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Reclassification of Older Passenger Ships in Transatlantic Trade Coming (1922)

Reduced Fares to Be Put In Force on Boats, Which Have Seen Long Service and Are Feeling the Competition of Modern Deluxe Liners

In a few days transatlantic passenger companies are expected to announce their acceptance or rejection of the revised classification of passenger ships. A survey of lines concerned made by The Nautical Gazette has revealed the fact that the consensus of opinion favors the acceptance of the new classification which will mean that on several of the older liners there will be a considerable reduction in fares this winter.

Newer Ships Popular

The advent of so many new, fast and palatial liners in the transatlantic service during the past two years has had the effect of placing a severe handicap on the older liners. The travelling public is demanding fine accommodations on speedy vessels and the tendency has been to cater to this demand. There has been no difficulty in securing full passenger lists for these ships, but the slower and less commodious vessels have been neglected. The difference in fares on the two types of liners has been so small that the public has preferred to pay the slightly higher rate and travel on the magnificent ocean greyhounds.

It is only natural that a passenger would prefer to travel on a modern comfortable vessel rather than on an older and smaller ship when the difference in fares was only a few dollars. In view of these circumstances passenger steamship companies found it necessary to devise some means of making their older vessels more attractive to the public. Since the construction of the vessels could not be changed the only other alternative was to alter the fares, and to create a greater differential in the minimum rate on the various classes of liners.

The matter was brought before a special committee of the Atlantic Passenger Conference in England last June and a report on the reclassification of liners was prepared. This report has been submitted to the passenger companies concerned, whose decision is expected at the end of this month.

The suggestions for reclassification affect only the older vessels. The first-class liners, such as the Majestic, Homeric, Mauretania, Berengaria, Paris, and others of a similar type, will not be affected and their minimum fares will remain unchanged.

Older and slower vessels will be permitted to charge a lower minimum rate than at present inasmuch as their classification will be considerably lower.

Reduction Acceptable

Discussing the matter with a representative of The Nautical Gazette the general passenger agent of one of the largest transatlantic passenger companies said that he thought the proposals would be agreeable to all the companies. “It does not mean that transatlantic passenger rates are due for a big reduction,” he said, “but merely that the handicap now borne by the slower and smaller liners will be overcome by permitting them to quote a lower minimum rate. At the present time it is a difficult matter to divert passengers to these ships, but there is no doubt that the new schedules will be popular among a certain class of people who are anxious to travel abroad but cannot afford to pay the fares charged on the larger liners.

“It is not likely that the new rates will divert passengers from the larger vessels to the smaller ones but will have the effect of inducing a larger number of people to travel.' The new rates will apply only to the winter schedules, but inasmuch as the summer schedules are calculated on a basis of ten per cent, higher than the winter rates the summer fares will also be affected but in a less degree.

“Neither will the new rates apply to the one cabin ships as the demand for accommodations on this type of vessel is not a very variable quantity.

One notable tendency in the passenger traffic of recent years and one which will create a problem which steamship companies will sooner or later have to face, is the gradual eradication of the line of demarcation between the second and third classes. Within the last two years third-class accommodations have been very much improved  until today they are separated from those of the second class by only a fine shading. Consequently there is but a slight differential between second-class and third-class fares, whereas before the war the one was more than double the other. The effect of this has been to induce travelers, especially those coming from Europe, to engage second-class instead of third-class accommodations.

Advantages of Second Class

“For a very small additional fare a person can travel in comfort in the second class, have the advantage of the better service, and on arrival in this country is not compelled to land at Ellis Island but is brought around to the pier. Hence travelers have shown a marked preference for the second class at the slightly higher rate over the third class, with the result that there has been a decided increase in second-class passengers this year over last year but a falling off in the third-class passengers. Of course the immigration laws have had some influence on the decreased third-class travel, but the small differential in fares has also been a big factor.

“In view of this condition the passenger companies have sought to make their third-class accommodations more attractive, but it will not altogether offset the increasing tendency to travel in the second class. Therefore it can safely be predicted that the day is coming when only the very large vessels will carry third-class passengers and the intermediate ships will be confined to carrying first and second-class accommodations. The demand for third-class accommodations is decreasing and the public cannot be induced to travel in that style while the differential between the second and third class is so small.”

The Nautical Gazette, "Reclassification of Older Passenger Ships in Transatlantic Trade Coming," Volume 103, No. 9, Whole No. 2662, New York, Saturday, August 26, 1922, P. 260

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