Empire Builder 2022 Outrageous Bedroom Fares

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zephyr17

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I just started researching the two fares for what used to be available for one that people wanted to know where I found it. Here is a quote from and amtrak review around 2001. It talks about how people are charged double the fare for a room where they used to be a fare for one. Probably some clearer articles but at the moment I don't have time to look for them.

"One for the price of two
The price of a bedroom always builds in the cost of “complimentary” dining car meals for two people, even when only one person is traveling.

Many sleeping car veterans have decried this Amtrak version of the “single supplement,” especially after the retirement of older, more economical Slumbercoaches and Heritage Roomettes. Management argues that if someone will pay and the car is sold out, why cut the rate just because only one person is traveling?"

Pretty much eluding to the point that the charge used to be for one person, not two.
The accommodation charges were per room, not per person, back as far as I can remember. It didn't change in 2001.

That was the case even before they started including dining car meals in the fares in the 1980s. I remember it very well, because the accommodation charges went up by a very close approximation of the cost of meals for two for the period of occupancy.

I didn't like it then, and I don't like it now, but it didn't represent a basic change in the single accommodation charge.

I wish they'd go back to charging for meals separately.

You need to cite something else. Ive been riding since Amtrak started, and there was always a single accommodation charge for each accommodation type. Back in the 70s there may have still been a surcharge on the rail fare for occupancy of an accommodation with more capacity than ticketed passengers, but that was gone fairly early on.
 

AMTRAK709

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Another thought, back in the days of the heritage sleepers before the 1990's debut of the Viewliners, I would almost rather have a roomette as a bedroom. Other than not having an enclosed toilet and having to put the bed up to use the toilet, the seats seemed more plush and the beds more comfortable. Does anyone remember the old heritage Super Chief type "drawing room"? Another great sleeping car space!!
 

Bob Dylan

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I always liked riding the Crescent in a SlumberCoach Roomette, both Sourhern and Amtrak versions ,between Washington and Atlanta on my many trips to/from while visiting my dad.

It is still the best Sleeper Deal I've ever found on US LD Trains.
 

AMTRAK709

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Just to be truthful and to soften my perceived overreaction to high bedroom fares for one person, the SCA on the Crescent did serve me two gin and tonics at dinner on both my northbound and southbound trips. This trip occurred just 4 and 6 days when daily service was returned to the Crescent. Because of staff issues, she (the SCA) was covering both sleepers--and that was appreciated.
 

joelkfla

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Actually, I am reminded that Amtrak--or it may have been Southern Railway before it joined Amtrak--required an extra one-quarter rail fare (1/4) for one-person exclusive occupancy of a bedroom. This was probably in the 1970's and during the days of heritage sleepers and long before meals were included. This was way back in the days when the published tariffs had "minimum ticket requirements" for exclusive occupancy of a sleeper space (1 for roomette, 1 1/4 for bedroom, maybe 2 for a drawing room or bedroom suite, etc., etc.--you get the idea)
This is from the 1965 Burlington timetable:
1629917144177.png

1629917260892.png
Their accommodations fare was higher for 2 passengers than for 1, but only the Drawing Room & Bedroom Suites required additional rail fares. D&RG was the same.

Southern RR (below) does not show a difference for 1 to 2 passengers, but does require 2 rail fares for a Bedroom Suite. (Looks like they didn't offer Drawing Rooms.)
1629918141088.png

1629918030922.png

Timetable images copied from streamlinermemories.info
 
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AMTRAK709

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Thanks joelkfla for that info. It is true I cannot remember traveling in a drawing room on the Southern, only the Santa Fe Super Chief--but is still was a fabulous
sleeping car space. I know it is 50+ years later, but can you imagine those fares compared to today??
 

zephyr17

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Thanks joelkfla for that info. It is true I cannot remember traveling in a drawing room on the Southern, only the Santa Fe Super Chief--but is still was a fabulous
sleeping car space. I know it is 50+ years later, but can you imagine those fares compared to today??
Well, VIA still has Drawing Rooms in the Chateau cars and Park cars they didn't convert to Prestige, although they don't ordinarily run non-Prestige Chateaus on the Canadian except as crew dorms. There might be some on during the height of the summer season if they run out of Manors. The Hudson Bay Winnipeg-Churchill train normally had Chateaus.

They sell them as "Cabin for 3".
 

Keith1951

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I don't blame you! And only because the Roomette fare you found was the lowest (bucket) possible and the Bedroom fare (bucket) you paid was as high as possible.

But had you shopped around for different dates you might (maybe) have found some date when the highest Roomette fares were $37 or $121 more than the cheapest Bedroom fare of (presently) $611! Here are the current fares (buckets) between ATN and NYP for one adult (the senior discount amounts to $21):

• Roomette - $417, 499, 582, 669 and [753, estimated]
• Bedroom - $632, 773, 886, 1017 and 1149.

Those outrageous differences between the cheapest and costliest rooms (usually more than 3X) have been in effect for years and years - the exception being the CONO where it's a bit more than 2X.
I shopped around every day for months because our trip isn't until next year. We have to have a bedroom because there would be two of us. We tried a roomette once but it was just too cramped. I finally found a good price on a superliner bedroom on CZ from Chicago to Emeryville that cost $1049, it was less than the price of a roomette which was $1349 on that day. I booked it and we travel in May of 2022. I still go online from time to time to check the prices to see if I can find something lower. I have learned that the prices fluctuate and they can change at any time.
 

Railspike

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Thanks joelkfla for that info. It is true I cannot remember traveling in a drawing room on the Southern, only the Santa Fe Super Chief--but is still was a fabulous
sleeping car space. I know it is 50+ years later, but can you imagine those fares compared to today??
In 1979, my wife's first trip on a train (we're doing what???) was on the SL to LA from Houston. I got a bedroom and when we got on the train to my surprise our accommodation was a drawing room. Spoiled her. Haven't heard the end of it since. We still get a bedroom but I hear about the drawing room every time. Best accommodation ever.
 

AMTRAK709

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I just remembered another fabulous drawing room trip: it was on Via Rail Canadian in the year 2000 Vancouver to Toronto. The "Park Car" I think it is called; a tapered-end dome observation last car on the train. The drawing room had been retrofitted with a private bathroom. I wonder what that space cost now in the year 2021?
 

AMTRAK709

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Subsequent to my post above, I got curious as to what that trip Vancouver to Toronto in that same drawing room for 2 people would cost TODAY 21 years later.
Nearly had a stroke upon seeing the result. I should quit complaining about Amtrak high bedroom fares!!!!
 

joelkfla

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Subsequent to my post above, I got curious as to what that trip Vancouver to Toronto in that same drawing room for 2 people would cost TODAY 21 years later.
Nearly had a stroke upon seeing the result. I should quit complaining about Amtrak high bedroom fares!!!!
Yes, VIA "Prestige" class. Many times the cost of regular Sleeper Plus.
 
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We were thinking about taking the Empire Builder in June of 2022 from Chicago to West Glacier but wow, it's expensive! We already have a trip on the SWC for April and a family bedroom is half the cost of the EB.
As an update my wife and I have decided to fly instead of take the Empire Builder. Flying round trip first class from Cleveland to Glacier National Park will cost about $3.5k as opposed to taking the EB which would be $2k one way, plus we have to get to Chicago, plus we have to get home to Cleveland. In the end it was just too much money/effort. Looking forward to our SWC trip though!
 

amtrakpass

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Correct me if I am wrong but didn't the fares used to be the same published rate regardless of how empty or full the train was? Some of the stress of the current system I believe is how much it can change in a matter of moments with the yield management system.
Also I do believe regardless of average fares and inflation there certainly is more real inequality among income levels than there used to be with many having way more than they need but also many more not having enough.
 

zephyr17

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Correct me if I am wrong but didn't the fares used to be the same published rate regardless of how empty or full the train was? Some of the stress of the current system I believe is how much it can change in a matter of moments with the yield management system.
Also I do believe regardless of average fares and inflation there certainly is more real inequality among income levels than there used to be with many having way more than they need but also many more not having enough.
Yes. When Amtrak first started, they were still under the same ICC regulations as their railroad predecessors and all tariffs had to be filed. At that time the airlines were in same situation and their fares had to filed and approved by the CAB. It was the same cost for the same trip whether you bought the ticket months in advance or walked up that day, or whether travel was the Wednesday before Thanksgiving or in the depths of mid-February. Since then both air and rail fares were deregulated. Airfares were first. I am not sure of the timeframe for Amtrak but the yield management system was in place in the 1990s, IIRC.

Amtrak still is not quite so dizzying in their yield management as the airlines, but they have gotten more sophisticated with it over the years. Up until a few years ago, they did routinely allocate inventory into the lowest bucket when inventory was released 11 months in advance. They no longer do that and the old 11 month "rule" to get cheap fares is now a thing of the past. Amtrak now allocates that initial inventory according to historical trends and anticipated demand for the date with an "optimistic" skew towards higher buckets. They adjust inventory allocation among the yield management buckets as demand develops or doesn't.

They certainly appear to be on the "optimistic" (higher bucket) side right now for much of 2022.

Yield management isn't going anywhere. It is a way of life now. I have no intrinsic argument with yield management as long as it is done well. Amtrak is entitled to get what they can get for inventory that is both limited and perishable. My issues would be if it were done incompetently and inventory were allowed to go out empty because pricing was too high, or BidUp put that inventory out a fire sale rates after staying at high prices for too long. Based on reports here and on Facebook, BidUp is not resulting in really deep discounts thus far.

PS, VIA Rail Canada does not appear to be doing yield management, other than the amount inventory allocated into their "Discount" fare class. They have 3 basic fare seasons, Peak, Shoulder and Off Peak, each with a Discount and Full fare. They do (or did, pre-COVID) what amounted to distressed inventory sales with travel between selected points on selected dates released 4-8 weeks in advance which would be 40-50% off, but you could not plan around them since it didn't become available until relatively shortly before departure and there was no way to tell if your travel dates, destinations, or accommodation type would be offered.
 

PaTrainFan

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This is an excellent explainer of the history behind yield management. Thank you.

Yes. When Amtrak first started, they were still under the same ICC regulations as their railroad predecessors and all tariffs had to be filed. At that time the airlines were in same situation and their fares had to filed and approved by the CAB. It was the same cost for the same trip whether you bought the ticket months in advance or walked up that day, or whether travel was the Wednesday before Thanksgiving or in the depths of mid-February. Since then both air and rail fares were deregulated. Airfares were first. I am not sure of the timeframe for Amtrak but the yield management system was in place in the 1990s, IIRC.

Amtrak still is not quite so dizzying in their yield management as the airlines, but they have gotten more sophisticated with it over the years. Up until a few years ago, they did routinely allocate inventory into the lowest bucket when inventory was released 11 months in advance. They no longer do that and the old 11 month "rule" to get cheap fares is now a thing of the past. Amtrak now allocates that initial inventory according to historical trends and anticipated demand for the date with an "optimistic" skew towards higher buckets. They adjust inventory allocation among the yield management buckets as demand develops or doesn't.

They certainly appear to be on the "optimistic" (higher bucket) side right now for much of 2022.

Yield management isn't going anywhere. It is a way of life now. I have no intrinsic argument with yield management as long as it is done well. Amtrak is entitled to get what they can get for inventory that is both limited and perishable. My issues would be if it were done incompetently and inventory were allowed to go out empty because pricing was too high, or BidUp put that inventory out a fire sale rates after staying at high prices for too long. Based on reports here and on Facebook, BidUp is not resulting in really deep discounts thus far.

PS, VIA Rail Canada does not appear to be doing yield management, other than the amount inventory allocated into their "Discount" fare class. They have 3 basic fare seasons, Peak, Shoulder and Off Peak, each with a Discount and Full fare. They do (or did, pre-COVID) what amounted to distressed inventory sales with travel between selected points on selected dates released 4-8 weeks in advance which would be 40-50% off, but you could not plan around them since it didn't become available until relatively shortly before departure and there was no way to tell if your travel dates, destinations, or accommodation type would be offered.
 

zephyr17

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Subsequent to my post above, I got curious as to what that trip Vancouver to Toronto in that same drawing room for 2 people would cost TODAY 21 years later.
Nearly had a stroke upon seeing the result. I should quit complaining about Amtrak high bedroom fares!!!!
VIA hasn't routinely offered Drawing Rooms ("Cabin for 3") on the Canadian for a few years now. What they do have is Prestige Class which is a different and new thing. They completely tubed out some Chateau cars to convert to the the Prestige rooms (6 per car, IIRC) and also drastically reconfigured some Park cars to offer a Handicapped room and a Prestige room or two. The non-Prestige Chateaus and Park cars, which still have Drawing Rooms ("Cabin for 3") have been withdrawn from routine Canadian service, although some Chateaus may show up in peak periods if they run out of Manors.

Prestige rooms are indeed extraordinarily expensive and not worth it, IMHO. But they are not Drawing Rooms, they are even bigger than Drawing Rooms.

BTW, the VIA Service Manager routinely gets the Drawing Room in the unconverted Chateau they use as a crew dorm (and don't sell space in, although they may use unoccupied space in that car to accommodate a passenger in a room that has to be bad ordered and no other space is available).
 
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amtrakpass

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Thanks for the explanation of the yield mgmt system. Even though it seems to be here to stay for me I think the amount of unpredictable severe swings in pricing are a disservice to the passengers, especially those less fortunate. It used to be less of an issue to me because for many years you could cancel most fares for a full refund or exchange up to the last moment and rebook to a different date or cheaper fare if it came up. Now with the current fees it is much harder to do that without a cost making Amtrak travel much less flexible for someone like me.
 

zephyr17

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Thanks for the explanation of the yield mgmt system. Even though it seems to be here to stay for me I think the amount of unpredictable severe swings in pricing are a disservice to the passengers, especially those less fortunate. It used to be less of an issue to me because for many years you could cancel most fares for a full refund or exchange up to the last moment and rebook to a different date or cheaper fare if it came up. Now with the current fees it is much harder to do that without a cost making Amtrak travel much less flexible for someone like me.
Well, can't disagree it is a something of a disservice to passengers, but if properly done should reflect the market for sleeping accommodations. The real solution is to expand inventory (buy more sleeping cars) so the very limited inventory isn't pushed into the the high buckets so routinely. Pricing should be reflective of supply and demand, and most organizations when they see such an outstripping of supply to meet demand would increase supply. Amtrak needs to get more sleeping cars and get away from their fixation on fixed consists. In my opinion the reasoning for both is a reflection of Amtrak management's total fixation and incentive system based almost solely on containing costs while completely ignoring and not incentivizing increasing revenue.
 
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Willbridge

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Fixed-rate fares and unreserved coach seats are why railways and intercity bus lines kept older equipment around to handle surges in ridership.

There were promotional fares that tried to achieve what yield management does but being fixed in themselves they were risky. My brother rode the Mainstreeter on the half-price Youth Fare in January 1967 and across Montana college kids were sitting on their suitcases. There was no immediate way of halting sales.
 

Larry H.

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Fixed-rate fares and unreserved coach seats are why railways and intercity bus lines kept older equipment around to handle surges in ridership.

There were promotional fares that tried to achieve what yield management does but being fixed in themselves they were risky. My brother rode the Mainstreeter on the half-price Youth Fare in January 1967 and across Montana college kids were sitting on their suitcases. There was no immediate way of halting sales.
I agree, but one thing did sort of ruin that idea of having extra old running stock. My grandparents wanted to go to Colorado Springs for Christmas to see one of their children's family. I planned to ride as far as KC from St. Louis on the Missouri Pacific.. I made the reservations plenty far out to get hopefully a nice sleeper for them since it was one of their first pullman trips. When we boarded the train however they did have wonderful new well maintained pullmans in the consist, but the car we got was a very old version with wall lamps that hung out from the walls and other things you could tell meant it was probably from the 30s or maybe 40s. Our trip was in the early 60s. The car rode rough like it had a flat wheel and was noisy at that. When I got off it was late evening an later they told me it was impossible to sleep in the car it bounced and made so much noise. So extra cars are nice but it was too bad that early booked customers got stuck with the old equipment.
 

AMTRAK709

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Thanks, zephyr17, for the concise update on VIA. I have paid little attention to VIA in the past twenty years. I loved that ride VAN-TOR
in that drawing room in the observation car in 2000. From your description, the prestige class sounds like "luxury" type accommodations like maybe the American Orient Express type train. What obviously struck me was the enormous fare. While I did not check last night, I think the fare for the drawing room in 2000 was about $1800 (2 persons occupying the 3-person drawing room) as opposed to the $10000 ??? prestige fare today. As I posted earlier, perhaps I should give Amtrak a break from my criticism of high bedroom sleeper fares.
 

Railspike

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Here's a novel idea. Until the new sleepers arrive, Amtrak could lease Heritage sleepers from PV owners and place them between the baggage car and the Transition Sleeper car on LD trains. More inventory without the capital expenditure, more space to sell, lower prices(?), and the PV owners get a temporary income stream. Win-Win. Would I book a Heritage sleeper room over a Superliner sleeper room? You bet.
 

neroden

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Thanks joelkfla for that info. It is true I cannot remember traveling in a drawing room on the Southern, only the Santa Fe Super Chief--but is still was a fabulous
sleeping car space. I know it is 50+ years later, but can you imagine those fares compared to today??
You have to adjust for inflation. For anything pre-1970s, that means multiplying the prices by 10. Interestingly, sleepers were cheaper back then but coach tickets were more expensive.
 
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