On Board Upgrades - No Longer Low Bucket

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fredevad

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Apr 12, 2010
Messages
451
Hi All,

Sorry if this has already been discussed - I know I've been scarce lately, so I searched but didn't see anything...

I was just talking with a conductor on today's Zephyr 6, a nice fellow on the Salt Lake City crew, and was told that on board upgrades are no longer low bucket. They are the current bucket price no matter if upgrading to a roomette or bedroom.

The good news is that for both legs of my current trip, the low bucket price was available on line and at the station the day of departure. Don't know if that was just off-season luck or an alternative to on board upgrades.

Thought you'd all like to know... I almost waited to upgrade on board and would have not been able to upgrade due to the price.
 

AlanB

Conductor
Honored Member
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Aug 22, 2002
Messages
28,406
Yup, that was announced and discussed a while ago. There is now no advantage to be had by waiting to upgrade to a sleeper onboard the train.
 

fredevad

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Apr 12, 2010
Messages
451
Yup, that was announced and discussed a while ago. There is now no advantage to be had by waiting to upgrade to a sleeper onboard the train.
Well, that's the price I pay for not keeping up on the board! I'll look a bit harder for the original discussion. Thanks!
 

Swadian Hardcore

Conductor
Joined
Feb 7, 2012
Messages
7,358
Yup, that was announced and discussed a while ago. There is now no advantage to be had by waiting to upgrade to a sleeper onboard the train.
Well, that's the price I pay for not keeping up on the board! I'll look a bit harder for the original discussion. Thanks!
I thought there was an Official Onboard Upgrade Thread or something like that. I don't know the link, though.
 

dlagrua

Conductor
Joined
Nov 24, 2009
Messages
3,126
Amtrak is doing everything possible to increase prices and is relying on the supply and demand formula. The only problem with using current fares for onboard upgrades is that if they happen to be at high bucket, how many will buy them? Passengers who travel in coach are usually there for transportation at an affordable price. There is only a small select audience that can afford high bucket sleeper fares and coach passengers are typically not in that group. High bucket for a roomette on the Cardinal (IIRC) is $660 per night. Six hundred sixty dollars is an exhorbitant sleeper add on price for a sleeping cubicle and a couple of convection oven meals. I do not believe that many coach passengers will purchase sleeper upgrades. If I am correct we may see the old system return, and if not, more power to em!
 

ScottRu

Service Attendant
Joined
Oct 19, 2012
Messages
246
Thanks for posting that OBS Chief. Even though evidently it has been well documented here, some of us (me! :) ) had not noticed it.

I'm an early reserve type anyway, but this is useful information.
 

AlanB

Conductor
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Aug 22, 2002
Messages
28,406
Six hundred sixty dollars is an exhorbitant sleeper add on price for a sleeping cubicle and a couple of convection oven meals. I do not believe that many coach passengers will purchase sleeper upgrades. If I am correct we may see the old system return, and if not, more power to em!
I think it unlikely that we'll ever see a return to the old system, as that is exactly what Amtrak wants; people not waiting to buy the upgrade on board the train. This is why they've changed the policy so as to discourage people from waiting to upgrade until after they board the train. They want to sell the rooms before departure; not after.
 

roadman3313

OBS Chief
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Oct 21, 2012
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706
Makes sense to me. Would I like to get a cheap upgrade on board... Of course! But Amtrak is a business. Just as a hotel will generally not go cheap on an upgrade as well. This practice is taught to management and was on a Marriott special on MSNBC. If you negotiate prices or give lower rates you are training people to wait to get the best deal. In the long run you will lose money by filling those rooms at a lower rate than leaving them empty but selling more in advance as rates go up.

As they say in the Hearings... Amtrak is a private business and needs to start running like one. Do I agree with that? Not necessarily but Amtrak does need to balance the passenger with smart business decisions. IMO I will miss the upgrades but I feel Amtrak is doing what it needs to do as a business and make the tougher decisions.
 

AlanB

Conductor
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Aug 22, 2002
Messages
28,406
Makes sense to me. Would I like to get a cheap upgrade on board... Of course! But Amtrak is a business. Just as a hotel will generally not go cheap on an upgrade as well. This practice is taught to management and was on a Marriott special on MSNBC. If you negotiate prices or give lower rates you are training people to wait to get the best deal. In the long run you will lose money by filling those rooms at a lower rate than leaving them empty but selling more in advance as rates go up.
That's a part of the reason. But I also understand that the eTicketing system actually complicated matters and made it harder for the conductors to process the upgrade. So this policy change was done at least in part to discourage onboard upgrades. In fact, if you enquire onboard now, most conductors will probably simply tell you to call Amtrak and speak with an agent. Once the transaction is completed, the conductors iPhone will show the upgrade assuming you're not in a tunnel at the time, and they'll move you to the sleeper.

This also means less work for the already busy conductors, less paperwork, and less chance of theft too.

Finally, since so many trains are selling out the sleepers anyhow, there is no real reason to keep any procedures for selling upgrades onboard. It's just easier to funnel everything through the normal sales system.
 

VentureForth

Conductor
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Jan 23, 2007
Messages
5,851
So the conductors get what they want: an excuse to reduce the chances of processing onboard upgrades and Amtrak gets what they want: Less fiddling with discounts.

It would be interesting to see next November if sleeper revenue has gone up or down.
 

roadman3313

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Side note: on the CC this morning a passenger got on at OAC. He didn't have a ticket as he said he didn't see a machine. He was used to riding Caltrain and was unfamiliar with what to do. First thing the conductor said was you need to buy a ticket from me. But then she thought and asked if he had a smart phone. He said he did. She told him she was going to teach him something. So she walked him through how to purchase a ticket. She just told him to purchase a ticket for the next train as this one already left so it won't allow that. She left to scan the other tickets and came back. She asked If he got it and he said he did but how does he show it? She showed him the QR code and how to enlarge it then she scanned it and said thank you (his name). He was amazed about the technology.

The other conductor came by and asked if he was able to get one as he didn't see the name in the phone. He said the other lady scanner it. Conductor commented how it must not have updated and left (all the seat checks were removed by this point and the ticket was purchased for the next train as mentioned before so it wouldn't have shown up on the scanner manifest anyway).

I just thought this was interesting. I at first thought the female conductor just didn't want to look up the fare and punch the ticket but then she took the time to help him step by step to purchase his own ticket on his smart phone. Interesting approach but she was very friendly about it.

Guess the male passenger was more used to Caltrain where the conductors cite you for fare evasion (as Caltrain is a POP system) so he was scared when he was explaining about the lack of machine. But she really helped him out.

I know that may be a bit OT but just saw that this morning and was a bit amazed.
 

A.J.

Service Attendant
Joined
Jul 22, 2010
Messages
195
I was on the CZ a few weeks ago and had a friendly chat with a conductor about upgrading from roomette to bedroom. He seemed diplomatically unimpressed by the current situation. There were two sleepers on the train and most of the bedrooms were empty all the way from EMY to CHI. I can understand the logic behind discouraging people from relying on the low bucket fare once they are onboard, but I think there should be some wiggle room. Better to get people to pay the low bucket than not upgrade at all.
 

roadman3313

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I would have thought the same too. The show was on hotels and how people try to upgrade or get rooms for lower. I mean they way they explained it made me think twice as sometimes hotel rooms are $400+ a night but left empty instead of filling them last minute at $199 or so. There is even a term for the practice which I am blanking on at the moment.

What may be worth while is expanding the Hot Deals and weekly specials Amtrak has on last minute bookings to include rooms. This would help manage inventory by still selling ahead of time but trying to fill the rooms with some inventory as well to gain seen revenue. This way the price could still be managed ahead of time as well as the inventory.
 

Amtrak George

Lead Service Attendant
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May 10, 2011
Messages
270
I can't recall the exact facts, but I think there were people that were REGULARLY waiting to upgrade onboard and then getting incensed and causing difficulties when it couldn't be done. I for one have upgraded in the past a couple of times, such as when coach was crowded and loud and our family wanted some quiet travel time, and wish we still could take advantage of this, but it may be that a few bad apples ruined it for the rest of us.
 

Michigan Mom

OBS Chief
Joined
Jan 28, 2012
Messages
625
Yeah.. it is disappointing, that it won't be possible to score deals onboard. On the other hand I can't blame Amtrak for looking to manage revenue. This will tend to encourage people to book ahead. I also have to applaud them for doing something that will actually make it easier for their employees to provide service. Unplanned onboard upgrades could be problematic in an industry where so much depends on preplanning.
 

fredevad

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Apr 12, 2010
Messages
451
Thanks for posting that OBS Chief. Even though evidently it has been well documented here, some of us (me! :) ) had not noticed it.
I'm an early reserve type anyway, but this is useful information.
I usually book early too, but this was a last minute trip with a purpose, not a pleasure trip. The conductor told me that it was because the eTicket system wouldn't let them do the low bucket. But then in the next sentence commented how empty the CZ sleepers were the last week or so.

I can also say that the roomette rates both directions were $300 - $400 when I booked a week earlier, but was able up upgrade the day of each departure for $235 each way.

Anyway, we had a nice trip. Welcome back to icy Wisconsin.
 

Swadian Hardcore

Conductor
Joined
Feb 7, 2012
Messages
7,358
Thanks for posting that OBS Chief. Even though evidently it has been well documented here, some of us (me! :) ) had not noticed it.

I'm an early reserve type anyway, but this is useful information.
I usually book early too, but this was a last minute trip with a purpose, not a pleasure trip. The conductor told me that it was because the eTicket system wouldn't let them do the low bucket. But then in the next sentence commented how empty the CZ sleepers were the last week or so.

I can also say that the roomette rates both directions were $300 - $400 when I booked a week earlier, but was able up upgrade the day of each departure for $235 each way.

Anyway, we had a nice trip. Welcome back to icy Wisconsin.
Which trip did you just take?
 

dlagrua

Conductor
Joined
Nov 24, 2009
Messages
3,126
Makes sense to me. Would I like to get a cheap upgrade on board... Of course! But Amtrak is a business. Just as a hotel will generally not go cheap on an upgrade as well. This practice is taught to management and was on a Marriott special on MSNBC. If you negotiate prices or give lower rates you are training people to wait to get the best deal. In the long run you will lose money by filling those rooms at a lower rate than leaving them empty but selling more in advance as rates go up.
That's a part of the reason. But I also understand that the eTicketing system actually complicated matters and made it harder for the conductors to process the upgrade. So this policy change was done at least in part to discourage on-board upgrades. In fact, if you enquire on-board now, most conductors will probably simply tell you to call Amtrak and speak with an agent. Once the transaction is completed, the conductors iPhone will show the upgrade assuming you're not in a tunnel at the time, and they'll move you to the sleeper.

This also means less work for the already busy conductors, less paperwork, and less chance of theft too.

Finally, since so many trains are selling out the sleepers anyhow, there is no real reason to keep any procedures for selling upgrades on-board. It's just easier to funnel everything through the normal sales system.
Sleeper sellouts are common and I agree that if this is normally the case; there is no point for on-board upgrades. However, when there are a few rooms available they will most likely be at high bucket. Will the cost conscious coach passengers buy them? Who knows.
 

Swadian Hardcore

Conductor
Joined
Feb 7, 2012
Messages
7,358
Makes sense to me. Would I like to get a cheap upgrade on board... Of course! But Amtrak is a business. Just as a hotel will generally not go cheap on an upgrade as well. This practice is taught to management and was on a Marriott special on MSNBC. If you negotiate prices or give lower rates you are training people to wait to get the best deal. In the long run you will lose money by filling those rooms at a lower rate than leaving them empty but selling more in advance as rates go up.
That's a part of the reason. But I also understand that the eTicketing system actually complicated matters and made it harder for the conductors to process the upgrade. So this policy change was done at least in part to discourage on-board upgrades. In fact, if you enquire on-board now, most conductors will probably simply tell you to call Amtrak and speak with an agent. Once the transaction is completed, the conductors iPhone will show the upgrade assuming you're not in a tunnel at the time, and they'll move you to the sleeper.

This also means less work for the already busy conductors, less paperwork, and less chance of theft too.

Finally, since so many trains are selling out the sleepers anyhow, there is no real reason to keep any procedures for selling upgrades on-board. It's just easier to funnel everything through the normal sales system.
Sleeper sellouts are common and I agree that if this is normally the case; there is no point for on-board upgrades. However, when there are a few rooms available they will most likely be at high bucket. Will the cost conscious coach passengers buy them? Who knows.
They might spring for it anyway. Amtrak is trying to make as much money as possible.
 
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