visitor rating them as poor.

Garratt added that since 2013 around 50,000 pod tickets had been booked on the boats.

But Scott argued that the “vast majority of people are too polite to complain” when it came to surveys.

He likened it to people saying their meal was fine when asked by staff at a restaurant – even if the food was substandard.

“People are fairly generous in their views,” Scott said.

Nearly 70 new sleeping pods were added to each of NorthLink’s two passenger boats in recent months amid concerns over capacity on the ships in the summer months.

They cost £18 on top of the basic foot fare and come with a “large table, adjustable lighting and a USB socket” to charge mobile devices.

Items like a blanket, pillow and eye mask are also provided.