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AAA Discontinued Effective 2/18/18


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#41 Devil's Advocate

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Posted 09 February 2018 - 07:48 PM

I think that hits the core issue on the head.  Discounts are most helpful to the bottom line when they're focused on routes and schedules that have little chance of selling out on their own.  Fill those seats with passengers who might not have otherwise traveled by Amtrak but were enticed to buy tickets thanks to substantially cheaper fares.  On the other hand providing discounts which allow nearly unlimited use, including on busier trains that could fill those seats without a discount, risks leaving money on the table.


Edited by Devil's Advocate, 09 February 2018 - 07:51 PM.

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#42 ChuckL

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Posted 09 February 2018 - 11:34 PM

There is nothing wrong with offering flash sales and things like the Track Friday Sale to boost ridership during slower periods, but offering long term permanent disconts has to be stopped. Theres no reason to be discounting high demand trains.

Amtrak may want to look at what Via Rail Canada does every Tuesday. They email a list of trains and partial routes that they are discounting in the next week. I assume they select train routes between cities that have a low number of bookings. These mailings are sent to members of their Via Preference group which is similar to AGR. Better to sell a discounted seat than have it be empty with no fare realized.

(I have goofed up the HTML editing of the OP name and posting name, so my apologies to KnightRail)


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Edited by jebr, 10 February 2018 - 02:43 PM.
Updated HTML tags to properly show quote.


#43 dlagrua

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Posted 10 February 2018 - 09:21 AM

Whether you agree with an associations position on passenger rail, one thing certain is that discounts and promotions do help business. Read the media; there are sales going on for businesses constantly. Businesses do it to incentivize the customer and provide an enticement for people to purchase.  Take those away and business will be affected. If the discounts are gone,  less people will purchase tickets and prices will be going down regardless. Amtrak has now attacked the seniors, the AAA discount and the students. Is removing incentives and discounts a good way of promoting a business? 


Edited by dlagrua, 10 February 2018 - 09:48 AM.


#44 AmtrakBlue

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Posted 10 February 2018 - 09:59 AM

Whether you agree with an associations position on passenger rail, one thing certain is that discounts and promotions do help business. Read the media; there are sales going on for businesses constantly. Businesses do it to incentivize the customer and provide an enticement for people to purchase.  Take those away and business will be affected. If the discounts are gone,  less people will purchase tickets and prices will be going down regardless. Amtrak has now attacked the seniors, the AAA discount and the students. Is removing incentives and discounts a good way of promoting a business? 

Sales and discounts are two different things.  With sales, they can offer them whenever they feel the need.  No need to entice riders during peak times, then no sale.  Need to entice riders during non-peak times, then offer a onetime sale.



#45 dlagrua

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Posted 10 February 2018 - 10:32 AM

 

Whether you agree with an associations position on passenger rail, one thing certain is that discounts and promotions do help business. Read the media; there are sales going on for businesses constantly. Businesses do it to incentivize the customer and provide an enticement for people to purchase.  Take those away and business will be affected. If the discounts are gone,  less people will purchase tickets and prices will be going down regardless. Amtrak has now attacked the seniors, the AAA discount and the students. Is removing incentives and discounts a good way of promoting a business? 

Sales and discounts are two different things.  With sales, they can offer them whenever they feel the need.  No need to entice riders during peak times, then no sale.  Need to entice riders during non-peak times, then offer a onetime sale.

 

Having owned my own advertising agency in the late 90's, our statistics showed that the advertisers that had the best offers, enjoyed the best return on their investment. The businesses that had no offer did poorly. You cannot always count on any train selling out but even if they do, offers help get the cash in now rather than later. That's a huge advantage.

I believe that its safe to say that the next few years will represent changes in a critical demographic of Amtrak's LD ridership. The changes to this demographic will be significant in the next few years due to  downsizing, relocation, retirement, changes in income, health issues and even death. Amtrak would be wise to consider this when promoting the service.

As one who is now in semi-retirement, you can bet that price comparisons, offers and discounts play heavily into my decision to purchase. Am I the only one???



#46 AmtrakBlue

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Posted 10 February 2018 - 10:58 AM

 

 

Whether you agree with an associations position on passenger rail, one thing certain is that discounts and promotions do help business. Read the media; there are sales going on for businesses constantly. Businesses do it to incentivize the customer and provide an enticement for people to purchase.  Take those away and business will be affected. If the discounts are gone,  less people will purchase tickets and prices will be going down regardless. Amtrak has now attacked the seniors, the AAA discount and the students. Is removing incentives and discounts a good way of promoting a business? 

Sales and discounts are two different things.  With sales, they can offer them whenever they feel the need.  No need to entice riders during peak times, then no sale.  Need to entice riders during non-peak times, then offer a onetime sale.

 

Having owned my own advertising agency in the late 90's, our statistics showed that the advertisers that had the best offers, enjoyed the best return on their investment. The businesses that had no offer did poorly. You cannot always count on any train selling out but even if they do, offers help get the cash in now rather than later. That's a huge advantage.

I believe that its safe to say that the next few years will represent changes in a critical demographic of Amtrak's LD ridership. The changes to this demographic will be significant in the next few years due to  downsizing, relocation, retirement, changes in income, health issues and even death. Amtrak would be wise to consider this when promoting the service.

As one who is now in semi-retirement, you can bet that price comparisons, offers and discounts play heavily into my decision to purchase. Am I the only one???

 

Hmm, I think I can afford the extra $23.20 for a cross country trip in May.  Can you?



#47 Bob Dylan

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Posted 10 February 2018 - 11:18 AM

As a semi-retired person on a fixed income, I agree with diagrua on this.

I use coupons,discounts,sales etc. whenever I can since that $5 or $10 I save adds up and enables me to have a little more disposable income to spend on things that are not essential such as Amtrak travel.

I agree that Amtrak needs to enhance its revenue, but think doing away with Student and Senior discounts is penny wise and pound foolish. YMMV

Edited by Bob Dylan, 10 February 2018 - 11:19 AM.

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#48 Maverickstation

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Posted 10 February 2018 - 12:16 PM

An important feature of the AAA discount was that you could use it up to 3 days ahead of travel.

Not all of us on a fixed income can plan travel all that far out. For the fixed income that we are on is better known as a salary.

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#49 neroden

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Posted 10 February 2018 - 12:33 PM

I have heard that the NARP discount will remain.

Well, getting people to join passenger rail advocacy organizations does benefit Amtrak in the long run.

 

Getting them to join AAA... really doesn't, so unless it's bringing in business which wouldn't otherwise exist, the AAA discount seems ripe for cancellation.  I'm an AAA member for various reasons (I still use their roadside assistance and I still love the free maps), but I've noticed that AAA's promotional magazine never suggests taking the train.  Ahem.


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#50 Thirdrail7

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Posted 10 February 2018 - 12:48 PM

Wow. This is tough. I find myself in the unenviable position of publicly disagree with two people that I normally wouldn't. But I feel this is too important to leave unmentioned.

 

 

 

Book more than two weeks out and get the Saver Fare. Its better than any other discounts. The cleaning up of this and all of the other excessive discounting is long over due. Sure, the lack of discounts may stop some from traveling, but its nothing compared to the millions of dollars left on the table over the years that was discounted when it didnt have to be. These moves are smart business as they will substantially increase revenue without increasing costs.

 

 

Knightrider,

 

Not everyone can make firm plans 2 weeks in advance. Amtrak used to have an extremely strong "walk up" market. It was one of the advantages of train travel. Someone passed away and the flights are full? We'll take Amtrak! The airlines are grounded? We'll take Amtrak!  The Phillies won the playoffs? We'll take an Amtrak to Baltimore for the world series. It was a cash and carry operation. Delivery upon demand. No seats? No problem! We'll stand! We'd introduce riders of other forms of transportation by making it easy and affordable for them to ride. We were able to retain disaffected riders.

 

How much revenue have we left on the table by eliminating the convenience of travel? How many riders and future riders have we chased away by overpricing ourselves and making it inconvenient....and now expensive to ride?

 

 

 

 

 

With AAA, student, senior, etc discounts, it seemed to me that Amtrak was giving away too much revenue. I used to work for Five Guys, and it was a corporate principle that we never gave coupons or discounts because they implied that the food wasn't worth the price on the menu. It seems the discounts went away because Amtrak was losing money on them. Painful as this is, hopefully this brings Amtrak a step closer to financial viability. 

Exactly. If you have a quality product, you shouldnt have to be discounting it all the time. Successful restaurants dont have to nor want to ever discount. Its a sign of being weak and desperate. We all end up paying for those discounts anyways. Have seen some signs in businesses over the years to the effect of Want a discount?, just give us a moment to raise our prices.

There is nothing wrong with offering flash sales and things like the Track Friday Sale to boost ridership during slower periods, but offering long term permanent disconts has to be stopped. Theres no reason to be discounting high demand trains.

 

 

 

*IF* you have a quality product and competition isn't everywhere, you can get away without discounting all the time. However, when you have a product that is typically slower that other forms of transportation, typically more expensive than driving and less convenient, you may want to give yourself EVERY advantage you can.

 

Amtrak is not cheap in some markets. If you're going to make it expensive and inconvenient as a plane, why not just hop on an actual plane to save time? If you're going to make it expensive an airlines are not available, there are fleets of cheap buses that arrive and depart right to the next the Amtrak station. The train may be a little faster, but it triples the cost of a bus.

 

You can practically take a limo from NYP-PHL for what you'll fork out for a train. There are also shared car services like Uber and Lyft, nipping away at Amtrak's heels....and if all else fails, I can drive myself.

 

There is a LOT of competition (that isn't getting the bad press that Amtrak is receiving as of late) for limited budgets. Is this the time to beat down walk up travel?

 

Many, many years ago, I worked as a salesperson. You have to sell the product. I'm in a rush, something just occurred and I have money in my hand. I need to travel!  What can you say to me to lure me to your  expensive, maybe once a day product, KnightRider? I save 20 minutes?

 

 

As for discounting "high demand" trains, if they are so high demand, why is the Capitol down to two coaches? Why is the Crescent down to two coaches? The Late for Sure? Even the Palmetto is down...and that was prior to losing another set on the Star...and I've always wondered how much of this "record ridership" is based upon people traveling back and forth on *discounted* vouchers.

 

Which brings me to a story that I wasn't going to tell but this is the perfect set up.

 

I was on a train, There was a fatality so nothing was moving. Announcement were made and the crew kept the passengers informed. As things were beginning to clear, a young lady (probably in her early twenties) approaches the crew. I was standing next to them (with my ID on). She asks if we think we'll move soon. The crew states we'll probably be on the move in a few minutes.

 

She says and this is direct quote (which I won't forget)  "you are all doing a great job...but every time I write Amtrak and complain, they send me *liiiike* 60 dollars for future travel. I don't want to get you in any trouble so I wanted to ask if you minded if I write in an complain?"

 

The crew all looked at each other and said as long as you leave us out of it, we don't care. Then, the young looks at me and asked if I minded. I looked down at my ID (which I was sorry I was wearing) and said "if that is what you feel is necessary, by all means."  She thanke dthe crew, told them they were doing a great job and walked away...presumably to complain to customer service.

 

I suspect she's not alone. :)

 

The point is, I remember when the Crescent used be 18 cars long. It had coach seating for 300 passengers. It is currently running around with seating for 120 coach passengers.  I remember when a train like 95 on the NEC had 12 coaches (with two cafes)....and the coaches seated 85 passengers...and that train had standees!!!

 

That is high demand. Filling two coaches is not high demand. If anything, we should be finding more ways to put butts in the seats!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Whether you agree with an associations position on passenger rail, one thing certain is that discounts and promotions do help business. Read the media; there are sales going on for businesses constantly. Businesses do it to incentivize the customer and provide an enticement for people to purchase.  Take those away and business will be affected. If the discounts are gone,  less people will purchase tickets and prices will be going down regardless. Amtrak has now attacked the seniors, the AAA discount and the students. Is removing incentives and discounts a good way of promoting a business? 

Sales and discounts are two different things.  With sales, they can offer them whenever they feel the need.  No need to entice riders during peak times, then no sale.  Need to entice riders during non-peak times, then offer a onetime sale.

 

Having owned my own advertising agency in the late 90's, our statistics showed that the advertisers that had the best offers, enjoyed the best return on their investment. The businesses that had no offer did poorly. You cannot always count on any train selling out but even if they do, offers help get the cash in now rather than later. That's a huge advantage.

I believe that its safe to say that the next few years will represent changes in a critical demographic of Amtrak's LD ridership. The changes to this demographic will be significant in the next few years due to  downsizing, relocation, retirement, changes in income, health issues and even death. Amtrak would be wise to consider this when promoting the service.

As one who is now in semi-retirement, you can bet that price comparisons, offers and discounts play heavily into my decision to purchase. Am I the only one???

 

Hmm, I think I can afford the extra $23.20 for a cross country trip in May.  Can you?

 

 

AmtrakBlue, I'm forced to disagree with you. Consider what is said below:

 

 

As a semi-retired person on a fixed income, I agree with diagrua on this.

I use coupons,discounts,sales etc. whenever I can since that $5 or $10 I save adds up and enables me to have a little more disposable income to spend on things that are not essential such as Amtrak travel.

I agree that Amtrak needs to enhance its revenue, but think doing away with Student and Senior discounts is penny wise and pound foolish. YMMV

 

 

You might be able to do so....but not everyone is you! Consider that 23.50 on a corridor train. Then, multiply by your family of four. You are now approaching a savings of $100....each way. That may be the difference between taking the trip or not taking the trip. That maybe the difference between taking Amtrak and driving.  Every little bit counts.


Edited by Thirdrail7, 10 February 2018 - 01:23 PM.

They say laughter is the best medicine. Obviously they never posted on AU.


#51 Ryan

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Posted 10 February 2018 - 01:08 PM

Valid points, but wouldn't your aims be better served then by lower overall pricing, rather than a discount that only some people have access to?

(as an aside, does the equipment still exist to run 18 car trains routinely?)
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#52 Bob Dylan

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Posted 10 February 2018 - 01:18 PM

I don't favor lowering all prices Ryan, that would be cutting off your nose to spite your face.

As Thirdrail points out, the NEC, and the East in General, have much higher rail fares than other parts of the Country,but it doesn't seem to be hurting the ridership nor revenue on most of these routes,especially the Expensive Acelas.

Should Amtrak discontinue ALL Discounts, the answer is obvious, NO!

The amount spent by Seniors and Students on discounts is pocket change in the scheme of things when it comes to Amtraks Budget, but why go out of the way to have a policy that discourages these groups ridership,not encourages it!??
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#53 Railroad Bill

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Posted 10 February 2018 - 02:21 PM

      We have been AAA members for many years. Still use the "free" maps, and the AAA towing since some of the insurance company towing services are hard to find in our area.  AAA towing is down the street in our town and in most places outside the large cities. 

            Mostly we use the AAA discounts for hotels. It has saved us a lot of money over the years. We do not use :Priceline or some of the other discounters since we need the flexibility of cancelling reservations due to health concerns.  Actually we have found that AAA discounts were better when booking directly through Hilton online than what Expedia, Hotels.com or Priceline were offering.

 

Since we have qualified for senior discounts on Amtrak we no longer used the AAA discount, which  I am sure was true of many riders who have aged (which as pointed out are a major source of AAA memberships).

Making the AGR points redemptions higher has affected our ridership more than any of the discounts.  We once took 5-6 trips per year and now maybe 2-3.  We still pay for trips on the CL to WAS or CHI  or LSL to NYP but our western trips have become more limited. 

I also agree that if Amtrak did a Discount Tuesday ad campaign as VIA does, it might encourage more ridership?? Have no stats to back that upl  :o


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#54 jebr

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Posted 10 February 2018 - 02:55 PM

Should Amtrak discontinue ALL Discounts, the answer is obvious, NO!

The amount spent by Seniors and Students on discounts is pocket change in the scheme of things when it comes to Amtraks Budget, but why go out of the way to have a policy that discourages these groups ridership,not encourages it!??

 

I don't think the answer is obvious. Blanket discounting means that Amtrak is discounting seats on Thanksgiving weekend, where Amtrak routinely runs extra trains just to keep up with demand. That seems a bit crazy to me.

 

That being said, I think Amtrak should generally eliminate straight-up discounts. The one that seemed the best targeted was the student discount, which was already eliminated. The NARP discount somewhat makes sense, though perhaps Amtrak could retool the discount to be more targeted to lower-demand trains. I think doing something like that across the board for the current discounts would be helpful; maybe offer no senior or student discount on peak travel days, but up the discount to 20% or even 30% for fares if the train is historically under half-full. Or offer some close-in discounts to fill trains that are running pretty quiet that day (or that week) closer-in than what the SmartFares currently allow. It could be more aggressive than discounting to the general public - offering it to a limited subset would allow it to be more frequent without devaluing the train to those who aren't part of those groups (and thus are more likely to have enough spending money to pay full fare.)



#55 daybeers

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Posted 10 February 2018 - 03:44 PM

It's been very interesting to catch up on this thread. Thirdrail, you bring up some interesting points. Ridership does go up every year, though, so are you saying there has been less recently?

 

I'm also interested in the answer to if there is enough equipment to go around for the longer trains that you speak of, TR. Wouldn't longer consists cause even more issues at stations with short or medium-length platforms though?

Or offer some close-in discounts to fill trains that are running pretty quiet that day (or that week) closer-in than what the SmartFares currently allow.

THIS! A million times this. I think ridership would soar if Amtrak lowered fares in the days or the week before departure. Don't some airlines do this to fill planes? I know most of AU's members are long-distance users, but there are quite a few of us that travel on the NEC. I understand Amtrak is trying to make the most money it possibly can in order to eventually break even/make a profit and pour that revenue into capital projects, but some of the fares on the NEC, especially for short rides, are pretty ridiculous. Yes, the WAS–NYP corridor is fast and very congested, but who wants to pay double, triple, or even more than driving or taking the bus? Yes, the train is faster (usually not by much though), more comfortable, and a better experience, but when you're a college student, a family of four, and/or buying at the last minute, it gets to be too expensive.

 

Yes, I do enjoy having two seats to myself on the NEC, which occasionally happens (recently not as much), but we all know more ridership=more revenue=more Amtrak=curing Amtrak.


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#56 Chey

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Posted 10 February 2018 - 06:37 PM

As a semi-retired person on a fixed income, I agree with diagrua on this.

I use coupons,discounts,sales etc. whenever I can since that $5 or $10 I save adds up and enables me to have a little more disposable income to spend on things that are not essential such as Amtrak travel.

I agree that Amtrak needs to enhance its revenue, but think doing away with Student and Senior discounts is penny wise and pound foolish. YMMV


This!

#57 HP_Lovecraft

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Posted 10 February 2018 - 07:14 PM

On a related note, went to book a trip into boston with my kids. Typically, 2 kids are 1/2 price, but on the Downeaster, they are free on Sunday.

 

But not anymore? Now the discount is for only one child?  That doubles the price of my ticket. 



#58 gradstudentrailfan

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Posted 10 February 2018 - 08:43 PM

I think a neglected point on this thread is that Amtrak uses price buckets to tie train prices to demand. A low demand train is by definition already discounted for that day because it's still in the lowest price bucket. 



#59 dlagrua

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Posted 11 February 2018 - 11:29 AM

If I may make another point about AAA and Amtrak; on our vacations they always tie together. We take Amtrak to a big city station and then rent a car, and go on a road trip to our final destination and return. Some of these vacations have included Seattle-Mt Rainer,  Denver-Wyoming-Black Hills, SD, Chicago-Dells, WI, Indianapolis-St Louis, this year Omaha-Soiux Falls-Badlands and lets not forget that automobiles and trains come together on the Autotrain. IMO, the AAA discount may help increase business but it is now gone and we will see what happens.

Whatever Amtrak decides on discounted fares, they need to realize that trains are not the only way to travel. Air and car travel are usually less expensive and in many cases faster.  Raising prices doesn't always bring you more revenue. Then there is the demographic of those that ride the LD trains that I alluded to in my prior post. When the middle age and senior audience declines/goes away, then what happens?  Will the smart phone addicted Millennial's take our place?
It's highly unlikely that they will.



#60 jis

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Posted 11 February 2018 - 11:40 AM

I don't understand why discount only for AAA? If you must promote multi-modalism, why wouldn't you give discount to all Automobile promoting organizations? I could go for that as a consistent move to encourage all automobile users to occasionally choose Amtrak. As things stand I have no problem with the selective favor to AAA members going away.

 

I have more problem with Student discounts going away, much more so than even the Senior discount being reduced. Frankly I would have less problem with the Senior discount going away altogether in order to restore Student discounts. As a demographic the Seniors are way richer than typical Students in today's economy, and a Student enticed into riding Amtrak with discounts today will ride for many more decades than any Senior will.

 

Today's Seniors will be gone in a decade or three, and will become immobile enough not to be riding trains too frequently if at all, even sooner than that. Amtrak needs to create and encourage clientele who will hang around for many more decades beyond that.

 

Mind you I am a Senior myself by almost any standard definition of the term.






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