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2018 Discount Fares and Refund/Cancellation Fee Changes


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#41 jebr

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Posted 29 December 2017 - 12:10 PM

The penalty would be the same as an eVoucher.

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#42 Mystic River Dragon

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Posted 29 December 2017 - 12:14 PM

Oh drat. Thanks, jebr.



#43 PaulM

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Posted 29 December 2017 - 03:18 PM

I wonder how much this fare flexibility has cost Amtrak over the years. I remember not that long ago people booking multiple trips and cancelling the alternates because of the so called flexibility.

 

I wonder how much new business it has attracted and how much existing business was not lost because of the flexibility.

 

This issue is not quite the same as what I call the easy cost accounting syndrome; i.e.  include the easy to count costs, but exclude the difficult to count ones and the ones that will be incurred in the future.  But it's close.



#44 PaulM

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Posted 29 December 2017 - 03:21 PM

It wouldn't surprise me to find out that the sleeper cancelation policy is driven by the practice of travel agencies booking every available room on the train for resale, and then canceling the unsold ones at the last minute for a voucher which they can use to do the same thing next season.

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I'm sure Amtrak could handle the travel agencys without stiffing its regular customers.

 

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#45 Cho Cho Charlie

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Posted 29 December 2017 - 03:33 PM

It wouldn't surprise me to find out that the sleeper cancelation policy is driven by the practice of travel agencies booking every available room on the train for resale, and then canceling the unsold ones at the last minute for a voucher which they can use to do the same thing next season.

 
I'm sure Amtrak could handle the travel agencys without stiffing its regular customers.


I have to agree with @ehbowen.

I am sure if there was another way to deal with these travel agencies, Amtrak would have tried it years ago. I hope this new policy works, and as a customer, I would consider it to be a very small inconvenience, for a big pay back. I base that on the fact that I make train reservations far, far more often than I ever cancel them. I mean, for more than a couple of decades of train travel, I have only ever had to cancel a trip once.
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#46 Anderson

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Posted 29 December 2017 - 04:31 PM

 

I wonder how much this fare flexibility has cost Amtrak over the years. I remember not that long ago people booking multiple trips and cancelling the alternates because of the so called flexibility.

 

I wonder how much new business it has attracted and how much existing business was not lost because of the flexibility.

 

This issue is not quite the same as what I call the easy cost accounting syndrome; i.e.  include the easy to count costs, but exclude the difficult to count ones and the ones that will be incurred in the future.  But it's close.

 

This.  If anything, the issue with the "multiple bookings" was arguably a side-effect of Amtrak going all-reserved on the NEC back in 2002 or so (prior to which, if I'm not mistaken, reservations were not required on many Regionals).  Reading a bit deeper into this, if that is a major problem (and ironically, you can still effectively pull that trick in Business, just not in Coach, and on top of that a Business ticket does tend to be cheaper than a Flexible Coach ticket more than a few days in advance/outside of peak travel periods) I suspect that Amtrak is in a nasty staring contest with a decent number of passengers in that area.

By the way, I suspect that at some point a secondary market in tickets is going to develop unless/until Amtrak actually tries to fight that...I literally cannot recall the last time I had my ID checked, so logical customer behavior on non-reserved trains, presuming that a ticket couldn't be used for insert-reason-here, would be to arrange to hand off the ticket in question for somewhere between 75-100% of face value.  We're back down to those odd weaknesses of rail travel versus air travel (and I can't see aggressive ID checks at major terminals working too well).  Granted, I couldn't pull this on my regular trains (there are a respectable number of OBS who would see my name, see someone else's face, and know something was off), but I can really see an impetus developing for illicit ticket-swapping since there's an increasing issue of loss prevention rather than just a profit motive of some sort.


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#47 jis

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Posted 31 December 2017 - 07:37 AM

Amtrak now has a cancellation policy that is worse than most airlines. Specially the lack of cancellation for 100% refund within 24 hours of booking, which is required by law for airline tickets for all fare classes.

Additionally, there is now even less incentive to take Amtrak on medium distance trips when you can drive instead.

I think several of my planned trips in ‘18 just got converted to air + drive trips in the planning process.


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#48 caravanman

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Posted 31 December 2017 - 08:35 AM

I have noticed that all the Amtrak train rides I have taken in the last few years have been considerably fuller than10 years ago. I guess if trains are running near capacity, then it makes sense not to give revenue away needlessly. As a senior, it seems a bad move to raise the discount start age to 65, I would have thought folk over 62 would make up a high proportion of passengers travelling for the fun of it? I guess Amtrak know what they are doing, they have the facts and figures about cancellations and ages of passengers to refer to.

Amtrak is not run as a benefit to passengers, it is a business.

Sadly, my other favourite rail system, India, is also more business minded, bumping up fares with dynamic prices and cutting back on "perks", at least for foreign seniors!

 

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Edited by caravanman, 31 December 2017 - 05:12 PM.


#49 tricia

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Posted 31 December 2017 - 08:49 AM


Additionally, there is now even less incentive to take Amtrak on medium distance trips when you can drive instead.

 

 

This ^ 

 

Amtrak is now MUCH less competitive with driving, for trips under a few hundred miles or so, particularly for anyone who has any sort of business or personal obligations that make schedule changes common--surely a large part of Amtrak's clientele. Previously, a full-credit voucher limited the cost of changing dates of travel to any increase in the cost of the ticket (if the fare on your new travel date is in a higher bucket than when you bought your ticket for the original travel date). 

 

So Amtrak's new polcy is going to cost them this: Customers with uncertain schedules will be more reluctant to book tickets, and some will simply decide from the get-go to drive instead. 

 

I don't have any way to quantify what Amtrak will be gaining from the change, but I'm doubtful it's going to be a net gain for them in revenue. It's certainly a net loss in good will.



#50 TiBike

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Posted 31 December 2017 - 12:20 PM

Depends on your definition of medium distance, and on the available service. To me, San Jose to Sacramento is medium distance -- reliable three hour Capitol Corridor ride versus 2.5 to god knows how many hours in the car. San Jose to LA is long distance and worth getting on a plane. The Starlight takes all day, and a bit of the night, and can't be relied on to run on time (and leaves me stranded in downtown LA, arriving, as it does, after most of the local service has ended). Southwest gets me to my choice of southern California locations in less than an hour (flight time), usually on schedule. San Jose to San Francisco is short distance – reliable one hour Caltrain ride versus, occasionally, three hours in the car.

 

The new CEO seems to be focused on corridor service, which serves many high traffic, medium distance city pair routes. Because states are involved, those are also the routes least affected by the fare policy changes. Long distance trains do a poor job of serving medium distance routes already. I don't think the new fare policy will cost Amtrak more money in lost business than it gains.


Edited by TiBike, 31 December 2017 - 12:23 PM.

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#51 jis

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Posted 31 December 2017 - 12:41 PM

Given that Amtrak is woefully under-equipped to actually meet the demand, they can almost do no wrong as far as jacking up fares go. I suspect a fare hike of 20% would probably still work out on many corridors. Look at the NEC! ;) In any case if they overshoot they can always bring 'em down or change cancellation policies within a few months. It is just an yield management exercise in a more global scale.

 

Once they have established a high baseline then they can play games with discounting, though their hands are considerably tied by Congressional mandate in that are. Meanwhile it may be reasonable to campaign with Congress to enforce the same cancellation rules that apply to airline tickets - the "within 24 hours of booking a ticket" thing. I am shooting off a missive to my Congressman who is always delighted to find something to beat Amtrak with. ;)

 

In any case,  I personally have to continue to use them for my purposes, and I am sure the feeling is quite mutual.

 

The only corridor I need to worry about in my immediate surrounding is getting a private passenger rail service which appears to be heading towards something superior to what Amtrak has to offer anywhere. The two suburban corridors in my area also do not have any meaningful usable Amtrak service. The other one - Orlando - Tampa has only marginally usable Amtrak service, and using it has never involved advanced purchase, since seats are almost always available when I get to Kissimmee to board the train. And if not, it is not a bad drive either, as long as yous tay clear of I-4 :)

 

The only other corridor that is use regularly is the NEC and fares are already sky high there and Acela First Class  still has reasonable (almost) cancellation policies, though I  seldom buy an advanced ticket there, so all this cancellation policy changes do not affect me that much. The other Amtrak riding that I do is on LD trains. I will just change my habits to use them with purchase of tickets just before travel if reasonable fares are available, and not use Amtrak otherwise for the trip. So all this change does not really affect me as much as it might affect many others, and potentially Amtrak.



#52 PaulM

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Posted 31 December 2017 - 04:55 PM

Amtrak is not run as a benefit to passengers, it is a business.

 

Even if it weren't Amtrak, this statement needs a little elaboration.  But especially Amtrak should mean more than this.  Or it once did.



#53 caravanman

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Posted 31 December 2017 - 05:29 PM

 

Amtrak is not run as a benefit to passengers, it is a business.

 

Even if it weren't Amtrak, this statement needs a little elaboration.  But especially Amtrak should mean more than this.  Or it once did.

 

 

Airlines don't fly passengers around because they enjoy doing it, they do it as a business, to make income. Some folk, such as myself, would say that trains and bus services should be subsidised to provide economic travel for all, as part of the infrastructure and support for society as a whole. Applying "business" thinking, instead of social needs thinking leads to a much reduced amenity for those at the bottom of the social scale. Opening up the Arctic Wildlife Reserves to oil drilling is an example of business over the needs of wider society.

 

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Edited by caravanman, 31 December 2017 - 05:31 PM.


#54 City of Miami

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Posted 05 January 2018 - 11:45 AM

Is this happening Sunday? I don't see any notification on Amtrak.com.

#55 Chatter163

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Posted 05 January 2018 - 12:11 PM

 

TBH I'm going to talk with a lawyer, since I suspect I may be having to fight agents in the future over this point, and I would not be surprised if a visit or two to small claims court will be inevitable when an agent botches a change and someone refuses to change it back.

 

 

Highly unlikely.



#56 Chatter163

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Posted 05 January 2018 - 12:16 PM

 

 

Amtrak is not run as a benefit to passengers, it is a business.

 

Even if it weren't Amtrak, this statement needs a little elaboration.  But especially Amtrak should mean more than this.  Or it once did.

 

 

Airlines don't fly passengers around because they enjoy doing it, they do it as a business, to make income. Some folk, such as myself, would say that trains and bus services should be subsidised to provide economic travel for all, as part of the infrastructure and support for society as a whole. Applying "business" thinking, instead of social needs thinking leads to a much reduced amenity for those at the bottom of the social scale. Opening up the Arctic Wildlife Reserves to oil drilling is an example of business over the needs of wider society.

 

Yet airlines are heavily subsidized by the federal government, especially in their infrastructure of airports, air traffic controllers, etc., to say nothing of the bailouts that they can get in difficult economic times (e.g., after 9-11, during the recession).

 

The oil drilling is a vastly different situation (should public lands be used for private profit?), so it's an apples-to-oranges comparison, even though there are plenty examples of public-private enterprises at every level of government.


Edited by Chatter163, 05 January 2018 - 12:17 PM.


#57 neroden

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Posted 05 January 2018 - 12:47 PM

This has to be challenged.  It's crucial to have a fully refundable fare available, for both sleeper and coach.  Even airlines have fully refundable fares available -- I've never encountered one which didn't.  Sure, they're a lot higher, but they *exist*.

 

RPA/NARP needs to complain about this.  It's a necessary thing.

 

The primary problem with this idiotic move is that they are driving away the *most price-insensitive*, *highest-paying* customers.  These are the people who demand refundable tickets because their busy schedules mean they may have to change their plans -- and despite being price-insensitive, they dislike spending money for nothing.

 

It may look to Amtrak as if they'll gain revenue from this, but it'll probably cause a significant drop in revenue.

 

If this was addressed at travel agency abuses, there was probably another way to do it.


Edited by neroden, 05 January 2018 - 12:53 PM.

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#58 jis

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Posted 05 January 2018 - 12:56 PM

This has to be challenged.  It's crucial to have a fully refundable fare available, for both sleeper and coach.  Even airlines have fully refundable fares available -- I've never encountered one which didn't.  Sure, they're a lot higher, but they *exist*.

 

RPA/NARP needs to complain about this.  It's a necessary thing.

 

The primary problem with this idiotic move is that they are driving away the *most price-insensitive*, *highest-paying* customers.  It may look like they'll gain revenue from this, but it'll probably cause a drop in revenue.

I think you are right in surmising that some of the highest paying customers with disposable income to burn are the ones that will refrain from doing their disposable income burning on Amtrak service, sicne no one wants to commit 20% to 25% of their fare irrevocably to Amtrak.

 

I am one of those that does some disposable income burning on a whim, and when I do so on airlines I go for refundable fares since a whim thing may or may not happen at the end of the day. Absent a refundable fare I will simply strike that carrier off my list of potential places to spend such. Although I have no idea what proportion of Amtrak's fares come from such. but considering what typical Sleeper fares are, I find it hard to believe that most people taking Amtrak Sleepers are doing so with something other than their disposable income.



#59 neroden

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Posted 05 January 2018 - 12:59 PM

*Sigh* I'm really busy right now, but if someone else contacts Jim Matthews and gets RPA to raise a stink about this, I would be happy to give Amtrak my personal testimony about this phenomenon, as one of the high-paying customers with disposable income who is not about to spend money for nothing.  This is just bad business.


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#60 City of Miami

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Posted 05 January 2018 - 12:59 PM

The "old" policy is still posted on Amtrak.com under Refunds and Exchanges. I don't find any mention anywhere of a new policy except this thread on AU. Are they going to spring it unannounced on Sunday?






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