Ski resorts by train

Eurostar refund-a-mentals (and boiled cabbage)

Sat 21 March, 2020

If you would like to get your forthcoming cancelled Eurostar journey refunded, the following story might be useful.

However, it starts with boiled cabbage.

In the late 70s, when I was a toddler at school, school dinners were terrible. Any vegetables that made it onto the plate were, to paraphrase Blackadder ‘Boiled, boiled again – and then given a good boil!’   As a five-year-old, I thought that these awful dinners would never change.

I had a babysitter called Rosemary who offered to talk the school’s headmistress to see if the meals could be improved. As a five-year-old, the idea of questioning the headmistress — a kind of mystery authority figure in a young child’s world — terrified me.

But the next day I found myself standing in the headmistress’ office, mouth agape as Rosemary questioned why the dinners had to be the way they were, and then suggested some simple improvements.

Lo and behold, the school dinners got markedly better.  It taught me a lesson that I’ve never forgotten, and probably more important than anything else I learned at school: you can challenge the status quo.

Challenging Eurostar to offer full refunds
As you might know, this week I’ve written some blogs about how to get refunds for cancelled forthcoming train journeys to the Alps. Skiers had written to me that Eurostar had only offered them only a voucher that could be used for a forthcoming trip, rather than offering them a refund. 

Indeed, at first the voucher didn’t even cover dates for next ski season. But following feedback from skiers, Eurostar extended the voucher to cover the ski season too (i.e. until April 2021).

Then, as Eurostar confirmed that they were Ski Trains, it struck me that Eurostar should surely be offering a full refund, not just a voucher. And yet Eurostar wasn’t doing this.

So on Friday I Googled ‘in what circumstances are travellers entitled to a full Eurostar refund’ and found Eurostar’s ‘Customer Charter’.

The charter states:

"If, before departure, it is reasonably expected that there will be a delay of more than 60 minutes on the Eurostar service, customers will be entitled to either a full refund or to postpone their journey to a later date. To claim the refund or change the booking customers simply need to contact our call centre with details of the original ticket.”

Surely this would entitle customers to a full refund on journeys that are now impossible to make? I put the question Eurostar’s press office, who told me:

“We can confirm that customers requesting refunds will receive them. In the event of a cancelled train, customers will be able to choose between a full refund or an eVoucher equating to the full value of their Eurostar ticket.”

So now you know. You can ask Eurostar for a (full) refund for your cancelled Eurostar journey, and Eurostar will refund you — in full.  Which at this difficult time for everyone, might be very useful in terms of cash back in your bank account.

You still won’t find this information yet on Eurostar’s Coronavirus-travel-updates page.

And I don’t know whether Eurostar is planning to tell customers proactively. But at least you now know.

How this applies to indirect journeys (e.g. via Paris) and journeys booked by third parties, I don’t yet know. It might help with getting the Eurostar portion refunded. On Monday I’ll be asking more questions about this. As you can imagine, it’s a very difficult time for everyone in travel as well as customers, so answers are taking longer to come back. Eurostar, having to cancel trains and deal with so many enquiries, are under huge pressure.

But I will keep asking questions to train companies to get the answers that travellers need.  So please do let me know yours, and I will try to help. Keep an eye on the Snowcarbon blog for updates too.

This newsletter is dedicated to Rosemary, who is no longer alive, but is remembered fondly by many people as a wonderful, remarkable person.

Life doesn’t often stand up to scrutiny, but a little scrutiny often improves life. And of course, boiled cabbage.

Stay well,

Daniel Elkan
Snowcarbon Founder