International high-speed rail operator Eurostar will simplify its loyalty schemes later this year by amalgamating its Frequent Traveller and Plus Points systems into a new Club Eurostar programme. However, given that Eurostar Frequent Traveller was mainly aimed at regular business travellers and Eurostar Plus Points at the leisure market, it is unclear if this single scheme will be fully welcomed by both traveller segments.
Updates to loyalty schemes can generally mean a dilution in the value of your rewards, but Eurostar, which currently offers high-speed train service linking London St Pancras International, Ebbsfleet International, Ashford International, Paris, Brussels, Lille, Calais, Disneyland Resort Paris, Lyon, Avignon, Marseille and the French Alps, says earning and redeeming points will be much simpler.
Eurostar officials confirm the changes were delivered following consultation with existing loyalty members on its current schemes and the feedback was used to create the brand new programme, which it says offers simpler ways to manage accounts and even better benefits and rewards. While it appears Eurostar Frequent Traveller members will see very little change, the Eurostar Plus Points system will be effectively closed and users will now need to collect loyalty points – not cashback credit – in the new scheme.
But it appears a simpler system for earning reward points will benefit leisure travellers more than business travellers, albeit both will be able to collect more per booking. Rather than the current tiered system offered in the Frequent Traveller scheme (less than £55: 15 points; from £55 to £109.99: 50 points; from £110 to £154.99: 100 points; from £155 to £204.99: 150 points; above £205: 200 points) points will be awarded on a one for one basis, i.e. for every £1 members spend they will earn one point.
The simplified earning system does mean, however, that more points will be needed for free ticket redemptions, rising from 900 and 1,800 in the Frequent Traveller scheme for a Standard and Premier ticket to 1,000 and 2,000 for value tickets or 1,500 and 2,500 for an unrestricted anytime ticket.
The new Club Eurostar concept will certainly better meet the expanded Eurostar network as new routes to Amsterdam and Rotterdam are introduced in early 2018 and potentially new routes into Germany set to follow. Offering a broader range of redemption options to the current UK and French centric will be essential when the future network will include capital and major city links not touching either country, eg between Amsterdam and Brussels.
Eurostar says Club Eurostar is “for anyone who loves to travel cross-Channel, whether it’s for business, pleasure or a bit of both”. The train operator continues to face strong competition from airlines in its core market linking London (and the UK via domestic train connections) and both France and Belgium. The company, owned by rail operators SNCF, SNCB and a consortium comprising Caisse de Depot et Placement du Quebec (CDPQ) and Hermes Infrastructure (the consortium controls the former London and Continental Railways share), reported a positive performance in the first six months of this year and a strong outlook for the second half of the year.
In H1, sales revenues grew by 6% at constant exchange rates (£452.6m vs £428.4m) and by 11% at actual exchange rates (£455m 2017: £409m 2016) compared with the previous year. This increase was underpinned by a strong business travel market and an uplift in sales from overseas markets outside Europe, particularly from US travellers. The number of travellers from the US and the rest of the world grew by 24% and 18% respectively year-on-year with visitors drawn by the attractions of the destinations and the advantage of the weaker pound.
Passenger numbers during this period were up by 1% (5.04m in 2017 versus 4.97m in 2016), while robust business travel market demand helped grow premium travellers by 5% in the first six months of the year compared with 2016. This follows a challenging 2016 in which passenger numbers were down 4% (10.0m in 2016 versus 10.4m in 2015) in the aftermath of terrorist attacks in Europe. Sales revenues decreased by 3% (£794m in 2016 versus £821m in 2015), a decline of 8% at constant exchange rates. The combination of tough trading conditions and lower demand resulted in an underlying operating loss of £25m in 2016.
There are far too many parameters to coherently answer the ‘Plane versus Train’ debate, especially for routes over distances such as from London to Amsterdam, Brussels and Paris. Whether it is environmental versus financial versus convenience considerations it can simply just come down to where Point A and Point B are as to which is the faster form of transport.
The Blue Swan Daily analysis of UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) data shows that annual air traffic demand between London and Paris has fallen -43.8% since Eurostar made its debut in 1994 from just over 4.0 million passengers then to just 2.25 million in 2016. During its 22-years of operation the train operator says its fleet of 28 trains has carried more than 150 million passengers between London and the Continent.
Over the past ten years two-way seat capacity between London and Paris has fallen -6.4%, but that doesn’t actually tell the full story. After declines from the second half of the 2000s continued through to 2013, the offering in this city pair has subsequently grown in each of the past three years with annual rate rises of +11.3% in 2014, +5.1% in 2015 and a significant +14.0% last year. Published schedules for 2017 show an end to this growth with capacity forecast to slip -10.0% in 2017.