Eurostar review: Standard class from Ebbsfleet to Paris
I’ve only travelled on the Eurostar once before. On that occasion, I travelled to Paris and back on a Standard Premier ticket. Eurostar offer three classes of travel; Standard, Standard Premier and Business Premier. They’re kind of equivalent to Economy, Economy Plus and Business class on a flight. At the time of booking the previous trip, Standard Premier was on offer and so the upgrade was an absolute no-brainer. This time around, I thought I’d check out the regular Standard class, to settle in my mind whether the upgrade is worth the money.
The ease of Ebbsfleet
Living in north Kent, Ebbsfleet is an easy 20 minute drive from me and so I started my journey there. I’m very familiar with London St Pancras, and while I’d miss looking around the shops and grabbing a Pret lunch for the journey (in lieu of the light meal included with Standard Premier), the fact that I could get a lift to Ebbsfleet and avoid unnecessary parking costs outweighed any benefit of trekking into the capital.
For someone who flies from Gatwick or Heathrow every few months, the check-in and security process at Ebbsfleet is a sheer joy. I arrived at the station 50 minutes before departure, scanned my ticket via the Eurostar app, passed security without a hitch and cleared passport control, all within 10 minutes. That gave me 40 minutes to entertain myself in an extremely quiet departure lounge. Caffe Nero coffee in hand, I whiled away the time with a good book. Considering it was an agreeable 12:45pm departure at the beginning of the school summer holidays, I had expected more people.
With 10 minutes to go, I was moved onto the platform. Eurostar trains don’t like to hang around at Ebbsfleet, so you have limited time to board once the train arrives. I had chosen my seats - included in the Standard ticket price - and easily found my way to the correct carriage once the train had arrived. The train seemed around two thirds full, so once we’d departed Ebbsfleet there was a bit of passenger movement as people sought out the best arrangement for themselves. It was one of the new Eurostar trains, and I was very happy with the leg room and comfort of the seat. Plus I had a plug point for laptop/phone charging, which I wasn’t expecting.
The Standard carriage experience
This is where my Standard and Standard Premier experiences began to diverge. While the seats are marginally better in Premier, it was the noise and general bustle of the Standard carriage that made all the difference. Even my super expensive headphones couldn’t cancel out the full volume Simpson's episode being watched by a neighbouring passenger. There were screams, peels of laughter and crying babies all around. Kids were running up and down the carriage aisle, and a constant stream of people were making their way to the toilet or to Café Métropole, in a carriage I never did manage to locate. I was knocked on the arm countless times, which may be my fault for the choice of an aisle seat, but still made for a very tedious journey. Granted, it’s all a bit minor, and due largely to the fact that I was travelling during the school holidays, but it was in stark contrast to the peace and quiet of the Standard Premier carriage.
The new trains feature on board wifi, boasting "a great range of entertainment, including TV programmes, movies, news and more". I connected to EurostarTrainsWiFi as instructed, and got zilch. My travel companion couldn't either. Without the will to battle the constant flow of passengers down the aisle to seek out a member of staff, I gave up on the said TV programmes, movies, news and more.
Wifi aside, the Eurostar train itself was faultless. The toilets were plentiful and clean, and the train arrived on time into Gare du Nord. There always seems to be a bit of a scrum on the Parisian platform as passengers disembark, but the delight of being stood in the streets of Paris just minutes after leaving the train never ceases to amaze.
My tickets cost £29 each way in a regular Eurostar promotion. With zero hidden costs and a hassle free experience, I consider it money very well spent. I monitored how much it would cost me to upgrade to Standard Premium at regular intervals. I was interested to see whether the upgrade price would increase or decrease the nearer the departure came. My findings were that the cost went from an additional £150 each way, to an additional £190 each way. There was no last minute decrease, giving the impression that Eurostar have no desire to fill unused Standard Premium capacity. Considering a huge benefit is the quieter, more spacious carriage, this is probably wise. I wouldn’t have wanted Simpson’s lady sharing a carriage with people who had paid the full Standard Premium fare.
So, without an upgrade promotion, Standard Premier would have cost an additional £150 each way. Personally, I don’t think a full price upgrade is worth the money for a pleasure traveller. If you need to work on the journey, it’s almost essential, or if you are travelling during the school holidays, it could be a wise choice if you’ve got cash to burn. Otherwise, it’s a no from me.
However, Standard Premier fares are often discounted in Eurostar promotions. If the upgrade falls below £50 on top of the Standard fare, which it does on a fairly regular basis, then Standard Premier becomes a no-brainer for me. At Travelscoop, covering such promotions is our thing, so a good way to make sure you don’t miss out is to subscribe to our email newsletter.
Club Eurostar and American Express Membership Rewards
Finally, there is another way to upgrade. Club Eurostar is the recently rebranded rewards club for Eurostar travellers. As a member, you’ll earn points at the rate of 1 for every £1 spent on tickets. It’ll cost you 500 points to upgrade a one way journey from Standard to Standard Premium, which would equate to almost 10 journeys at my £58 spend. That’s not going to work for me, but what would work is transferring American Express Membership Reward points to my Club Eurostar account. The points exchange rate is 1,500 Amex points to 100 Eurostar points, so to pay for my 500 points upgrade I’d need to transfer 7,500 Amex points. That’s actually not too bad, so I would personally go that route if you have the points to spare. One thing to bear in mind is that the transfer of points can take up to 5 days. Sadly, my return journey is just three days away, so it's a Standard trip home for me!
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