Is Swiss rail hiding cheap first class fares?
Switzerland’s Supersaver fares were designed to encourage public transport usage while helping commuters save money. So why is the SBB making them difficult to find?
Switzerland’s Federal Railways (SBB) expanded Supersaver fares in 2018 to boost stagnating passenger numbers.
Supersaver fares are up to 70 percent cheaper than regular fares and are popular among residents and tourists alike.
However, according to reporting from Swiss news outlet Watson, the SBB has been hiding cheap first class fares from travellers in its online platforms.
Instead, the cheapest second class fares have been shown, which are often more expensive than those in first class, particularly when the second class supersavers are sold out.
Watson looked at several journeys between major Swiss cities, showing that the cheapest fares were often not shown when they were in first class.
This has led to complaints from travellers, who argue that most who use the SBB app or online booking platform believe they will be shown the cheapest fares available.
Swiss consumer protection advocate Sara Stalder told Watson the “concealment tactic of the SBB is incomprehensible”.
“If you travel by train in Europe, you will notice that other providers clearly and transparently identify such campaigns as a booking option, even if a first class ticket is cheaper than a 2nd class ticket.
"Why the SBB maintains this lack of transparency is a mystery to me.”
The SBB for their part said the issue is caused by a bug which shows the cheapest second class fare rather than the cheapest fare overall.
A spokesperson told Watson that a fix was being developed, but that the SBB “cannot say when an adjustment will take place”.
How can I be sure to get the cheapest fare when travelling in Switzerland?
When booking a train through the SBB platform (online or app), make sure to also check the first class offerings.
By doing so, you will be able to see first class Supersaver fares and work out if they are cheaper.
Generally speaking, second class Supersaver fares will be cheaper in most cases, but first class Supersavers will be cheaper overall when the second class Supersavers are sold out.
For those wanting to save on first class travel, the SBB has announced a range of new first class upgrades at a fraction of the normal cost. Some first class upgrades are actually cheaper than a point-to-point ticket.
What are Supersaver fares?
These fares are only available online – whether via your browser or the SBB app – and not at the SBB machines on the platforms and at stations.
Booking a Supersaver fare requires a bit of foresight, as they are not available for spontaneous trips.
They can however be booked for travel a few days in advance (they go on sale 60 days before the date of travel).
The earlier you book a Supersaver fare the better, although be aware that it must be used for that particular train on that particular day, i.e. you cannot take a later or earlier train unlike with normal Swiss rail tickets.
Almost nine million Supersaver fares were sold in 2019, the last year before the pandemic.