Travel question of the day: Simon Calder on the minimum check-in time for Eurostar

Have a travel question that needs answering? Ask our expert Simon Calder

Simon Calder
Tuesday 12 July 2016 10:24 BST
Eurostar asks Standard ticket holders to check in a minimum of half an hour in advance
Eurostar asks Standard ticket holders to check in a minimum of half an hour in advance (Getty)

Q Last time I travelled back from Paris on Eurostar I was hanging around in an overcrowded station “lounge” for way too long. For next time, what’s the very latest I can check in?

name withheld

A The latest check-in, officially at least, depends on which sort of ticket you have. Most of us with a Standard Class ticket (or Standard Premier, Eurostar’s Premium Economy class) are told we must arrive at least half an hour before departure.

Business Premier passengers and holders of Eurostar’s loyalty card, Carte Blanche, can check in as little as 10 minutes before departure. And if your ticket says you’re on the Ski Train, then regardless of class you are required to check in an hour before departure.

Yet how hard-and-fast are these deadlines?

Airlines, as you may have discovered, tend to enforce limits rigidly. Turn up at the security gate at Gatwick on easyJet with less than half-an-hour to spare, or at Heathrow on British Airways with under 35 minutes, and you will be refused further progress and invited to re-book (possibly at huge expense).

In my experience Eurostar is more flexible – partly because progress through the security check and passport control to the platform is a matter of a few minutes. I really don’t like arriving well in advance for Eurostar, because of limited space and facilities at the four main stations (London St Pancras, Paris Nord, Lille Europe and Brussels Midi). And at the smaller stations – Ebbsfleet, Ashford and Calais – you really want to minimise the time you spend there. So I have on occasion arrived 16 or 17 minutes before departure with a Standard Class ticket, and was allowed on with barely a ticking off. I don’t intend to see how many more minutes I could shave off the time – Eurostar has every right to turn passengers away as “no-shows” if they breach the check-in deadline.

I daresay if you have had a nightmare reaching the station and you ask very nicely at the Business Premier area you might be allowed through with, say, 12 minutes left. But Eurostar stresses that passengers really do need to stick to the stipulated departure times, and recommends 45 minutes at busy times such as weekends and bank holidays.

Every day, our travel correspondent Simon Calder tackles a reader’s question. Just email yours to or tweet @simoncalder

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