a train on the tracks

I’m a plane guy — it’s as simple as that. Rail travel has never given me that fuzzy excited feeling.

For a trip from London to Paris though, I was basically confronted with a choice to be the thing I hate — an irrationally loyal consumer — or a logical person, and swap planes for trains, perhaps just for the day.

I’m a rail novice so go lightly on me, but I learned a few things which may be of interest to other novices. Basically, I wanted to create a fair comparison of the time, amenities and other features that create intelligent decisions for travel between these two cities.

a city with many buildings

Key Decision Maker #1: Price

90% of leisure travel consumers (or more) search and book travel based on one key metric: price. If prices are the same between various airlines or hotels, people will dive further, but if there is a noticeable gulf between pricing, price often wins.

On that basis, we’ll start there.

With the myriad issues airlines are faced with, such as retraining flight crew and getting operations back up to full speed; all while enjoying unprecedented air travel demand, prices are soaring.

One way tickets between London and Paris from preferred airports, including a bag, were annoyingly expensive for our June dates. Prices were north of £280 (circa $350) for the one hour flight, per person — in economy.

Airlines also begin charging for children at the age of two. Eurostar, however, does not charge for children under 3 if they’re happy to sit with you. Not even taxes and fees. A Eurostar page suggests the age is actually 4, but booking flow suggests 3 years old.

Eurostar had business class tickets available under £280, and since we wouldn’t need to buy three of them, two seemed like a decent bargain. After all, it was trading a tight economy seat for a spacious business class seat. Not bad — and cheaper.

a train on the tracks

Key Decision Maker #2: Schedule & Time

Airlines were forced to trim schedules to bare minimums during the last few years, but they’re scaling up as quickly as possible. That doesn’t always mean quickly enough.

Many of the best flights between London and Paris, such as London City to Paris Orly have not come back, and schedules between Heathrow and Paris are more limited on some summer dates than ideal.

For my preferred times, Eurostar was right on the money. Airlines would’ve meant either leaving too early, or arriving too late for my needs. The Eurostar schedule is legit impressive.

Journey Time Considerations

A flight between London and Paris is about an hour. Sometimes you can shave a few minutes, and on congested days you can add a few. A Eurostar between London and Paris is considerably longer. It’s around 2.5 hours.

On the face that’s an annoying trade, but once you unpack the differences it’s a pretty fair fight. Particularly on a business class ticket; which allows late check in as close as 15 minutes prior to departure, you don’t have nearly the amount of wait time.

London City Airport used to solve this problem, allowing fast access from the city and dependably short security waits, with easy gate access. Heathrow on the other hand is a constantly unpredictable mess — and at least a 25-30 minute hike from London.

Add in at least 30 minutes to get to Heathrow, at least an hour left to check bags and clear security, and you start to approach the 2.5 hour mark for the journey easily.

And then there’s the other side. Eurostar puts you into central Paris at Gare Du Nord. Any flight is going to put you at least 30 minutes outside of the city, and realistically it is going to be 45, or more, from CDG.

Key Decision Maker #3: Comfort

This is a pretty binary option. Given the choice between comfort and not comfort, most people will choose comfort.

Based on the current pricing created by surging airline demand and limited resources, Eurostar business class was cheaper than airline economy.The Eurostar seat offers just about endless legroom and decent recline, and that’s a far cry from a short haul airline economy seat.

Eurostar business also includes a meal and lounge access. These aren’t really factors for me, since I hold airline status that typically grants me access anyway, and I don’t really eat on planes or in transit, but it’s worth noting for some.

Eurostar VS Airlines

In a time when flights are cheap, reliability is good and favorable times exist, I’m usually team airline. Neither of those things reflect current airline experience.

This journey forced me to learn about Eurostar kid policies, which may be useful to some readers. It’s also good to mentally compare the realistic time requirements of a journey by air versus train.

Another benefit is that business tickets offer free changes to any other service, so if I do need to change things up, there’s slightly better peace of mind than many airline policies right now.

I never planned on taking Eurostar for this trip, but I try to be as rational a consumer as I can be, and although airline lounges and the joy of looking out an airplane window are always tempting, the practicality of Eurostar for this trip won out.

A short ride from the station to our hotel will definitely be the icing on the cake.

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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  1. I’m a plane person also, but I’ve concluded, having done both journeys many times, that the train is a better bet on almost all occasions, even when you buy cheap seats on Eurostar. They’re still more comfortable than airline seats, the overall journey time is much shorter, the costs to get to and from from airports are much less and so the plane would have to be hugely cheaper to justify itself.

    And, the icing on the cake, you get decent time in a decent seat to read, whereas the journey flow on a plane is very interrupted. Taking the plane leaves me buzzing (in a bad way) on arrival, whereas the train leaves me relaxed and ready to go.

  2. Europe is blessed with an excellent rail network. The US mostly does not have this option.

  3. if you are willing to pay over 200 for a trip to Paris, I think the train is no brainer, especially if you can sit in business. But the main issue with eurostar is that it is almost always substantially more expensive than flight options for light travellers. I don’t really check in and I don’t have a kid so for a short weekend trip, I can actually travel with a small bag. Ultra low cost airlines are offering crazy fares for someone like me. To me, I can work literally from everywhere so lounge is a tie breaker. I can head to heathrow or Stansted early and pass through the security quickly and work at the lounge. So i don’t really lose time flying from cheap airports as long as there is a lounge by Priority pass.

  4. Great analysis, totally agree with where you land on this. Not to mention the massive difference in the carbon footprint – it’s a no brainer to take trains in Europe, especially for those of us with kids who want them to have a safe planet to grow up on!

  5. Standard premier offers the same seating as business premier but without lounge access and a more limited selection of inclusive drinks and a cold meal…

  6. Eurostar is not that perfect. My sister arrived from Paris on 17 May nearly 2 hours late. Her return was no better. On 28 May, 2h30mns late…

    1. She must have been unlucky. I’ve travelled several times and not been delayed. One of the big advantages of Eurostar is that it takes you into the heart of Paris unlike the airports which then involve extra travel time and costs. Its a no brained!

  7. I’ve taken the train from London to Paris twice. So much easier then flying.
    From downtown to downtown, fast an comfortable.

  8. This is genuinely the most inane article – everyone with half a brainstem living in 2022 knows that they should travel on the train to Paris from London, unless they live right next to the airport in London or Paris, which frankly most people don’t. More importantly, it is better for the environment to cut down on your air travel where you can – so all these justifications read like they are for people with IQ 80. Thanks for absolutely nothing, “plane guy”.

    1. Thanks for taking the time Rumi. Let me know where I can find you on the web, so I can come piss in your Cheerios as well.

  9. What was the date of your travel? I helped someone get a Eurostar ticket and now Eurostar cancelled that “confirmed” ticket, leaving her stranded with non-refundable reservations in Paris, and for onwards travel the next day.

  10. What was the date of your travel? I helped someone get a Eurostar ticket and now Eurostar cancelled that “confirmed” ticket, leaving her stranded with non-refundable reservations in Paris, and for onwards travel the next day.

    That is why people FLY, as ATOL Protection means that if any part is cancelled by the Operators, the entire holiday gets ATOL refunded, especially important during the Ongoing Covid-19-Recession time, as I have personally experienced twice this Recession. Money back in my bank within two weeks on both occasions. Try doing that on Eurostar & Separate Hotel bookings.

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