Empire Builder 2022 Outrageous Bedroom Fares

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JC_620

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Looking at booking a post cruise trip home across the country from Seattle to Boston in June of 2022. What is going on with Amtrak!? By that, I mean, Amtrak used to preach about booking early! We used to hear 'You better book early for the best fares!' That is entirely false when, looking now, a bedroom on the Builder starts out at $2,396 for June 2022?? 😯😯

My questions:
Is that the "low bucket"?
Subsequently, if that is the "low bucket" fare, then what is the "high bucket" fare? Does anyone happen to have the 4 or 5 "buckets" that used to be out there as a general reference to what was being charged for a roomette or a bedroom?

$2,400 about 10 months out?

Really Amtrak...🤨🤨
 

pennyk

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I travel in bedrooms routinely. Because of Covid, more passengers are opting for bedrooms to avoid public restrooms, causing the demand for bedrooms to increase. The fares are increasing as demand is increasing. I compared an early December 2019 cross country trip (booked 2-3 months in advance) with an early December 2021 cross country trip (booked 5 months in advance). The 2021 fare is more than double the 2019 fare. Not only has demand increased, the supply has decreased since many of the consists have been shortened.
 

JC_620

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Current high/low bucket one adult fares for SEA to BOS are:

• Roomette $1822/$929
• Bedroom $3781/$1600
Nuts. My guess is it's COVID possibly but also it is just Amtrak's way of trying to recoup what they lost when they went to tri-weekly service.
 

niemi24s

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I compared an early December 2019 cross country trip (booked 2-3 months in advance) with an early December 2021 cross country trip (booked 5 months in advance). The 2021 fare is more than double the 2019 fare.
What you paid may have more than doubled, but that doesn't mean the value of the fare buckets has more than doubled. The following extreme case comparisons are for a Bedroom from MIA to SEA

• The high bucket fare in 2019 would have been $4740 and the low bucket fare in 2021 would have been $2515 or 53% of the earlier fare. At the other extreme...

• The low bucket fare in 2019 would have been $1450 and the high bucket fare in 2021 would have been $5378 or 371% of the earlier fare.

• And somewhere in between these two extremes there'd probably be some combination of buckets that would add up to very little difference between the 2019 and 2021 trip.

But the basic bucket structure for this trip has increased only (!) 28% in that two year period. FWIW, the Bedroom fares for MIA to SEA now range from $3088 to $5129 for a three segment trip during the first ten days of December.
 
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niemi24s

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Sorry for this, but there's an error in the second bulleted item, above, and edit time has expired. It should read...

• The low bucket fare in 2019 would have been $2302 and the high bucket fare in 2021 would have been $5378 or 234% of the earlier fare.

Bear in mind that sleeper fares doubling is possible even within a few days (much less a few years) if the fares jump from low to high bucket. It's been like that since late 2015 when I started collecting fare data.
 
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I had a similar reaction when trying to book a roomette from Glacier National Park to Chicago on the Empire Builder for June 2022. The discussion is here:
 

niemi24s

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Those not familiar with the Amtrak fare bucket system would probably have a similar reaction. Unfortunately it seems few have that familiarity. But for the California Zephyr...

CZ Hi - Lo Fare Comparison.jpg

...the ratio between the high and low bucket sleeper fares (for 1 adult) is about 2.0 to 1. Other trains a bit more, others a bit less. But each of those fares includes the Coach fare followed by the ">" symbol, so what really changes from day to day when fares routinely change is the accommodation charge for the particular sleeper. When that $224> is deducted, the ratio between high and low bucket accommodation charges (only) increases to about 2.4 to 1.

For plain old Coach fares the ratio between the highest and lowest is 2.5 to 1.

This is why if there's any flexibility in travel dates, it pays to shop. But shopping doesn't always save as the fares offered by Amtrak are often stuck at high bucket and sometimes low bucket is never offered.
 
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Thanks. Although I don't have extensive familiarity with the fare bucket system, the fares are all currently high (or at least much higher than they were when I was looking last month) for roomettes from Glacier to Chicago, no matter what the date is...so travel flexibility doesn't seem to apply in my case.
 
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Larry H.

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Why don't they return to the way railroad fares used to always be. A set cost for the room and you knew what you were paying. Of course they fares were far, far cheaper in those days. Why couldn't they use and average cost and just make that the set price?
 

zephyr17

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They could. Of course fares are no longer regulated as they were in those days, and yield management, if done right, ought to provide much greater returns on the limited and perishable inventory.

And, allowing for inflation, today's accommodation charges in the mid buckets are roughly equivalent to Pullman's in days gone by. They were only "far, far cheaper" if you assume the dollar's value held steady, which, of course, it hasn't. Sleepers were never cheap.
 
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Larry H.

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I think that is a myth often stated here! A Pullman fare was maybe a third more than coach and very affordable. I Know, I never made much money but could easily afford the sleeper extra charge. Compared to the difference in fares between coach and so called first class is many times higher than the coach fare, I would guess at least 5 times more and that is probably low. And as to the charges overall, if this is public transportation why do we have to sock it too people for the very highest rates possible most of the time. Yes people travel that way, and I do as well, but maybe its because we don't or can't fly. The fares are also a problem because Amtrak is using the excuse of not having sufficient equipment so they have to charge more. Maybe thats true I would say, but where are the plans now to run enough sleepers that when people try to book a room they don't get a sold out screen. That has been going on forever with them and also produces a skewed result as to how many people are supporting a train. We can't really say a line isn't making much money or carrying enough passengers if half the time or more you can't even get an accommodation on the route?
 

dlagrua

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The LD sleeper fares are what they are and if you can afford them you buy but if not you drive or fly. I just wonder if the sleepers are really selling out at these exhorbitant high fares?. If they are it must be that the rich are the primary customers but if they are expecting Orient Express type first class service they will be sorely disappointed. We would like to take the train again for our LD trips and hope that the fares relax a bit. In the meantime we are shut out of the system. We just completed a first class air trip (NJ-Arizona) and it was a horrible experience but at 1/4 the price of an Amtrak bedroom we will grit our teeth and bear it for now. At $1600 for two R/T, it fits the budget.
 

neroden

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Someone did a careful comparison of recent fares vs. historic fares, adjusting for inflation. Bottom line: coach fares have actually gone DOWN after adjusting for inflation. Sleeper fares have gone up somewhat. I think it's pretty obvious Amtrak has a severe shortage of sleeper cars, and needs to add more.

But right now they aren't even running everything they have, due to what I can only assume is malicious mismanagement by someone who values sabotaging-the-sleepers over making-a-profit. Even as a monopoly, right now they'd be better served economically by running more sleeper cars at slightly lower prices -- they'd still fill up.
 

joelkfla

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But right now they aren't even running everything they have, due to what I can only assume is malicious mismanagement by someone who values sabotaging-the-sleepers over making-a-profit. Even as a monopoly, right now they'd be better served economically by running more sleeper cars at slightly lower prices -- they'd still fill up.
I thought it was due to a labor shortage. There have been reports of job postings for OBS at multiple locations.
 
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Exvalley

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It would not surprise me if sleepers are selling well even with high fares. Lots of people have not spent anything on travel for the past year and a half - so they can afford to spend more right now. Whether or not people are willing to spend that sort of money for all future travel is another question.
 

niemi24s

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We can't really say a line isn't making much money or carrying enough passengers if half the time or more you can't even get an accommodation on the route?
So when, pray tell, CAN we say a line isn't making much money or carrying enough passengers?
 

Larry H.

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So when, pray tell, CAN we say a line isn't making much money or carrying enough passengers?
Hopefully your joking.. All we ever here is the long distance are big time loosers money wise. My point being if your not able to sell all the accommodations people want then your getting a false picture of what the train might really carry if it had the equipment to meet the needs. You really shouldn't be in a position of turning passengers away like so many have over time reported full bedrooms or roomettes for months out.
 

Tlcooper93

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I’ve been planning an EB trip in Feb 2022 for some time now. When I checked roomette prices a month ago, they were VERY reasonable (~500) but I just recently checked back in, and they’re roughly double what they were back in late June.

My guess is that there will be a time window (probably brief) where the prices go down before February. I hope to act then and get the ticket, and just use a companion coupon for my fiancé.
 

Cal

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But right now they aren't even running everything they have, due to what I can only assume is malicious mismanagement by someone who values sabotaging-the-sleepers over making-a-profit. Even as a monopoly, right now they'd be better served economically by running more sleeper cars at slightly lower prices -- they'd still fill up.
My guess is for a mix of reasons:
-Backlog of maintenance
-Refreshing Superliners
-OBS Shortage
 
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PaTrainFan

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My guess is for a mix of reasons:
-Backlog of maintenance
-Refreshing Superliners
-OBS Shortage
And why is not possible for Amtrak to exhibit a modicum of transparency. If these things challenges are true, then say so and attempt to assure the traveling public and the non-profit organization that represents the most loyal passengers, that fixes are in the works and here's what we can expect. Wait, ok, sorry. I forgot about Amtrak's record of delivering on promises.
 

Tennessee Traveler

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I consider myself LUCKY. I booked my Empire Builder roomettes from Chicago to Seattle and return from Seattle to Chicago just as Biden's COVID support bill was passed and the long distance trains were scheduled to return to daily trips late May 2021 instead of three times a week and before the public decided it was time to leave home. I made my reservation as the extra four days a week schedules were set up and booked travel on one of the four new days trips for September 2021. The fares on the three days a week trains were already scheduled and tickets being sold were about three times the low bucket price being offered on the new four days. I was able and did ticket a roomette with only one passenger(myself) for $505 each way and I do note that the coach fare portion of my ticket is $232 each way. So I bought my tickets before the demand exploded. The prices are high because the demand is high even 11 months out. Interestingly, I also reserved my September hotel accommodations in February/March and the same hotels on the same dates I reserved have increased their prices almost 50%. The number of people booking travel has caused these increases. Rental car prices are exploding and in some cases cars are not available. I used frequent flyer miles for my air travel so cannot evaluate increases in airline costs. I have abundant miles available since I don't fly more than once or twice a year and my flights to Chicago from Nashville and back will be the first flights I have flown in 17 months.

My travel days may be limited in the future with the current high prices for trains and hotels and the fact that I am turning 80 in October and have been living on fixed income with no increases since I retired in 2004.
 
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caravanman

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I know I annoy folk at times, but as TT above says, it is all just "market forces", the American way. If you are tasked with either making a profit, or at least minimising losses, then you make hay while the sun shines. It's the new reality of the current covid America, demand for private rooms driving up train fares.
At least the coach fares are still reasonable, due to less increased demand for them.
 
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