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Is it legal to have a higher train fare for travel to/from airport when adjacent stops are way cheaper?

I frequently travel to an airport that is connected to its serving city by rail service. A one way train fare to/from the airport to/from the city is 5 Euros. It's roughly a 15 minutes train ride. However, travelling on the same identical train that stops at the airport and boarding/alighting from any of the adjacent stops costs 1.10-1.20 Euros.

E.g.

  • 1 station before the airport's station to the city: 1.20 Euros
  • Airport's station to the city: 5 Euros
  • 1 station after the airport's station to the city: 1.10 Euros

I find the 5 Euros fare quite good compared to some prices that can be found elsewhere. However, I don't find this to be ethical and was wondering if there might be any justification for the 450% higher rate (e.g. arguing that the airport's station infrastructure is what adds to train fare). If this is indeed Price Discrimination, is it legal?

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    Please name the city. – Sebastian Oct 28 '20 at 14:15
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    I would suggest that the answer to the question is, yes, it is legal. You might not like it, but so be it. – Jon Custer Oct 28 '20 at 15:08
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    It is very common in many cities around the world, that public transport to/from airports is made 'aritficially' more expensive than comparable trips in the surrounding area. – Tor-Einar Jarnbjo Oct 28 '20 at 18:30
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    If I buy a beer inside the football stadium it is $14, but only $8 if I buy it at the biergarten across the street. – choster Oct 28 '20 at 19:00
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    How is it enforrced that people don't get off the bus at the expensive stop, who paid for another station? Using gates? – Bernhard Döbler Oct 28 '20 at 22:16
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is it legal?

Almost certainly yes.

To be more certain you'd have to specify the jurisdiction, but it is often up to the commercial operator to determine their pricing strategy and that is often based in part on supply and demand. I can imagine there might also be government subsidies for travel to or from some stations - for example to keep open a small little-used station for social reasons e.g. to help retired or poorer workers or to encourage commuting by train instead of by car.

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This sort of arrangement is quite common worldwide. Sometimes the logic is that public transit, both its construction and operating costs, is subsidized by the government, and there's generally more willingness to subsidize transit for local residents than travelers. Airport service requires infrastructure that's dedicated to the airport, and governments often believe that should be paid for specifically by travelers rather than the general public.

And economically, air travelers generally have a much higher willingness to pay than most transit travelers. Someone who has already bought plane tickets is probably willing to pay a few Euro more to get to/from the airport—it's a small portion of the overall cost of their trip—while the wide array of people taking public transit to work, school, recreation, etc... are more limited in their willingness and ability to pay. The rail system may desire to charge more to make as much as possible from these customers.

In some areas, the transit authority provides a special discount program (or alternate means of transportation with lower fares, such as bus service) for employees who work at the airport, so that they can charge higher fares to travelers willing to pay them while still serving commuters who travel to the airport daily.

To back up a second, "price discrimination" is not generally, in and of itself, illegal. Businesses discriminate by price all the time. Happy hour specials and lower matinee prices are examples of price discrimination. Businesses in wealthier areas may charge more. Transit systems sell the same service at higher prices for those buying single fares than those buying monthly passes and offer discounts to young people and seniors. Airlines sell seats at wildly different prices, sometimes charging less for passengers who stay over a Saturday night (likely more price-sensitive leisure travelers) and more for short-notice bookings (likely high willingness to pay business travelers) while unloading discounted inventory on opaque booking sites (likely price-sensitive leisure customers). Specific laws may govern the practice, such as those against racial or gender discrimination or public service requirements for things like public transit. But many businesses recognize that customers have different willingness to pay and try to price accordingly.

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  • Public transport to the airport is in Europe actually often a substantial part of the total travel cost. Getting to and from the airports, between which I most often fly, is up to €60 for a return trip. €11.50 for a oneway ticket at one airport and €10 to €18 depending on the means of travel at the other airport. It is not uncommon that I get plane tickets for about €100 or occasionally even less. – Tor-Einar Jarnbjo Oct 29 '20 at 21:53

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