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Megabus launches £1 coach tickets to Europe – if you can get them

Category : Business

Cheap Megabus tickets to Paris and three other European destinations snapped up, leaving many travellers disappointed

The cheapest £1 tickets from London to Paris and other European cities appear to have been snapped up by consumers well ahead of the launch of continental services by bus operator Megabus, leaving many prospective travellers disappointed.

Tickets have been on sale for the past month for seats on the first services in the expanded European network. But the cheapest available ticket Guardian Money could find from London to Paris on was £4 – for travel on Sunday 19 May.

Transport group Stagecoach, which owns Megabus, has pledged to “shake up” the European coach market in the new move, which offers cross-channel customers a link between London and Boulogne, Paris, Amsterdam and Brussels. It announced fares starting from just £1 or €1 and up to £50 (plus 50p booking fee) on a fleet of new coaches equipped with free Wi-Fi and toilets. In comparison, its main competitor, Eurolines – owned by National Express – recently offered promotional fares for around £10.

Day and night services will operate on the new network, providing a welcome low-cost link to the Continent through London. Fares will include the cost of ferry crossings across the Channel. The journey by bus from London to Paris will take approximately nine hours.

But internet talkboards are full of complaints that the tickets sold out quickly and questions about how many there were to begin with.

A spokeswoman for Megabus said: “We won’t be giving a detailed breakdown of seat costs but there are £1 seats available on every service. As tickets have been on sale for the past month, many of the cheapest fares have already been snapped up. We have already sold out more than 80 trips but there are still plenty of good value seats on sale.”

The Advertising Standards Authority’s code on sales promotions does not specify how many seats must be available before a company can advertise a fare. Instead it states that: “Promoters must be able to demonstrate that they have made a reasonable estimate of the likely response to a sales promotion and that they were capable of meeting that response. Phrases such as ‘subject to availability’ do not relieve promoters of their obligation to do everything reasonable to avoid disappointing participants.”

However, the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) says in a help note that “if marketing communications include a ‘from’ fare, a minimum of 10% of reservable seats must be available at that fare”.

Disappointed bargain-hunters should note that bookings for the next wave of travel dates – from Monday 21 May – will be released shortly. The service is expected to be very popular with students, who get a further 10% discount if they hold a NUS card.

The company launched nationally in 2004 as a budget alternative to National Express and last October launched a nightly “sleeper” – with berths – between London and Glasgow. To support the new European service it will soon be launching French and Dutch language websites, trading in euros.

But not everyone is interested in Megabus’s new operation. On Twitter, @JohnnyGasson confessed: “I’d rather die than travel with them if I’m honest” while @sanoobar admitted: “Eight hours on a bus really aren’t my cup of tea!”.