Brittany Ferries could help fans attend Champions League final

Cross-channel operator Brittany Ferries is hoping to have a Plymouth to Porto route running in time for football fans to use it to attend the rearranged Champions League final.

The French-owned company has been exploring the possibility of services between Devon and “green list” Portugal and has seen huge interest in the potential Plymouth-Porto link.

And now that interest has been bolstered by UEFA’s decision to shift Europe’s showpiece final from Istanbul to Porto.

Newly crowned Premier League champs Manchester City will face FA Cup finalists Chelsea at Porto’s Estadio do Drago on May 29, after the fixture was moved from the Ataturk Stadium in “red list” Turkey.

Brittany Ferries is expected to make a definite decision on whether it will run a Plymouth to Porto service by the middle of next week, around May 18 or 19.

If it can be done the intention is to start sailing on May 24 or 25, in time for people to use the service to get to the game.

It is understood each club will be allocated 6,000 tickets with a total attendance of 20,000 allowed in the 50,000-capacity stadium.

Brittany Ferries newest ship, Galicia
Brittany Ferries newest ship, Galicia
(Image: Heads up Definition)

A Brittany Ferries spokesperson said the prospect of a Plymouth-Porto service was “fifty-fifty” at the moment but it is very much the firm’s intention to make it happen.

It would need to start before the end of May to make it viable and catch enough summer holiday traffic, with Plymouth, rather than the company’s other main UK port Portsmouth, being seen as ideal.

The spokesperson added: “The idea is to get the service up and running by May 24 or 25 and the reality is it’s more likely to sail from Plymouth (rather than Portsmouth).

“The reality is we have to get it working this month or it is not worth doing it at all, but there are some challenges.”

The spokesperson said it had not yet been decided which of the firm’s fleet of ships would be used if the service does go ahead, but the crossing between Plymouth and Porto would take about 30 hours.

If the service can be started, however, it would mean Portugal becoming the first new destination nation for Brittany Ferries since it started sailing to Spain in 1978.

And kicking off the route with a service to the Champions League final would be the perfect start, the spokesperson said, adding: “What a way to celebrate a new route and new country.”

Brittany Ferries, which has its UK HQ in Plymouth, sees a clear demand from Brits wanting to holiday in the Portuguese sun, with other traditional summer destinations all on either the “amber” or “red” lists under the UK Government’s “traffic light” travel system.

Travellers arriving back in the UK from a “green list” country do not have to quarantine and only have to take one post-arrival test.

Joining Portugal on the “green list” are Iceland, the Faroe Islands, Gibraltar and Israel. Traditional holiday spots including France, Spain and Greece are on the “amber list” meaning arrivals will need to take a pre-departure test, fill in a locator form, and quarantine at home for up to 10 days, with regular testing to see if they are free of the virus and can go out.

Brittany Ferries welcomed the Government’s decision to allow foreign holidays again – but wants regular reviews of the “traffic light” system and was pleased France and Spain avoided being on the “red list” of nations, which are under the most stringent restrictions.

But it said the two countries should be reclassified as “green” within weeks and that regular reviews of the list are “imperative”.

It expects France and Spain to turn “green” at the first review in June, because infection rates are falling, while vaccination levels are rapidly rising in both countries.

The firm predicted a green light from the Government would release an avalanche of latent demand for late June and the peak summer season.

It said the areas it serves are not population centres, but rural regions characterised by beaches, mountains, and forests. The company said they should appeal in particular to those with concerns about holidaying in big cities or busy resorts.

Plymouth Live