January 21, 2004 -- Don't get me wrong -- I love Amtrak. But there's something wrong with the railroad's prices in the Northeast Corridor, where low-fare airlines like AirTran (www.airtran.com) periodically whup Amtrak on both price and speed.
This week's drubbing of our beleaguered national railroad comes from Southwest (www.southwest.com) with their fares to and from Baltimore. Southwest's low fares must be purchased by tomorrow (Thursday), and they're good for flights between Feb. 3 and Feb. 29. Southwest is selling $68 roundtrips ($34 one way, and $90-96 roundtrip including tax) on their Web site between Baltimore-Washington Airport and the following airports:
- Long Island/Islip
- Norfolk/Southern Virginia
BWI is connected to downtown Baltimore via a direct, $1.60 light rail link and to downtown Washington, DC via a $5.35 public bus/train combination.
This sale is notable because several of those routes are at the heart of Amtrak's business. So let's see how the railroad competes with Southwest's $90-96 roundtrip sale fares:
- BWI-Raleigh roundtrip on Amtrak: $80
- BWI-Hartford: $146
- BWI-Islip (combination Amtrak/LIRR): $156
- BWI-Providence: $160
- BWI-Albany: $180
Our point is made. Sure, there are still reasons to take the train. You can gab on your cell phone the whole way, the legroom is vast, and you get dropped in a city center rather than at some outlying airport. But paying double the price just to get dropped in downtown Albany doesn't make all that much sense to us.
That's Not All!
Southwest's sale to/from Baltimore is part of a larger, nationwide sale where they've dropped roundtrip fares to $68 ($90-96 including tax) on the following routes:
- Chicago Midway to/from Nashville, Cleveland, Columbus, Detroit, Indianapolis, Kansas City, Omaha, Louisville, or St. Louis
- St. Louis to/from Cleveland, Columbus, Detroit, Little Rock, Kansas City, Chicago Midway, Oklahoma City, Omaha, Louisville, or Tulsa.
- Kansas City to/from Indianapolis, Chicago Midway, Oklahoma City, St. Louis, or Tulsa.
- Dallas to/from Houston or Amarillo
- Houston to/from Austin
Other fares across Southwest's system have also been brought down, though not quite this low. Expect the usual cap of $99-139 for a cross-country one-way, and $39 for one-ways on many routes within California and Texas.
If any of these super-low fares appeal to you, buy by Thursday for travel between Feb. 3-29 at www.southwest.com.