I have just spent an irritating morning booking my sister, Deb’s, tickets for Christmas. Both Eurostar and SNCF have failed the test.
Superficially their online booking system is really smooth now: you get instant information about the journey options and prices for the day chosen. Things start to get complicated when the person with the debit card is not travelling. You would have thought that buying tickets for other members of the familyh or friends was a normal occurrence, but no. So I had to put in Deb’s name but my email and card information, and I get left with confusion as to whether in Eurostar’s eyes I am Deborah or Frances.
The real problem was how to get the tickets to Deb. She cannot collect them from St Pancras because she does not have my bank card. The website was awful about what the other options were and the ‘download and print’ button referred to did not seem to exist.
Eventually I emailed Eurostar. More wasted time as this was a form which kept crashing because I had written more than 250 characters (a limit not mentioned anywhere). The reply was:
Thank you for your email.
Regrettably we cannot print these tickets at home, I would advise calling our Customer Care Sales team to see if we can get the tickets sent to you.”
At last the Eurostar experienceinvolved a human and looked up. A very nice woman immediately suggested posting the tickets to Jude’s address (my official UK bank address) waiving the usual charge for this, and explained the problem. That’s where SNCF comes into the picture.
If Deb had been travelling to any other European country there would not have been a problem, she said. But the second part of the journey is on an SNCF train and they are the only train service to refuse to cooperate and accept the Eurostar barcode and allow them to arrange for the SNCF tickets to be downloadable.
So it is only Eurostar journeys with ongoing travel in France where you can neither collect the tickets nor print them off if the card holder is not travelling.