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We seem to be in a era now where Amtrak has raised the sleeper prices to an all time high. You can't argue with that logic if they keep selling out but eventually you reach the breaking point where first class air becomes far less expensive. I am sometimes taken back by the cost of sleepers but the loss of many of the former amenities bothers me most. Full service dining (eastern Routes), the after meal chocolates, ice cream, flowers on the table, morning paper, ice/juice in the sleepers, and coffee availability have all been cut or eliminated.
 

Winecliff Station

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We seem to be in a era now where Amtrak has raised the sleeper prices to an all time high. You can't argue with that logic if they keep selling out but eventually you reach the breaking point where first class air becomes far less expensive. I am sometimes taken back by the cost of sleepers but the loss of many of the former amenities bothers me most. Full service dining (eastern Routes), the after meal chocolates, ice cream, flowers on the table, morning paper, ice/juice in the sleepers, and coffee availability have all been cut or eliminated.
I haven’t been in a sleeper for about a year…..when you say no more coffee, do you mean they removed the swill in the hallway toward the rear of the roomette section? I didn’t mind it but I’m not a coffee snob like hubby is lol.
 

trimetbusfan

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I haven’t been in a sleeper for about a year…..when you say no more coffee, do you mean they removed the swill in the hallway toward the rear of the roomette section? I didn’t mind it but I’m not a coffee snob like hubby is lol.
When I rode this summer, coffee was available in the mornings on all trains I rode.
 

33Nicolas

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Savannah, GA
We seem to be in a era now where Amtrak has raised the sleeper prices to an all time high. You can't argue with that logic if they keep selling out but eventually you reach the breaking point where first class air becomes far less expensive. I am sometimes taken back by the cost of sleepers but the loss of many of the former amenities bothers me most. Full service dining (eastern Routes), the after meal chocolates, ice cream, flowers on the table, morning paper, ice/juice in the sleepers, and coffee availability have all been cut or eliminated.
I was thinking the same. I want to take the Palmetto to DC at night and stay in business since I don't sleep much, work, and don't care about being forced to pay for a sleeper I don't really need. It seems Amtrak has removed business at night and conveniently only has sleepers and coaches.
 
Joined
Sep 15, 2017
Messages
2,105
We seem to be in a era now where Amtrak has raised the sleeper prices to an all time high. You can't argue with that logic if they keep selling out but eventually you reach the breaking point where first class air becomes far less expensive. I am sometimes taken back by the cost of sleepers but the loss of many of the former amenities bothers me most. Full service dining (eastern Routes), the after meal chocolates, ice cream, flowers on the table, morning paper, ice/juice in the sleepers, and coffee availability have all been cut or eliminated.

Flowers on the table (Auto Train and western routes), ice in the sleepers, and coffee I believe have all been returned. I don’t drink coffee so I don’t always look for it but I’m pretty sure they had it on the auto train.
 

Bob Dylan

50+ Year Amtrak Rider
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Flowers on the table (Auto Train and western routes), ice in the sleepers, and coffee I believe have all been returned. I don’t drink coffee so I don’t always look for it but I’m pretty sure they had it on the auto train.
Just had my first LD Trip on Amtrak in 3 years on the Sunset Ltd Route between LAX and SAS.( I used Points, got an Excellent Fare of 18,000 SAN-AUS/ which turned out include Bustitutions between SAN and Irvine and SAS and AUS, neither Amtraks Fault!)

Very nice, clean Rehabbed Superliner I Sleeper,New Bedding, Traditional Meals served in the Diner and our SCA James had Coffee made by 530AM each morning, and was delivering Meals to the Rooms regularly,even though he had to walk the "Green Mile" between the Diner and our Tail end Sleeper.🥰

And then there's the "Rest of of the Story", the Orphan Trains The Eaglette, The CONO,The CAP and the Food Service on the Eastetn Trains @ Outrageous Buckets!.🥺🤬
 

irv818

Train Attendant
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toccoa
Back to the original topic: I'm amazed that Amtrak long-distance service has survived as long as it has. Most people have to consider the cost of a trip now days.

I've been all over the country on Amtrak - usually in bedrooms - but the high priced fares and low class service have pretty much put an end to that as something to enjoy.

I want to go from ATL to LAX in Dec. Cheap airplane seat is $101, Amtrak seat is $181.
My rear end can manage a cheap seat and a soft drink for 5 hours, 71 hours of sitting and eating cafe food would be a lot harder. Add in a sleeper and the price jumps to nearly $2,000 but the food doesn't improve.

Not to mention that on Amtrak, an overnight hotel is nearly mandatory, since there's a 12 hour transfer in a town that's not exactly the safest town in the USA. That adds another $100 - $200.
Total $280 - $380 for cheapest train, cheapest flight $101.
First class airfare around $600, sorta first class train, $2,000.
 

zephyr17

Engineer
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Washington State
Back to the original topic: I'm amazed that Amtrak long-distance service has survived as long as it has. Most people have to consider the cost of a trip now days.

I've been all over the country on Amtrak - usually in bedrooms - but the high priced fares and low class service have pretty much put an end to that as something to enjoy.

I want to go from ATL to LAX in Dec. Cheap airplane seat is $101, Amtrak seat is $181.
My rear end can manage a cheap seat and a soft drink for 5 hours, 71 hours of sitting and eating cafe food would be a lot harder. Add in a sleeper and the price jumps to nearly $2,000 but the food doesn't improve.

Not to mention that on Amtrak, an overnight hotel is nearly mandatory, since there's a 12 hour transfer in a town that's not exactly the safest town in the USA. That adds another $100 - $200.
Total $280 - $380 for cheapest train, cheapest flight $101.
First class airfare around $600, sorta first class train, $2,000.
Well, the sleeper load factors are pretty high, often sold out. Some of that is due to capacity constraints imposed by an equipment shortage caused by Amtrak's inept management of the COVID crisis. However, on a train like the Builder to Seattle, that is the difference between 10 Bedrooms and 30 Roomettes in normal times and 5 Bedrooms and 17 roomettes now. Even the "normal" capacity doesn't represent an abundance of inventory.

Amtrak yield manages their fares. If they could not get the get their high bucket fares, they can and do drop. But even low bucket sleeper fares are pretty pricey.

Amtrak is not trying to sell something at a price they cannot get. They can get these prices for a perishable product (perishable in the sense that if a room goes out empty, that revenue is gone forever), so why sell it for less?

You make valid arguments for not traveling in sleepers, although you are wrong on food these days for the western trains. The dining car food on the western trains (except the Eaglette) is better than it's been in at least 10 years, it is quite good now by any standard, and considerably better than the cafe. I agree that OBS service is highly variable and too often poor, and trains are often late, and equipment frequently shabby. An Amtrak sleeper is generally not a First Class experience.

However, sufficient numbers of people are not swayed by those arguments or ignore them that Amtrak maintains a high sleeper load factor, despite the admittedly high price. People are riding sleepers to near capacity, Amtrak sleeping car service is not in want of passengers. If anything, it is in want of cars.
 
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zephyr17

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An addendum on my personal practices that contribute to the apparent lack of elasticity and price sensitivity in sleeper demand.

1. I won't pay more the middle bucket. I'll move travel dates, change modes, or not go rather than pay high bucket. However, I am usually able to find at least a middle-low (second) bucket, but I have to kind of work at it.
2. I know damned well flying is cheaper, even flying First Class is often cheaper than even lower Amtrak roomette buckets. I ride Amtrak despite that.
3. There are now trains I will not ride due to severe service degradation. These include the Eaglette, the Crescent and the Cardinal. These are mostly due to staffing and lack of amenities, one LSA handling both flex dining and cafe, closing cafe service during meal service, reports of OBS demanding sleeper passengers remain in their rooms even for meals on at least some trips. I will not tolerate that. Flex dining alone doesn't deter me. I found the LSL quite a pleasant ride last November despite Flex. I especially enjoyed being able to use the V II diner as a lounge, a happy change from the lack of decent lounge space on eastern trains.
 
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pennyk

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Viewing the bedroom fares for the Silver Meteor and Star for several dates in October 2023 (11 months out), Silver Meteor 98 started in low bucket, whereas Silver Star 92 started in the highest bucket. Silver Meteor 97 started in the next highest bucket and Silver Star 91 started in the highest bucket.
 

Sidney

OBS Chief
Joined
Jul 12, 2020
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Glad I am retired and flexible. I have never paid more than low bucket for a roomette in my many years of traveling. A bit of work,but you have to keep checking. I'm flying to Fort Lauderdale next week from BWI. I thought of taking the train back. Even looking at roomette fares months in advance I could not justify paying $700.one way. No way I will do Coach,so a round trip flight at $238 r/t it is.

On the other hand,when Amtrak had their points sale a few months ago,I grabbed their best deal. Bloomington Il to LA and return on the Eagle/Sunset for 20,000 points. Coach to and from Chicago for $13.

Price has always been my top priority in riding. I'm one of those who just enjoy the journey,regardless of the destination. Still riding and enjoying it for over thirty years.
 
Joined
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Minnesota
I am reviving this thread as the trip it relates to has been pushed back a year. :) I am currently trying to find cheap SWC and CZ buckets in early May 2023. The former is easy to find, but I can't find a single day where the CZ is less than $1000, either direction (early-mid May). I am suspecting that due to high demand, Amtrak hasn't made any of the cheap buckets available yet...

The question then is whether I ought to wait for a cheaper bucket on the CZ or get the cheap SWC bucket while it is available.
 

zephyr17

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I am reviving this thread as the trip it relates to has been pushed back a year. :) I am currently trying to find cheap SWC and CZ buckets in early May 2023. The former is easy to find, but I can't find a single day where the CZ is less than $1000, either direction (early-mid May). I am suspecting that due to high demand, Amtrak hasn't made any of the cheap buckets available yet...

The question then is whether I ought to wait for a cheaper bucket on the CZ or get the cheap SWC bucket while it is available.
We are right at 5 months out from early/mid May. There isn't a set date when Amtrak reallocates buckets if sales are not meeting projections, but we are in the window.

What I would do in your situation is check availability. Do a dummy reservation for 8 people with 8 roomettes (the max that the website will take). If 8 are available at high bucket, I'd sit tight. There is a reasonable chance they may reallocate. If you cannot get 8 at high bucket, that means they're selling and Amtrak likely will not reallocate inventory to lower buckets.

The CZ should have about either 17 roomettes for revenue passengers if one sleeper (13 + 4 in transdorm) or about 30 if two sleepers (13+13+4). Note the 4 in the transdorm is not a hard number, they could sell more. Traditionally, it was usually 4.

Finally, bear in mind that Amtrak typically only allocates one or two roomettes to a lower bucket when they allocate inventory to them. So there is a case for grabbing a low SWC bucket while it is available. You might want to do the 8 roomette dummy reservation to see how many there actually are available at that bucket.

When you are doing research, remember the website will start to lock you out/not respond after a certain number of dummy reservation attempts. IIRC, it is around 10. In any case 10 is pushing it. Plan your attempts carefully, and you might have to do over a few days if you run into the limit

It is all a gamble. Do everything you can to gather information with dummy reservations, assess your risk tolerance and date flexibility, then take your best shot.
 

MccfamschoolMom

OBS Chief
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Feb 28, 2020
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Dwight, IL
I have until the end of the 3rd billing period on my new FNBO AGR credit card (the no-annual-fee version) to spend $1,000 & get 12K bonus AGR points. Roughly $850 worth of spending to go after 1 billing period, so I plan to book a fall roundtrip on the California Zephyr for hubby & me at the beginning of January. That far out, we shouldn't have any work commitments to complicate scheduling a train vacation -- but I can certainly double-check dates and fares every so often between January and the fall, to make sure our car hasn't been cut from the consist, and to see if the price improves, especially if it's still possible for us to be flexible on the dates of our trip.
 

fengshui

Train Attendant
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Feb 23, 2022
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29
Location
Santa Barbara, CA
> at this point it's more like "open high, if it sells slowly we can lower them and sell tickets 5-6 months out". Sometimes that happens, and sometimes because of demand the prices just stay high and they successfully sell the train out at higher fare levels (particularly in this day and age of reduced capacity).

The worrisome part of this setup is that it means that the lower-bucket fares sold later are much more likely to be in the second sleeper, and thus get cancelled due to equipment or staffing issues. YMMV, but to be sure you get base sleeper, you may need to book at high bucket, then try to get a partial refund if/when prices drop as your departure approaches.
 

zephyr17

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The worrisome part of this setup is that it means that the lower-bucket fares sold later are much more likely to be in the second sleeper, and thus get cancelled due to equipment or staffing issues.
I have been riding a long, long time and have not really figured out how Amtrak distributes space as they sell it. But one thing I know for sure the algorithm is not a simple "fill up one car, then start on the next" one. It appears to distribute passengers between standard sleeper car lines as sales progress. It does appear to sell rooms in transdorm car lines last, though.

So I would not be concerned that waiting for a bucket drop would result in winding up in a non-base sleeper. In my experience, you can be assigned to any non-transdorm car line in the consist no matter when you buy.

The reason I know this is I am picky about roomette location, and several times I have asked for a different room from the one initially brought up automatically. That has sometimes resulted in initially being offered a room in the 31 car from automatic assignment, then the agent finding a "better" (for me) room in the 30. I always know what room I'll have before completing the transaction. Note this was prior to the current Charlie Foxtrot and removing a car with sold inventory was unheard of, except in the rare case of last minute mechanical failure, so base versus non base sleeper was not something that concerned me. BTW, we did not really have any terminology to differentiate the likelihood a car line would actually run prior to this mess, and pretty much adopted "base" as an easily understand shorthand. Before this, it was like Amazonian Indians not having a word for "snow". We did not have a word for something we had never seen.
 
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Ryan

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I have been riding a long, long time and have not really figured out how Amtrak distributes space as they sell it. But one thing I know for sure the algorithm is not a simple "fill up one car, then start on the next" one. It appears to distribute passengers between standard sleeper car lines as sales progress. It does appear to sell rooms in transdorm car lines last, though.
To my understanding, you've got it basically right. This is going from memory on a post somewhere around here that someone may find value in taking the time to dig up.

Roughly speaking, rooms are put in some order from "most desirable" to "least desirable". For simplicity, let's talk about "normal" bedrooms on a Superliner train that runs with 3 sleepers numbered 30, 31, 32. Let's assume that the order is Room E through A of desirability. Also for simplicity let's say that 5 rooms are allocated to each of the top three price buckets when they're initially loaded into inventory. There are fare codes associated with these, but let's just call them Buckets 3, 4, and 5 (1 and 2 being the lowest priced rooms that aren't used) mostly because I can't remember/find them.

With those assumptions, here's your inventory as it gets initially loaded into the system:

Bucket 3: 30E(car 30, room E), 31E, 32E, 30D, 31D
Bucket 4: 32D, 30C, 31C, 32C, 30B
Bucket 5: 31B, 32B, 30A, 31A, 32A

There's your order of sales. This was explained in the context of "why do sometimes agents say it costs more to pick a room when you call". Say you're the first person to call and book a room on this train, but you really want Room C because it's equidistant from the end of the car and the mid-car stairs. A less trained agent will go in there and pick 30C, but you can see that it's up in bucket 4, where as the system would assign the first available room down in bucket 3. A more-trained agent would see the inventory situation and be able to swap inventory around so that you get the room you want at the "correct" price. After that happens, the inventory would look something like this (assuming that the agent just swapped the rooms:

Bucket 3: 30C, 31E, 32E, 30D, 31D
Bucket 4: 32D, 30E, 31C, 32C, 30B
Bucket 5: 31B, 32B, 30A, 31A, 32A

There are other places where this order can get scrambled. Say the next person to call doesn't care what room they get (or they just book online and the system picks the next room), so mark 31E off of your list:

Bucket 3: 30C, 31E, 32E, 30D, 31D
Bucket 4: 32D, 30E, 31C, 32C, 30B
Bucket 5: 31B, 32B, 30A, 31A, 32A

Now the next caller wants two bedrooms, and wants them to be adjoining, and they want it to be the B/C pair because they don't want to be next to the stairs. The agent can't just pull two rooms, because they're in different cars and the wrong rooms to boot. Again, the more trained agent will shuffle to get two rooms at the correct price:

Bucket 3: 30C, 31E, 31C, 31B, 31D
Bucket 4: 32D, 30E, 32E, 32C, 30B
Bucket 5: 30D, 32B, 30A, 31A, 32A

Obviously, this gets even more complicated in real life, as all the while revenue managers are reallocating inventory to pricing buckets to try and match supply and demand, and perhaps less-trained agents just selling out of order. Quickly no discernible pattern can emerge. Again, take this with the appropriate grain of salt - I do wish I remember who had posted this, because their explanation was probably a whole lot better than this.
 

Trogdor

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To my understanding, you've got it basically right. This is going from memory on a post somewhere around here that someone may find value in taking the time to dig up.

Roughly speaking, rooms are put in some order from "most desirable" to "least desirable". For simplicity, let's talk about "normal" bedrooms on a Superliner train that runs with 3 sleepers numbered 30, 31, 32. Let's assume that the order is Room E through A of desirability. Also for simplicity let's say that 5 rooms are allocated to each of the top three price buckets when they're initially loaded into inventory. There are fare codes associated with these, but let's just call them Buckets 3, 4, and 5 (1 and 2 being the lowest priced rooms that aren't used) mostly because I can't remember/find them.

With those assumptions, here's your inventory as it gets initially loaded into the system:

Bucket 3: 30E(car 30, room E), 31E, 32E, 30D, 31D
Bucket 4: 32D, 30C, 31C, 32C, 30B
Bucket 5: 31B, 32B, 30A, 31A, 32A

[dot dot dot]

There is an order of sales, but it is not true (and never has been, as far as I can tell) that rooms are pre-assigned to a bucket.

It has been a while since I’ve been in a position to check, but IIRC, there is an order of “preference” in the system that tells the system to sell room 1 first, then room 2, then room 3, etc (it may not literally be that order, but basically it’s something like that on a room number level). When you have multiple sleeper lines, there will be multiple rooms 1, multiple rooms 2, etc. I think it just goes in order of car line number.

Buckets, on the other hand, were set to be available “up to x% sold.” Historically, they’d just pick certain percentages (perhaps varied by specific departure) and then they would rarely change. Nowadays, it seems they more actively manage that availability.

So if you have a hypothetical train with 20 rooms, with 4 buckets, the lowest one of which is available up to 20% sold, then the next up to 50%, then up to 60%, then up to 100% (just making them up for example): the first four rooms booked would be at the low rate. There is nothing linking the bucket to any rooms at that point, just the natural order in which the rooms get sold based on a preference programmed in Arrow.

When booking a room, Amtrak doesn’t give you a choice, it just pulls the next one in line. When an agent books a room, there are actually two ways to do it. One is to pull the next one in line, the other is to specify the room desired. The default method that virtually every agent uses is to pull the next one in line. However, once they do so, it comes out of inventory (even if they don’t end the transaction) and the percentage sold changes until the room is released. Since there can be very few rooms available at a particular bucket, it is often the case that the one they picked is the last one to be sold at the lower bucket.

When they then try to specify, the fare appears higher because the system thinks it has fewer rooms available and thus needs to bump into the next bucket. If they direct-specify the room wanted in step 1, you will absolutely get the lowest available bucket. It’s just that most agents don’t do that (and to purge the booking and start over would take too long and/or they don’t realize they’re supposed to do this, as they likely have never really been trained on how the revenue management system works, just on how the booking system works).

If Arrow could divorce the room assignment process from the fare bucket process it would probably be better for a number of reasons.

Another little-known fact is that Arrow is also designed, by default to preference already-sold rooms for downline sales, in order to preserve through-rooms as much as possible.

So if you book a room out of preference order CHI-DEN, for example, the next person to book DEN-EMY on that train will likely be auto-assigned the same room.

Since bucket availability is based on % sold, the other effect is that if you book a low-bucket room on a train that subsequently fills up, and then you cancel, the room goes back into inventory at the then-available bucket, because the train now exceeds the % sold threshold for that particular accommodation type.
 

fengshui

Train Attendant
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Santa Barbara, CA
heck, but IIRC, there is an order of “preference” in the system that tells the system to sell room 1 first, then room 2, then room 3, etc (it may not literally be that order, but basically it’s something like that on a room number level)
Do you have any sense what the order of preference is? I've been put in room 14 when room 9 was available, which seems like the opposite of what I expected: upstairs first for better views, etc. I know some people like the quiet of downstairs, but I would still think Amtrak would rank upstairs as "more preferred".
 
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