Coping With Amtrak’s Fare Structure.
Let’s talk a bit more about the experiment Amtrak is conducting with the two Florida trains, the Silver Star and the Silver Meteor. Both trains run daily between Miami and New York and they follow similar routes. The big difference is that the Silver Meteor has a full-service dining car and all meals are included in fares paid by sleeping car passengers. By contrast, people who opt to travel in a sleeping car on the Silver Star pay a significantly lower fare, but have to purchase their meals from the café car.
The stated purpose of this “experiment” is to see if there’s a market for passengers who want the comfort and privacy of sleeping car accommodations, but at substantially lower fares because dining car meals are not included.
Well, if you were to search for fares for one-way travel from New York to Miami in the third week of April the fares shown above would make sense, with the cost of a bedroom on the Meteor being substantially more than for identical accommodations on the Silver Star. A roomette on the Meteor for that same day is $119 more than a roomette on the Star.
But take a look at this … it’s the same comparison—the Meteor vs. the Silver Star—for a roomette in the middle of September. On this particular day, the cost of a roomette on the Silver Star is $615 and you’ll have to buy your meals, but for $82 LESS, you can take the Meteor and your meals are included. The fare for the big bedroom on the Meteor for that same date is $141 cheaper than the Silver Star, and both you and your spouse get all your meals included. Go figure!
I was sent a total of 16 comparative images taken directly from the Amtrak web site and these apparent discrepancies are by no means unusual. For example, on May 4, the roomettes on both trains are identically priced at $533. (What happened to the cost saving for riding the Silver Star?) On June 23, identical fares are shown for both roomettes and bedrooms on both trains. (Same question.) On the 12th of May, and again on the 8th of November, a bedroom on the Silver Star is $1014, but only $873 on the Meteor. (Save serious money and get your meals, too? How does that compute with numbers collected for the experiment?)
Here’s the thing: If all this makes very little sense and is confusing for people who are veterans at Amtrak travel, imagine what it must be like for a newbie trying to sort all this out. It’s enough to send him directly to the American Airlines web site.
And by the way, Amtrak has announced that this Meteor/Star experiment has been extended through the end of April. However, the Amtrak web site is still indicating that there will be “No Dining Car” on the Silver Star well into the Fall. Cause for concern? You’re damn right it is!