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Eurostar, the cross-channel rail operator, has extended its booking period in an effort to better compete with airlines.
Passengers can now book tickets up to six months in advance, rather than four, giving them more time to plan a summer holiday.
The changes affect bookings to the firm''s three key European hubs - Paris, Brussels and Lille. Travel to Avignon, Disneyland Paris and several skiing destinations - such as Aigle, Martigny and Vallorbe in the Swiss Alps, can already be secured up to nine months in advance. Other destinations - such as Grenoble, Amsterdam and Aachen in Germany can only be booked three months ahead of departure.
"Our customers tell us they prefer the flexibility to book their summer trips further in advance as they want to compare our prices against those of the airlines," said Nick Mercer, Eurostar''s commercial director.
So how do fares compare? Telegraph Travel looked at the cheapest available fares with Eurostar, and with various airlines using the price comparison website Skyscanner.
We found flights to be a cheaper way to visit Paris when booked just two months in advance, but with six month''s notice Eurostar becomes the best option. The rail operator also compares favourably to airlines for trips to Brussels.
Farther afield, however, air travel becomes much cheaper. Eurostar''s one-stop service to Amsterdam, for example, costs £239, compared with £137 with easyJet. The cost of rail fares to the Dutch city could come down in a few years, however, when Eurostar launches its first non-stop service there.
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