A ferry company will offer Kent residents one free return journey once Covid-19 restrictions are lifted in recognition of the Christmas disruption.
DFDS says it wants to show its appreciation for the patience of local residents and the collective efforts shown to help stranded truck drivers – and will offer a limited number of free rides.
The act of goodwill follows a week of travel chaos in which the M20 and Manston Airfield were rammed with truckers stranded since France imposed - and later lifted - a ban on all inbound travel from the UK.
On Christmas Eve more than 3,000 lorries remained stuck at the former Thanet airport but as of midday today the site had been cleared.
Filip Hermann, Vice-President & Head of Channel Routes for DFDS, said: “Over the past week we’ve worked with partners at the ports and with the authorities to repatriate thousands of drivers who were stuck at Dover after the French border was shut.
"Our employees stepped up to the exceptional circumstances caused by the global health crisis and helped us to get more people home by running extra sailings over the Christmas period.
"Local people also showed great kindness and community-spirit, coming together to help the drivers stuck in Dover, at Manston and on the M20, despite the disruption their communities were caught up in.
"We’d like to express our sincere thanks to them by offering them the opportunity to travel with us free for a weekend break after the Covid-19 restrictions are lifted.”
Ferry operator DFDS says it carried 1,846 lorries to France on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
The company ran return sailings to both Calais and Dunkirk on Christmas Day for the first time ever. In total, it shipped 1,228 freight units yesterday on the two routes.
It says it has planned enough capacity on both days to ship more than 2,000 units each day, but ongoing logistical issues with getting freight to the port meant that traffic was reaching the ships slower than expected.
Sailings have continued today and will carry on notwithstanding any delays caused by the Storm Bella.
Up to 2,000 passengers in total can travel for free under the offer for Kent residents to enjoy a weekend return, travelling out on a Saturday and returning the next day.
The free sailings will be for a car and up to four passengers and will be made available in 2021, as travel currently remains restricted to essential journeys only under the Covid-19 tier system.
DFDS says it will provide further information about how to claim the free crossings once pandemic restrictions are lifted.
In the meantime, residents can find out more about the company’s routes and sailings at www.dfds.com.