Amtrak Fare and Availability Discussion Thread

Discussion related to Amtrak also known as the National Railroad Passenger Corp.

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Gilbert B Norman
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Interesting Fare Structure Practice

Post by Gilbert B Norman » Sun Apr 10, 2011 7:12 am

Possibly others have found such to occur when making an on-line booking, but this was my first encounter with such.

For an upcoming Easter weekend trip to Detroit (the Detroit Symphony musicians and management have settled their labor issues and I want to go and support this world class orchestra that fearfully may still be lost), I booked yesterday #350(23) and return on #353(24). While booking 350 Business Class went OK, for 353 was different. In this case, the screen first displayed a lower level "bucket' fare then offered Business Class at what I believe is a very modest premium. Clicking Business Class showed the "hurry hurry only one seat left" that Amtrak has borrowed from our friends aloft and then showed "estimated" by the previously quoted Coach fare plus the B/C seat charge. Now click "add to cart' (is this Amtrak or is it Amazon?) and guess what; a new higher "bucket" rail fare shows up in the "cart". For other trips, I have seen rail fares go down when adding Sleeper accommodations, but never up.

This is "a new one" on me; and it seems as if it comes from the airline's playbook; namely quote the fare then after the passenger commits, slap on the various taxes and surcharges. However in the case of Amtrak, the passenger could still decline the itinerary or the B/C seat.

This practice seems a bit deceptive, but I accepted the total fare, so who am i to complain?

krapplem
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Re: Interesting Fare Structure Practice

Post by krapplem » Sun Apr 10, 2011 8:57 am

Amtrak has been doing this on the Michigan routes for over a year now. They price business class as a bucket class all of it's own. In the past, business class seats were in the same bucket as coach and the only premium you paid was the charge that is shown on the first booking page. Now, as business class seats fill, the price goes up. You can have coach seats going for $18 and at the same time business class seats going for $45 + the $7.50 business class premium.

I agree that the pricing is deceptive. It is basically a "bait and switch" tactic. I called customer relations last year to complain and was hung up on. As far as I know this policy is in effect on Michigan services only.

And what's with the $7.50 premium anyway? That was an increase of 50 cents from the previous premium of $7.00. Why didn't they just increase it to $8.00 and be done with it? I don't know of any other Amtrak pre-discount fair that is not in even dollars.

Gilbert B Norman
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Re: Interesting Fare Structure Practice

Post by Gilbert B Norman » Sun Apr 10, 2011 10:03 am

Most interesting, Mr. Krapple. Since there is no local funding for the Wolverines, this practice appears to originate with Amtrak itself and could easily be applied to other routes. I haven't a problem as demand pricing is supposed to maximize the yield from each seat in inventory; and if Amtrak wishes to build the premium into the rail fare (as did the railroads lest we forget), fine by me as the Senior Citizen discount is applied to the rail fare and not the seat charge. My problem is strictly presentation; having one fare posted while inquiring then a higher one showing up in the "cart'.

While I shall be happy to share the fare paid once the journey is complete and in accordance with Forum rules, for the moment be it assured it is quite competitive with the estimated cost of auto (without throwing in valet parking at Westin Book Cadillac which we can surmise "don't come cheap") travel. Air travel? "let's not go there"!!!!

hi55us
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Re: Interesting Fare Structure Practice

Post by hi55us » Sun Apr 10, 2011 11:29 am

I must say, this is really amazing, going on amtrak.com and entering chicago-detroit the price nearly doubles once you add it to your cart for a trip in 3 weeks.

Seems the same thing is being done on the NEC with Acela First Class and NER Business Class.

Sounds like very bad PR to me.

Cadet57
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Re: Interesting Fare Structure Practice

Post by Cadet57 » Sun Apr 10, 2011 12:41 pm

hi55us wrote:Seems the same thing is being done on the NEC with Acela First Class and NER Business Class.
Unless it has changed in the last 2-3 weeks, this is new for the NEC as I booked 93 from BOS-WAS on 3/25 and only paid the additional X dollars to upgrade to business.

Greg Moore
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Re: Interesting Fare Structure Practice

Post by Greg Moore » Sun Apr 10, 2011 2:01 pm

I have noticed twice now while booking that suddenly when I go to the final screen my price has gone up. In both cases I believe it was around 11:45 PM so I'm not sure if I simply hit some "time rollover" point in the booking system. Very annoying.

In one case didn't notice until afterwards and had to cancel the ticket and book a different train.
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skibum77
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Re: Interesting Fare Structure Practice

Post by skibum77 » Sun Apr 10, 2011 4:28 pm

Long time lurker, first time poster.

I noticed something similar on a St. Louis - Chicago Trip my wife and I took a couple years ago. When booking, the reservations system said add something in the neighborhood of a 50% premium for business class, but when I added the tickets to the cart, it charged a base price that was in the next fare bucket up so the ticket was almost twice as much as coach.

@GBN, off topic, but the one airline that I've taken a liking to recently is Frontier Airlines. I have to make a trip from STL - MKE next month and when booking, the displayed ticket prices included all taxes and fees (I wanted to do Amtrak both ways, but the IL trackwork threw a wrench into those plans). Plus, they had pricing options that included free checked baggage. I was pleasantly surprised.

hi55us
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Re: Interesting Fare Structure Practice

Post by hi55us » Sun Apr 10, 2011 5:30 pm

dare I say this was a part of the website "upgrade". Mind you I believe the new website came from ARRA dollars.

David Benton
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Re: Interesting Fare Structure Practice

Post by David Benton » Mon Apr 11, 2011 4:08 am

i guess its possible with the limited number of business class seats , the buckets are changing that rapidly . presuming they count the business seats as seperate from the coach seats . Same as the bedroom / roomette ratio changes depending on whats booked , and the acela / regional difference . small numbers = small buckets = rapid change .
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JimBoylan
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Re: Interesting Fare Structure Practice

Post by JimBoylan » Mon Apr 11, 2011 3:10 pm

I don't know if this was the case on the Chicago - Detroit trip, but in the NorthEast Corridor, some discount coach fares are not good for the rail fare portion of a Business Class price. One example is the 25% off 2 week advance purchase Coach fare. It is not treated like a lower bucket, but as a special fare. If you book coach 2 weeks in advance, and there are still some 25% off seats available on that train, and you otherwise qualify, you will be quoted the discount price. When you upgrade to Business Class, the railfare (Coach) portion of your price will automatically be increased to the lowest available bucket fare, and the Business Class surcharge will be added. Of course, the original Discount fare may not have many other allowable discounts, while the bucket fare isn't discounted, and therefore, subject to affinity, senior, and other discounts. Sometimes, discount Acela fares work this way.
The same think can happen on Long Distance trains. When you upgrade to a Sleeper, the railfare (Coach) already quoted is changed to the lowest bucket if you didn't already get it. But, if you had started with a special Discounted fare that can't be upgraded or used in Sleeping Cars, the railfare (Coach) already quoted is INCREASED to the lowest bucket Coach fare.

Example about Weekly Specials, excerpted from
http://www.amtrak.com/servlet/ContentSe ... Tracking=1
Valid for Coach seats only, no upgrades are allowed.

krapplem
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Re: Interesting Fare Structure Practice

Post by krapplem » Mon Apr 11, 2011 4:16 pm

[quote="skibum77"]Long time lurker, first time poster.

I noticed something similar on a St. Louis - Chicago Trip my wife and I took a couple years ago. When booking, the reservations system said add something in the neighborhood of a 50% premium for business class, but when I added the tickets to the cart, it charged a base price that was in the next fare bucket up so the ticket was almost twice as much as coach.
<snip>

I can confirm that STL-CHI trains are doing the same as Michigan trains now. A trip from CHI to STL in the afternoon this week was advertised as $24 coach + $16 for biz class. Upon selecting biz class on the first page, the price increased to $40 ($24 + $16) and a warning about "only 4 seats left) showed up. However once added to my cart, the price suddenly increased to $82 indicating a $56 premium over coach.

Can Amtrak actually sell seats at those prices? I suppose so if the travelers are business people on an expense account. For myself, I'll drive.

hi55us
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Re: Interesting Fare Structure Practice

Post by hi55us » Mon Apr 11, 2011 11:25 pm

krapplem wrote:
skibum77 wrote:Long time lurker, first time poster.

I noticed something similar on a St. Louis - Chicago Trip my wife and I took a couple years ago. When booking, the reservations system said add something in the neighborhood of a 50% premium for business class, but when I added the tickets to the cart, it charged a base price that was in the next fare bucket up so the ticket was almost twice as much as coach.
<snip>

I can confirm that STL-CHI trains are doing the same as Michigan trains now. A trip from CHI to STL in the afternoon this week was advertised as $24 coach + $16 for biz class. Upon selecting biz class on the first page, the price increased to $40 ($24 + $16) and a warning about "only 4 seats left) showed up. However once added to my cart, the price suddenly increased to $82 indicating a $56 premium over coach.

Can Amtrak actually sell seats at those prices? I suppose so if the travelers are business people on an expense account. For myself, I'll drive.
might I suggest a way around this is paying on board for a business class upgrade. It is rare that business class will be sold out when I ride on the NEC.

Cadet57
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Re: Interesting Fare Structure Practice

Post by Cadet57 » Tue Apr 12, 2011 7:59 am

skibum77 wrote:Long time lurker, first time poster.

I noticed something similar on a St. Louis - Chicago Trip my wife and I took a couple years ago. When booking, the reservations system said add something in the neighborhood of a 50% premium for business class, but when I added the tickets to the cart, it charged a base price that was in the next fare bucket up so the ticket was almost twice as much as coach.

@GBN, off topic, but the one airline that I've taken a liking to recently is Frontier Airlines. I have to make a trip from STL - MKE next month and when booking, the displayed ticket prices included all taxes and fees (I wanted to do Amtrak both ways, but the IL trackwork threw a wrench into those plans). Plus, they had pricing options that included free checked baggage. I was pleasantly surprised.
I do wonder if this isn't some type of error on the Amtrak website. Based on how its described here, its almost a "bait and switch". Perhaps some friendly correspondence to Amtrak is in order.

Gilbert B Norman
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Re: Interesting Fare Structure Practice

Post by Gilbert B Norman » Tue Apr 12, 2011 9:09 am

I can't think of a better term than "bait and switch" to describe my reaction when confronted with the situation set forth at my originating posting, Mr. Cadet.

True, a prospective passenger can 'click out' once the total higher fare is displayed in the 'cart', but when Amtrak has always in the past presented fares in the manner of "here's the fare in Coach; now if you want Business Class add this seat charge' and has now adopted this new pricing model that evidently is not limited to the Wolverines, it was a bit astonishing. But let it be noted as a taxpayer, and one who does not ascribe to any "social obligations' on the part of Amtrak - especially regarding premium services, I'm 'all for it" to have Amtrak maximize the yield from every seat in the inventory.

For those such as myself who are going to travel 281 miles in nothing less than Business Class (if Day Roomettes were offered, that's where I'd be), that is one thing, for the decision to pay what you must has already been made. However for those, and I think that comprises quite a number here, for whom Business Class is a discretionary choice to be made on whether or not "the price is right', this new practice would appear to be quite unnerving.

Cadet57
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Re: Interesting Fare Structure Practice

Post by Cadet57 » Tue Apr 12, 2011 9:50 am

I do have to say thou, I've yet to encounter this issue. That said, all my travel is on the NEC. The only quirk that is similar is when booking more than two weeks out the AAA fare is always higher than the "regular" fare.

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