10-20+% accommodation fare increase?

Discussion in 'Amtrak Rail Discussion' started by F900ElCapitan, Nov 4, 2019.

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  1. Nov 9, 2019 #26

    Anderson

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    The main thing that seems to have happened is that Amtrak made the lowest bucket "vanish" on a few routes. Now, whether or not it stays gone or not is an open question (this could easily be a seasonal "stunt"). That's not to say it isn't annoying, but it also isn't the end of the world.
     
  2. Nov 9, 2019 #27

    niemi24s

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    My gut tells me that because every train (except for two) has at least one sleeping accommodation offered with with all five buckets, there are indeed five buckets in Arrow for each one on each train - but not all are seen as they've not yet been offered. As time goes on, some or most of the buckets shown in my chart as [ESTIMATED] will be eventually offered and if I care enough to perform AmSnag searches for them they'll be posted to my master copy of the chart.

    But I don't anticipate all of the [ESTIMATED] buckets to be offered or at least spotted when offered. I only search for missing buckets when there's absolutely nothing else for me to do and I'm bored to tears.

    Some might wonder: how can I tell which bucket is being offered if only a single bucket can be found? Just by comparison with the previous bucket chart and comparison with buckets already found for other sleepers on the same train. Estimates of the missing buckets are made knowing Coach buckets follow a roughly geometric progression and sleeper buckets follow a roughly arithmetic progression.

    But the title of this thread is not the least bit misleading: the largest sleeper upcharge increases seen between Jan 2019 and now are for Roomettes on the SS which are up from 22 to 29%.

    I'll end this by proclaiming each sleeping accommodation does in fact have five buckets - but not all have yet to be offered (or noticed, when offered). But anyone who thinks there are a few accommodations with only four buckets programmed into Arrow are perfectly free to think so. This is, after all, the land of the free and the home of the brave. :)
     
    Last edited: Nov 9, 2019
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  3. Nov 9, 2019 #28

    F900ElCapitan

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    Niemi, I very much respect your work on the bucket list and I actually use it quite a bit. It’s helped with my understanding of Amtrak fares and what to expect, thank you!

    But the whole story behind this thread isn’t that the sleeper upcharge portion of the fare has gone up a lot, but that a higher bucket coach fare is being used to calculate the total fare and that a number of lower bucket accommodation upcharges (the bottom two buckets for bedrooms on the TE) are not being offered currently. Even for my example of the TE from FTW to CHI the old roomette low bucket price for two people was $408, today it is $488, pretty darn close to a 20% total purchase increase. I could go on with each train and each accommodation, but trust me, my original 10%-20% increase is very close for the full purchasing fare. It just turns out that the coach portion is the one that increased more.

    Maybe I could have worded the title differently, but to be honest, I hadn’t realized the full scope of the increase and why. The awesome observations and input of this community has helped everyone learn and understand why the fares went up so much.
     
  4. Nov 9, 2019 #29

    Rail Freak

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    Thank You, Amsnag!!!!
     
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  5. Nov 10, 2019 #30

    niemi24s

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    Yikes!

    I thought I knew a little about the fare structure, but after looking at what Arrow says about your FTW to CHI trip in a low bucket Roomette (date chosen for just that) I feel like Sgt Schultz on Hogan's Heroes - I know nothing!

    For the FTW to CHI trip on a low bucket Roomette date Arrow gives 2 Adults = $344 (two pax at one bucket above low bucket) and 1 Superliner Roomette = $144 (low bucket Roomette discounted by 20%) totaling $488.

    Checking a couple of other LD trains shows AMTRAK IS ADDING THE NEXT-TO-LOWEST BUCKET (not lowest bucket) ONTO A DISCOUNTED SLEEPER UPCHARGE WHEN THE BOOKING IS FOR TWO PASSENGERS!!! If not mistaken, in years past one could accurately calculate sleeper fares for two people by simply simply doubling the low bucket Coach fare and adding the sleeper upcharge for the day of travel.


    Amtrak states: "The purchase of sleeping accommodations is considered to be an upgrade to your regular rail fare. The charge is applied as an add-on, usually to the lowest rail fare available. When you share a sleeper, you will be charged only one accommodation charge for all parties sharing the sleeping accommodation. Each passenger pays regular rail fare.

    Sleeping car accommodation charges vary according to customer demand. In general, we suggest you book early to get the best price."

    Note my emphasis on "usually". Not so simple now.

    Q: Is this a fluke in Arrow or a policy change?
     
    Last edited: Nov 10, 2019
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  6. Nov 10, 2019 #31

    F900ElCapitan

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    Yep, and that is the current and correct question.
     
  7. Nov 10, 2019 #32

    niemi24s

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    FWIW, my most recent trip for two in a sleeper in April 2017, the Coach portion of the total fare was based on 2X the low bucket coach fare back then of $176. And the sleeper upcharge was precisely the low bucket Bedroom upcharge at that time of $688.

    This new system when booking for two pax of using the next-highest Coach bucket and a discounted sleeper fare may be nothing but a clever way of raking in a bit more revenue while helping the F&B slice of the pie to appear closer to breaking even. Maybe. Maybe not.
     
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  8. Nov 10, 2019 #33

    Anderson

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    I'm reading some tea leaves, but I think what happened is this:

    Amtrak announced improvements to the sleeper hard product (blankets, mattresses, and the like) a month or two back. Those were supposed to be rolling out; the PR implied it would be alongside the new F&B for the eastern trains. I'm guessing that they planned the fare hike alongside that (which would make sense). That's been slow in coming out but they implemented the fare hike anyway.

     
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  9. Nov 10, 2019 #34

    F900ElCapitan

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    Agreed, I booked a roomette from DAL to SLO just a few weeks ago. I was able to get the low bucket rail fare portion and a low bucket roomette price, and then added business class on the Coast Starlight for the remainder. I used points and am glad I booked when I did as the price is about $40 higher from FTW and a fare bit more from DAL as I got the last low bucket roomette from there, as in one opens up in FTW.
     
  10. Nov 11, 2019 #35

    niemi24s

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    The feature I find particularly aggravating about this new pricing system is that it creates a separate set of sleeper buckets for two passengers.

    • Prior to this, you could find the low bucket fare for two sleeper passengers from a bucket chart (such as the one in Post #22) by simply doubling the low bucket Coach fare and adding the low bucket sleeper upcharge.

    • Now you have to double the next-to-lowest Coach bucket and add a low bucket sleeper upcharge that's discounted by a certain amount. Oddly enough, for the TE and SWC at least, the amount of that discount from the single passenger upcharge for any type of sleeper or bucket level is the fixed amount of $49!

    While the utility of AmSnag remains (as you can select fares for 1 or 2 passengers) the utility of the bucket chart remains only for a one passenger booking - as that's how AmSnag was set up for each search. And I'm not about to churn up a separate bucket chart for two passengers. The whiz-kid that came up with this new fare scheme must have wrote the book on creative accounting.

    On the bright side, the bucket chart based on a single passenger booking can still be used to find dates for low bucket fares for two passengers by just setting up AmSnag for a one passenger search and look for dates with the low bucket fare from the chart. Then use Amtrak/Arrow and the date you found to find the actual fare. This, of course, assumes any date for a low bucket sleeper for one passenger is also a low bucket date for two passengers.
     
    Last edited: Nov 11, 2019
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  11. Nov 11, 2019 #36

    Anderson

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    One thing to speak in vague defense of the change to sleeper pricing: I believe that there have been at least some cases where adding a person to the sleeper cost less than the F&B would have cost. At a bare minimum, there are plenty of cases where it's a toss-up (the $188 fare SEA-CHI on the Builder has to cover two dinners, two breakfasts, and two lunches; assigning $35 for the sticker price on dinner and $15 each for breakfast and lunch, that's $130 of the $188 gone right back out on F&B), and two in a roomette is pretty tight for two days, but I can at least see the logic on that.

    For another example, on what we had before Am-R-Es, if a second person added to a roomette WAS-RVR and "maxed out" at dinner (salad, soda, land and sea combo, and dessert), Amtrak lost on that vis-a-vis the posted food price (which was going to come in somewhere north of $40 while low bucket was still in the upper $30s).

    Edit: And of course, none of this gets into "stupid roomette tricks" and the like...

    Anyhow, none of what I've said here defends Amtrak's "surprise" handling of this stuff. But it does stand to at least explain it.
     
  12. Nov 11, 2019 #37

    niemi24s

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    Q: Stupid roomette tricks?
     
  13. Nov 11, 2019 #38

    Anderson

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    A: What you would tend to get when a last-minute roomette was at low bucket while a seat on a Regional was at high bucket. There were numerous times over the years where I saved money taking the Meteor (with breakfast/dinner included) RVR-NYP or vv versus a closely-timed Regional in coach. It has, over the years, not been uncommon at all to save $20-40 versus Regional Business Class. I made the term up riffing off of "Stupid Human Tricks".
     
  14. Nov 11, 2019 #39

    neroden

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    For the length of the trip, the LSL/Cardinal/Crescent/Meteor prices are pretty nosebleed high, and with the removal of food service, they're starting to not sell out. Proper management (something we rarely see from Amtrak) would be: Get those new Viewliners into service, introduce quality food for a price, lower the sleeper prices a little, and make more money on higher volume.
     
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  15. Nov 11, 2019 #40

    Anderson

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    I think this has (possibly) forced my "pain point" on the Meteor from fourth bucket to third bucket (bearing in mind that RVR-ORL tends to be at least a few dollars cheaper than NYP-MIA).

    Also, for confirmation is the Star cheaper in sleeper than in coach at top bucket? Or am I misreading those fares?

    NB The Cardinal has always been somewhat "overpriced" so as to preserve space for O/D pax at IND, CIN, CVS, etc.

    Honestly, what I would have done is the following:
    -Get the new sleepers into service
    -Bump the sleeper fares modestly, but only either alongside or after both:
    --Implementing an improved hard product (mattresses, etc.), since the cost here should be relatively nominal; and
    --Improving the food service for sleeper pax and jack the nominal pricing alongside it. I would probably do something "sneaky" like including a complementary cocktail at dinner (in line with the new offering) and spike the pricing accordingly.

    Adding an extra sleeper to most trains should at least make a dent in the diner numbers.
     
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  16. Nov 11, 2019 #41

    chakk

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    Oh yeah?

    From my Baltimore & Ohio system timetable issued April 24, 1955:

    Washington, D.C. to Chicago one-way

    Coach: $28.50
    Roomette: $50.65

    That's a 78% increase in total fare.


    And another.

    New York City to San Antonio, TX one-way


    Coach: $57.70
    Roomette: $134.54

    That's a 133% increase in total fare.

    Q.E.D.
     
    Last edited: Nov 11, 2019
  17. Nov 11, 2019 #42

    Anderson

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    So, I did an analysis on this a few years back. Running it again would be interesting.

    Basically, I took the fares for several city pairs on the Silver Meteor and checked them against the pre-Amtrak numbers, adjusted for inflation. I did this because my understanding is that the Florida services were, to my understanding, profitable either to the end or right up close to it. What I found was this:
    -The 1968/9 era sleeper fares roughly correlated to high bucket for the equivalents (roomette/roomette and bedroom/bedroom).
    -Coach was also close to the high bucket.

    Now, at least as of now high bucket is mostly a peak-season "thing" as well as covering tickets sold within perhaps an hour of departure...but it generally doesn't show up much otherwise...and this is only looking at Seaboard's numbers, not anything that was happening on the B&O (or NYC, or ATSF...).

    The main reason we're seeing a bigger gap open up between sleepers and coach has (generally) had less to do with sleeper passengers getting jacked than it does with coach fares coming down.
     
  18. Nov 12, 2019 #43

    niemi24s

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    No. See the first NOTE at the bottom of the chart.

    The Star Coach high bucket for one pax is $353 (Flexible Fare) as on 17 Nov, Southbound.

    The Star Roomette high bucket for one pax is $466, but here's where it gets goofy:

    • Per the bucket chart $466 = $162 (low bucket Coach) + $304 (high bucket Roomette upcharge), but for the 17 Nov Northbound Star
    • Per Amtrak & Arrow, $466 = $212 (next bucket Coach) + $254 (next bucket Roomette discounted by $10)

    For one pax, the chart seems to give the correct totals when any sleeper bucket is added to the low bucket Coach fare. But (due to what seems like creative accounting shenanigans) Arrow uses different values to come up with the same total (next bucket Coach + discounted sleeper upcharge).

    Clear as mud to me - make any sense to you? :confused:
    - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
    Ding!

    It just came to me that I blundered into this bucket chart update using the old sleeper pricing system (sleeper fare = low bucket Coach + whatever the sleeper upchare was). Using AmSnag, the first step was to find all 5 Coach buckets plus the Saver fare. This done to determine the low bucket Coach fare - the one just above Saver. This low bucket Coach fare was then subtracted from all the total sleeper fares for one passenger because up to now, the total sleeper fare was always the low bucket Coach + the sleeper upcharge.

    But it now appears that total sleeper fares are based on the next highest Coach bucket. This, in turn, means that each of the sleeper buckets on the chart is too high by some amount and also that the charts posted in this thread both have incorrect sleeper upcharge buckets (coach buckets are OK).

    Merkelman06 mentioned this a week ago in Post #3 and it went in one eye and out the other! Aaaarrgggghhhhh! Back to the drawing board!! :mad:
     
    Last edited: Nov 12, 2019
  19. Nov 12, 2019 #44

    Anderson

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    So, I threw RVR-ORL into Amsnag. The fares I'm getting for a roomette run from $392-692 for the Meteor and $329-382 for the Star (with a bunch of days sold out for the Star as well, suggesting that $382 is high bucket for the Star).

    Outside of low bucket, there's a good chance this knocks me over to Delta.

    I never thought I'd say this, but at this point I honestly hope the Star stays without its diner. It was a tough case to make with the full diner on occasion, but I can say with near certainty that the new stuff simply is not worth an extra $200-310.

    (As an aside, by comparison, capping the Star at $382 is borderline yield management malpractice given its constrained capacity.)
     
  20. Nov 12, 2019 #45

    Anderson

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    Just an addendum to the above, but I went ahead and threw the Seaboard Coast Line fares through an inflation calculator. In 1968, a roomette cost $53.62; in 1971, it cost $61.71. These come out to $385-390 and $390-395, depending on the calculator (the differences likely being methodological).

    Congrats to Amtrak: Low bucket in a sleeper on the Meteor is now tied with what I would have paid under private management and all I can get is a decent TV dinner on board.
     
  21. Nov 12, 2019 #46

    nferr

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    You paid separately for your meals in 1968.
     
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  22. Nov 13, 2019 #47

    Anderson

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    True, but I think we could probably reasonably allow between $15 and $80 for the included meals: Southbound out of RVR, it is too late for dinner so you're looking at breakfast and maybe lunch. So call it $15 for a decent breakfast and don't bother with lunch if you're on-time on the low end, $15 for lunch and $35 if you get a "full" dinner NB. Another $15 or so each way if the train is late and you end up with breakfast (NB) or lunch (SB). $80 would cover a three-course dinner and a bit of overkill at both breakfast and lunch, or perhaps an additional non-dinner meal if the train is late.

    And the meals in question would also be something I'd look forward to. I would happily pay separately for a meal I wanted, served at a table with the most basic pass at presentation (i.e. putting sugar and creamer in a bowl instead of on a cardboard plate) versus what is on offer at this point. At this point I'd rather Amtrak just didn't bother including the meal. If I'm gonna get a takeout box, let me at least choose takeout I really want.

    Edit: And do note that the Champion had almost precisely the timetable of the Meteor these days, so the circumstances are just about spot-on. The timetables for the Silver Star are also quite close.
     
    Last edited: Nov 13, 2019
  23. Nov 13, 2019 #48

    niemi24s

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    Here is the latest revised version of the fare bucket chart:
    25-12 Nov 2019 Amtrak Fare Buckets.jpg
    Some differences between this chart and all previous ones:
    • No estimates of fares not offered (or observed being offered)
    • Sleeper fares include the Coach portion, which is the next bucket above low bucket (with the >)

    Auto Train fares are those for the Southbound train as fares are a few dollars less ($5 or less) for the Northbound train at this time. This was noticed a few years ago after a general fare increase, then after some months the two Auto Trains equalized. No idea why.

    Compared to fares in the Jan 2019 chart, low bucket Roomette fares for one adult have risen from 11% to 17%.

    Moderators may delete those incorrect charts in Post #22 and 40.
     
    Last edited: Nov 13, 2019
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  24. Nov 13, 2019 #49

    pennyk

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    done
     
  25. Nov 14, 2019 #50

    F900ElCapitan

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    Thank you very much Niemi, as I said before, I really enjoy your charts, they help immensely!! It was very surprising to see the rise in the rail fare portion. I am still wondering if this still might be a bit of a temporary raise, or a way to cushion revenue so that more sales can be offered. Personally I think this was calculated and they are setting up for more sales, using the higher prices as a base. This also may be one aspect that Anderson is looking to milk the popular sleepers to raise revenue to the desired level to achieve break even or profit level operating costs. My dear hope is he is able to get to that level, and then be able to make some more service improvements, including much better meal options. I guess we’ll have to wait and see at this point.
     
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