Comparing Amtrak B/R fare to First Class Air Fare

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tomfuller

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Certainly not First class air but a new airline is starting up flying out of Burbank. Starting on April 28 2021, Avelo Airline will be flying out of Burbank/Hollywood airport. They will be flying to 11 destinations in the west. The base fare for now is $19 with lots of nickle and dimeing for "extras".
My wife will be flying in June from Redmond OR to Burbank to see son, DIL and grandkids that we have not seen since Thanksgiving 2019.
With the extras, the round trip is less than the Amtrak fare one way from CMO to Burbank.
The entrance of the Burbank airport is across the street from BUR Amtrak/METRO station.. Avelo is starting with 3 737-800s (not Max8). They intend to add 3 more planes in the third quarter of this year.
 

jebr

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domefoamer

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A simple question with a not so simple answer. If bedrooms are remaining empty because of the high price,why isn't the price being reduced? I posed that question to my sleeping car attendant on my Chi to Pdx trip where only one bedroom was sold the entire journey. She didn't have an answer.

$1000 plus for a bedroom. $500 for the roomette. Basically you are paying double,triple for more space. The food is the same.
Plus the private bath, which is probably the biggest draw with modern germophobes.
 

Devil's Advocate

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I was planning to add the Empire Builder to my completed routes list but the fares are running between double and triple the pre-Anderson prices for objectively worse service and fewer amenities. Maybe there are some days with better rates but thanks to Amtrak's clumsy website and crackdown on third party tools there is no easy way to find out.
 
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Ferroequinologist

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Jan 18, 2016
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Trying to book an Amtrak trip for two from PHL to FLG in Aug. The Bedroom fare comes up at a whopping $4785 R/T. We can go First Class Air for $954 round trip for two exactly 1/5th the price. We do not mind paying up to double to support train travel but this pricing is rediculous. The only thing that I can figure out is that management is trying to discourage ridership and kill the LD service.
But you get all that great food!
 

Ferroequinologist

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While I agree with the first part of your post I disagree with the last sentence and let me tell you why. First off we have to get from one point to another and we will spend money to do it. Either Amtrak or an airline will get the business. The second point is that my wife and myself have been very loyal Amtrak customers over the past 18 years, traveling almost exclusively by train. We have spent thousands of dollars on train travel even when it was far more expensive. We are a reliable and hopefully a critical part of the customer base. By being 5 times the price of a First Class Airline ticket Amtrak is chasing away loyal customers that contribute a large part of the LD ticket revenue, but as stated before, maybe that is part of managements plan. We will wait it out another month and if fares do not drop to a more acceptable level, then we go by air. Is that a winning strategy for Amtrak?
It seems they just don't want overnight trains, especially with sleepers. The Administration in Washington has changed but they haven't changed Amtrak management. Some house cleaning needs to be done with the same alacrity that we have seen from Biden in other areas.
 
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caravanman

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I was hopeful at taking a roomette trip sometime between May-August but like many of you have noticed, the fares have become ridiculous. If the trains are selling, I guess that's good, but I wish there was an option for less expensive, comfortable overnight travel.
Just out of interest, I did a trial booking for a trip from Chicago to Seattle for 10th May, to test the "half the sleepers are empty" theory...

The only room available was one lower level "accessible bedroom" at a fare of $1691, so it seems that the higher prices are due to demand, not for some wierd nefarious reasons. Coach is available for just $150, but it now states you may have someone sitting next to you...
 

Sidney

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Amtrak has that $50 Coach sale on for a few more days. I checked a July date for the EB from Chi-Sea. $50 coach,$1500 for the cheapest sleeper. A bit lopsided. Trying to find low bucket the next several months on any route is very difficult.

I read the mask mandate is extended on Amtrak and other transportation has been extended through September,yet Amtrak will begin selling every seat later this month. As a solo traveler, this is not good news. Only allure of traveling overnight in Coach was the promise of having both seats to yourself.
 

caravanman

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Trying to find low bucket the next several months on any route is very difficult.
America is known to be one of the most anti-socialist countries in the world. What do the people who live there expect, but market forces? It is the backbone of "The American Way". To see a train full to capacity at high fares is the best outcome for your system. Be happy, you have the result of your strivings!
 

IndyLions

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I just booked my wife and I for a trip out west in October, right after the Gathering. CHI-DEN on the 20th, then DEN-EMY on the 23rd. Haven’t figured out the return yet - probably flying back from the west coast.

Roomette prices (just the room) were $248 & $351, respectively - not terrible. One thing that really raised the total fare however was the $159 & $188 per person rail fare that accompanied the room.

Others would know better than me, but I believe with a sleeper they used to charge a rail fare equivalent to the lowest Coach fare available. In this case, with Coach nearly empty on the train (5%), the rail fare alone was $347 each. That means we paid more in rail fare ($694) than we did for the roomettes ($599).

I looked at bedrooms, but they would add another $1100 or so. In our mid-50s and healthy, bedrooms are hard to justify. The extra space sure is nice though.
 

daybeers

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Yes, the sleeper rail fare used to be the lowest Value fare coach, meaning not Saver, so actually the second lowest coach bucket. They changed it to be higher sometime last year I believe?
 

jruff001

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America is known to be one of the most anti-socialist countries in the world. What do the people who live there expect, but market forces? It is the backbone of "The American Way". To see a train full to capacity at high fares is the best outcome for your system. Be happy, you have the result of your strivings!
Yes. Some of the posts here are really divorced from reality. No company is going to give a management team instructions to reduce revenue even further below cost.
 

Anderson

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Yes. Some of the posts here are really divorced from reality. No company is going to give a management team instructions to reduce revenue even further below cost.
That depends on whether reducing the price reduces revenue. If the sleeper is selling out, then the high price is (market-wise) justified. If space is going empty in significant quantities, then it isn't.

(Of course, the counter is that Amtrak gets $X from the federal government every year and that perhaps part of that should be treated as part of an operating contract for the LD/overnight trains with a proviso that it be affordable.)
 

Sidney

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I posted earlier about a trip on the EB from Chi-Pdx in January. Most roomettes were sold in my car. Only one bedroom was used the entire run
If Amtrak lowered the prices on the bedrooms or offered discounted prices to passengers already on board they could sell some bedrooms. This was my experience on that train in the Pdx sleeper.

As a long time rider I would imagine people in roomettes would gladly pay say $100 more from Chi to Pdx for a bedroom. I know I would ,yet Amtrak doesn't do it. I've posed this on this forum and nobody has an answer.

Wouldn't discounted bedrooms be better than bedrooms remaining empty? Revenue is revenue.
 

Cal

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As a long time rider I would imagine people in roomettes would gladly pay say $100 more from Chi to Pdx for a bedroom. I know I would ,yet Amtrak doesn't do it. I've posed this on this forum and nobody has an answer.
I will say, if the price of the roomette is reasonable, I wouldn't say a bedroom is worth only $100 more. You get a lot of extra space, bigger bottom bunk, and in-room facilities. As someone who, until recently, had only travelled in roomettes, I'd gladly pay more than that for that extra space.
 

zephyr17

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I will say, if the price of the roomette is reasonable, I wouldn't say a bedroom is worth only $100 more. You get a lot of extra space, bigger bottom bunk, and in-room facilities. As someone who, until recently, had only travelled in roomettes, I'd gladly pay more than that for that extra space.
Sidney has a point if the 4 out of 5 bedrooms were unoccupied for the entire CHI-PDX trip as was his experience. The only real justification for high accommodation prices is there is demand to meet the price. A Bedroom is worth what people will pay for its features, features alone shouldn't determine the price. 80% empty shows lack of demand at that price point.

$100 in revenue is more than $0 in revenue.

Usually, a Bedroom is more than twice the price of a Roomette in any given bucket. It could be a limitation of the VERY old technology that is ARROW that limits offering other prices than the pre-set buckets. Perhaps if the new BidUp feature for Business Class and Acela FIrst Class is extended to sleepers, we may see something like that, where passengers can bid for the upgrade. A few years ago I was offered to bid on a First Class upgrade on American Airlines and got the upgrade for a very reasonable price. It is a feature that I think Amtrak should offer.

Then again, there is a lot that I think rational management at Amtrak should do to enhance the onboard experience and thus promote ridership. Amtrak executive management has shown itself to be less that rational when it comes to the National Network. They appear to be almost as anxious to be rid of it as SP was to be rid of their passenger services.
 

Cal

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Sidney has a point if the 4 out of 5 bedrooms were unoccupied for the entire CHI-PDX trip as was his experience. The only real justification for high accommodation prices is there is demand to meet the price. A Bedroom is worth what people will pay for its features, features alone shouldn't determine the price. 80% empty shows lack of demand at that price point.

$100 in revenue is more than $0 in revenue.

Usually, a Bedroom is more than twice the price of a Roomette in any given bucket. It could be a limitation of the VERY old technology that is ARROW that limits offering other prices than the pre-set buckets. Perhaps if the new BidUp feature for Business Class and Acela FIrst Class is extended to sleepers, we may see something like that, where passengers can bid for the upgrade. A few years ago I was offered to bid on a First Class upgrade on American Airlines and got the upgrade for a very reasonable price.
I do agree, and I think that more than twice the price of a roomette is outrageous. I was just saying, I think it's worth more than just $100 more than a roomette.

I did a dummy-booking for tonight's 422 to Chicago out of LA. Coach is sold out and there is only one roomette left.

For the Sunset/Eagle way, coach is sold out on the Sunset and the Eagle north of SAS has one bedroom and one roomette open.

So people must be finding it worth the money on some routes.

Edit:

Just did another dummy booking for Tuesdays (the 4th) EB out of Seattle to Chicago. Coach is sold out and there is also only one roomette left.

On the PDX side coach is sold out and there is one roomette and one bedroom left.
 

Cal

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Did a quick check on the CZ for the 4th, and similar results.

Two coach seats left. 2 roomettes and one bedroom.
 

jruff001

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Actually, I think it's farther divorced from reality to believe that public services must turn a profit.
The relevant "public service" is a coach seat to get people from A to B, not the relative luxury of a sleeping car.
 

AmtrakBlue

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I do agree, and I think that more than twice the price of a roomette is outrageous. I was just saying, I think it's worth more than just $100 more than a roomette.

I did a dummy-booking for tonight's 422 to Chicago out of LA. Coach is sold out and there is only one roomette left.

For the Sunset/Eagle way, coach is sold out on the Sunset and the Eagle north of SAS has one bedroom and one roomette open.

So people must be finding it worth the money on some routes.

Edit:

Just did another dummy booking for Tuesdays (the 4th) EB out of Seattle to Chicago. Coach is sold out and there is also only one roomette left.

On the PDX side coach is sold out and there is one roomette and one bedroom left.
How are you determining how many rooms are available?
 

jruff001

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That depends on whether reducing the price reduces revenue. If the sleeper is selling out, then the high price is (market-wise) justified. If space is going empty in significant quantities, then it isn't.
Agreed.

(Of course, the counter is that Amtrak gets $X from the federal government every year and that perhaps part of that should be treated as part of an operating contract for the LD/overnight trains with a proviso that it be affordable.)
"Affordable" for whom? How do you define that? Is that how all Amtrak fares should be structured - no regard to peak travel times, etc.? Back to a basic $X/mile and ignore demand or yield pricing?

Amtrak can allocate / ration its sleeping car space by price or time. "Time" meaning if a roomette is (say) only $5 over a coach far and a bedroom is $10 over, they will immediately sell out. So if I come along a month later and am willing to pay a $100 (or $20; or $1,000; or even $5) premium for a roomette, too bad for me; they have already all been sold out.

Which is the smarter business model?

How / why is the public interest better served by the "time" model?
 
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