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2018 Discount Fares and Refund/Cancellation Fee Changes

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** Edited January 10 to reflect actual posted policy that changed a couple times at the last minute.
** Edited March 18 to reflect changes scheduled to take effect March 20.

 

 

The following changes are effective March 20, 2018:

 

As was originally in the January changes and rescinded at the last minute, the ability to receive a full eVoucher no more.

 

One positive change - Sleeping car purchases did receive an increase in the no penalty window from 1 hour post-purchase to 24 hours post-purchase.

Cancellation/Refund Fee Changes

 

NOTE: If you made a reservation prior to March 20 and want to cancel after March 20, the computer will automatically apply the new policy. Agents are supposed to override the computer and apply the correct fee in effect when the reservation was originally purchased. Changes made to existing reservations on or after March 20 will bring the reservation under the new cancellation policy.

 

 

Sleeping Car Reservations

  • Cancel within 24 hours of purchase - Full refund or eVoucher
  • Cancel at least 15 days prior to scheduled departure - 75% refund or 75% eVoucher
  • Cancel 14 or fewer days prior to scheduled departure - 75% non-refundable eVoucher
  • Cancel after scheduled departure or no show - No Refund, No eVoucher

 

Acela First Class, Non-Acela Business Class

  • Cancel prior to scheduled departure - Full refund or eVoucher
  • Cancel after scheduled departure or no show - No Refund, No eVoucher

 

Reserved Coach, Acela Business Class Excluding Flexible Full Fares

  • Cancel at least 8 days prior to scheduled departure - Full refund or eVoucher
  • Cancel 7 or fewer days prior to scheduled departure - 75% refund or 75% eVoucher
  • Purchase within 7 days of departure and cancel within 1 hour of purchase - Full Refund or eVoucher
  • Purchase within 7 days of departure and cancel more than 1 hour after purchase - 75% refund or 75% eVoucher
  • Cancel after scheduled departure or no show - No Refund, No eVoucher
  • Flexible Full Fares continue to offer full refund at any time.

 

Advance Purchase Saver Fares

  • Cancel within 24 hours of purchase - Full refund or eVoucher
  • Cancel more than 24 hours after purchase but prior to scheduled departure - 75% non-refundable eVoucher
  • Cancel after scheduled departure or no show - No Refund, No eVoucher

 

Unreserved Coach Fares

  • Cancel within 1 hour of purchase - Full refund or eVoucher
  • Cancel more than 1 hour after purchase - 75% refund or 75% eVoucher

 

USA Rail Pass, California Rail Pass

  • Cancel within 1 hour of purchase - Full refund
  • Rail Pass has been issued but no travel reservations have been made and no tickets have been issued - 75% refund or 75% eVoucher
  • Rail Pass has been issued and reservations have been made:
    • Cancel at least two days prior to first scheduled departure - 75% refund or 75% eVoucher
    • If tickets have been issued (these are still paper ticket reservations), all tickets and rail pass must be mailed to Amtrak Refunds for refund.
    • Cancel less than two days prior to first scheduled departure - No Refund, No eVoucher. Pass will be considered used.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The following changes are effective January 7, 2018:

Fare Changes

 

Senior Discount

  • Qualifying age raised to 65.
  • Discount lowered to 10%.
  • Discount only valid on Value Fares.
  • Not valid on Flexible (Full Fare Y) Fares.
  • As before, still not valid on Saver Fares, Acela Express or Auto Train.

Disabled Fare

  • Discount lowered to 10%.

Mobility Impaired Fare

  • Discount lowered to 10%.
  • Still applies to both rail fare and accommodation charge.

Child Fare

  • Now limited to one half-price child fare per adult, down from two per adult.

 

Cancellation/Refund Fee Changes

 

Maybe it's just me, but it seems Amtrak has made this really complicated...

 

There is now just one fee and it shall be called the Cancellation Fee. It applies when canceling travel for a refund back to the original form of payment. It will apply any time a reservation is canceled and not immediately rebooked in the same record. If the rebooking results in a lower fare the cancellation fee will apply if refunded to the original form of payment.

 

The minimum cancellation fee is $5 and the maximum is $250.

 

NOTE: If you made a reservation prior to January 7 and want to cancel after January 7, the computer will automatically apply the new policy. Agents are supposed to override the computer and apply the correct fee in effect when the reservation was originally purchased. Changes made to existing reservations on or after January 7 will bring the reservation under the new cancellation policy.

 

 

Sleeping Car Reservations

  • Cancel within 1 hour of purchase - Full refund or eVoucher
  • Cancel at least 15 days prior to scheduled departure - 75% refund or 100% eVoucher
  • Cancel 14 or fewer days prior to scheduled departure - 100% non-refundable eVoucher
  • Cancel after scheduled departure or no show - No Refund, No eVoucher

 

Acela First Class, Non-Acela Business Class

  • Cancel prior to scheduled departure - Full refund or eVoucher
  • Cancel after scheduled departure or no show - No Refund, No eVoucher

 

Reserved Coach, Acela Business Class Excluding Flexible Full Fares

  • Cancel at least 8 days prior to scheduled departure - Full refund or eVoucher
  • Cancel 7 or fewer days prior to scheduled departure - 75% refund or 100% eVoucher
  • Purchase within 7 days of departure and cancel within 1 hour of purchase - Full Refund or eVoucher
  • Purchase within 7 days of departure and cancel more than 1 hour after purchase - 75% refund or 100% eVoucher
  • Cancel after scheduled departure or no show - No Refund, No eVoucher

 

Advance Purchase Saver Fares

  • Cancel within 24 hours of purchase - Full refund or eVoucher
  • Cancel more than 24 hours after purchase but prior to scheduled departure - 100% non-refundable eVoucher
  • Cancel after scheduled departure or no show - No Refund, No eVoucher

 

Unreserved Coach Fares

  • Cancel within 1 hour of purchase - Full refund or eVoucher
  • Cancel more than 1 hour after purchase - 75% refund or 100% eVoucher

 

USA Rail Pass, California Rail Pass

  • Rail Pass has been purchased but not issued - Full refund or eVoucher
  • Rail Pass has been issued but no travel reservations have been made and no tickets have been issued - 75% refund or 100% eVoucher
  • Rail Pass has been issued and reservations have been made:
    • Cancel at least two days prior to first scheduled departure - 75% refund or 100% eVoucher
    • If tickets have been issued (these are still paper ticket reservations), all tickets and rail pass must be mailed to Amtrak Refunds for refund.
    • Cancel less than two days prior to first scheduled departure - No Refund, No eVoucher. Pass will be considered used.

Monthly Tickets

  • Cancel within 1 hour of purchase - Full refund or eVoucher
  • Cancel more than 1 hour after purchase but prior to month starting - 75% refund
  • Cancel on the 1st through the 10th of the month - 25% refund
  • Cancel on the 11th of the month or later - No Refund, No eVoucher

 

Multi-Ride Tickets

  • Cancel within 1 hour of purchase and no trips taken - Full refund or eVoucher
  • Cancel more than 1 hour after purchase and no trips taken - 75% refund
  • One or more trips taken - No Refund, No eVoucher
Edited by AmtrakLKL

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Cancellation/Refund Fee Changes

 

Sleeping Car Reservations

  • Cancel at least 15 days prior to scheduled departure - 75% refund or eVoucher
  • Cancel 14 or fewer days prior to scheduled departure - 75% non-refundable eVoucher

 

Does eVoucher mean a full credit unless explicitly limited?

 

It seems like it would have been little extra effort to say "75% refund or 100% credit to eVoucher" and "No refund but 75% credit to non-refundable eVoucher" rather than the existing phrasing.

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I think the era of avoiding the fee by taking a eVoucher is over.

 

There is now just one fee and it shall be called the Cancellation Fee. It applies when canceling travel and storing the value in an eVoucher

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My earlier comments were deleted. Suffice it to say they were about on par with my AGR 2.0 comments. This has been a completely awful December and at this point I will not be observing the month as best I can in the future.

I do wish that Amtrak would come out with some sort of "Flex sleeper" fare, but that aside? I wish them nothing but the worst.

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I think the era of avoiding the fee by taking a eVoucher is over.

 

Which, honestly, is kind of dumb. Granted, the fact that an eVoucher could be extended essentially in perpetuity should be fixed so it has a hard limit of some sort, but Amtrak should incentivise the option for Amtrak to keep the money for future travel (thus guaranteeing some revenue) over a straight refund (which doesn't keep people in Amtrak's system as well.)

 

In general, though? Other than the eVoucher silliness and the areas where you can't get a refund within 24 hours of purchase (but the trip is still more than 7 days out,) I'm ambivalent towards the changes. I wish Saver fares were a bit more flexible, but I generally am traveling coach when traveling on cash (I usually only upgrade to sleeper when I have AGR points) and having 100% refund availability on a "low bucket" non-saver fare up to 8 days before departure is still significantly better than almost any of the competition. There's still the flexible fare for those that need the option for more flexibility, although I do agree that a "flex sleeper" is needed, even if the cost is ridiculously high (why not give the option for those that may avail themselves of it?)

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Ok, an observation: When AGR 2.0 (Next Stop, Dearborn!) was rolled out, the 10%/20% penalty for sleeper cancellations was only supposed to apply to differences in fares. Well, lo and behold the computers were incapable of processing this (so you were "cancelled" even if rebooking immediately/just doing a change) so that actually didn't pan out and they could never be bothered to fix it.

Also, the lack of any waivers being mentioned for "status" members compares badly next to most airlines (e.g. DL, UA, and AA all have varying degrees of SDC waivers and the like).

Edit: Also, IIRC refunds do have net fees involved, so I had presumed that the voucher-related incentives were somewhat intentional.

Edited by Anderson

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There's some way to make a change, at least with coach reservations, without triggering the cancel/rebook process. I've changed an AGR coach reservation online to a different date and suffered no penalty (since the points needed on the change were the same.) I believe a cancel/rebook would have triggered a 10% penalty.

 

I'm not sure what, if anything, is different on the sleeper side, but it should be possible to modify without actually killing off the reservation. My guess is that it's a convoluted process and agents generally go for the easier-but-now-more-costly cancel and rebook route over the phone.

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There's some way to make a change, at least with coach reservations, without triggering the cancel/rebook process. I've changed an AGR coach reservation online to a different date and suffered no penalty (since the points needed on the change were the same.) I believe a cancel/rebook would have triggered a 10% penalty.

 

I'm not sure what, if anything, is different on the sleeper side, but it should be possible to modify without actually killing off the reservation. My guess is that it's a convoluted process and agents generally go for the easier-but-now-more-costly cancel and rebook route over the phone.

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.

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What's the policy for refunds/eVouchers for canceling a reservation day of if the train is late?

 

I've booked South Bend to Chicago a few times on Amtrak (more comfortable and faster, $15 is the advance saver fare while the South Shore is $13.50) and definitely took advantage of the liberal cancel for an eVoucer policy. If the Lake Shore or Capitol Limited are running late the plan is always to take the South Shore Line instead.

 

I could now see booking dummy reservations as a reservation change to "kick" the ticket down the road for example until I need to buy a future tickets.

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What's the policy for refunds/eVouchers for canceling a reservation day of if the train is late?

 

I've booked South Bend to Chicago a few times on Amtrak (more comfortable and faster, $15 is the advance saver fare while the South Shore is $13.50) and definitely took advantage of the liberal cancel for an eVoucer policy. If the Lake Shore or Capitol Limited are running late the plan is always to take the South Shore Line instead.

 

I could now see booking dummy reservations as a reservation change to "kick" the ticket down the road for example until I need to buy a future tickets.

I think the "late train" policy remains unchanged (no change seems to have been announced), though I wouldn't put it past them to sneak something in there as well.

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I don't think it'll be changing. From Amtrak:

 

Refund Restrictions and Late Trains

The above restrictions and fees will not apply to refunds requested by passengers who chose not to travel due to a long distance train being two or more hours late or a corridor train being one or more hours late at the departure station.

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Extremely difficult to get an Amtrak case heard anywhere other than a Federal Court, where they don't have a small claims process to speak of.

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What's the policy for refunds/eVouchers for canceling a reservation day of if the train is late?

 

I think the "late train" policy remains unchanged (no change seems to have been announced), though I wouldn't put it past them to sneak something in there as well.

 

 

The late train policy remains unchanged with the new cancellation policies. 1 hour late for short-haul/corridor trains and 2 hours for long distance trains, no penalty for refund.

 

 

 

Cancellation/Refund Fee Changes

 

Sleeping Car Reservations

  • Cancel at least 15 days prior to scheduled departure - 75% refund or eVoucher
  • Cancel 14 or fewer days prior to scheduled departure - 75% non-refundable eVoucher

 

Does eVoucher mean a full credit unless explicitly limited?

 

It seems like it would have been little extra effort to say "75% refund or 100% credit to eVoucher" and "No refund but 75% credit to non-refundable eVoucher" rather than the existing phrasing.

 

 

I was lazy and didn't type 75% eVoucher over and over and over. Whatever it says "XX% refund or eVoucher" means XX% refund or same XX% to an eVoucher. There is no more full credit to an eVoucher unless it says Full refund or eVoucher.

 

If you're eligible for a full refund without penalty, I have no idea why anyone would park that money in an eVoucher anyway. Just take the refund. The whole incentive to eVouchers was usually retaining all your monies paid in vs. losing a percentage on refund. With that incentive gone, why would anyone take an eVoucher? Might as well just take whatever refund you can get and park the money in your bank account instead of Amtrak's. As I said, Amtrak just really complicated the whole policy. Might as well throw phases of the moon into the penalty calculations.

Edited by AmtrakLKL

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So, I'm already playing "spot the workaround" and I think I know a few fixes that could be used in some cases. I'm actually going to engage in a bit of discretion and not share everything I come up with on this, however, at least until I have ideas more solidly worked out.

Edit: Anyone who wants to swap ideas, I'm going to do any chatting via PM (or other ways that aren't public...let's just say that I've gotten very used to having non-public chats when dealing with airlines).

Edited by Anderson

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If you are going to get whacked with a 25% "cancellation fee" regardless of whether the funds go to an eVoucher or a refund, then don't cancel. Use the "rebook on the same record (PNR)" option and reserve a dummy trip of equal value 11 months out. Leave the funds parked there. If you have another trip to take, then go to that reservation and rebook again. if after 11 months you have no opportunities to use the original funds, then cancel and take the hit.

 

Of course, this depends on how Amtrak handles the PNR. Does a change of origin or destination force a new PNR? Does a change of class of service force a new PNR? Does an agent in a bad mood force a new PNR? Who knows. With Amtrak, rules like this can be a bit of a moving target.

 

I have a vision of a bunch of Amtrak suits sitting around a conference table each throwing his or her two cents into this plan. It is so convoluted that it had to be rule making by committee.

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How do you do a "rebook on the same record (PNR)"? I've got a reservation and tried to change it. It seems that it will allow me to pick a different train, service or date, but the origin and destination stay the same.

 

jb

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How do you do a "rebook on the same record (PNR)"? I've got a reservation and tried to change it. It seems that it will allow me to pick a different train, service or date, but the origin and destination stay the same.

 

jb

 

If you can't do it on the website or within the app, then you have to call and see what the agent can do. I have no idea what the rules are about what forces a new PNR at Amtrak. It it carrier specific and may be tied to the capabilities and limitations of the IT system. The knowledge and capability of the agent may also be a factor, which is a major variable at Amtrak.

 

One of the benefits of rail travel should flexibility. Amtrak has slowly been draining that flexibility toward what seems to be their ultimate goal - become an airline. Except, that in some ways, Amtrak's restrictions are now worse than an airline. I have multiple occasions to fly American through O'Hare, and usually book a lengthy stopover just because it's O'Hare. If I arrrive at ORD on-time or early (it does happen), I can change to an earlier connecting flight at no charge assuming there are seats. Amtrak would force payment of any fare differential. In this case, Amtrak is less flexible than even a legacy air carrier.

 

NARP, aka RPA should dare to confront Amtrak about these changes - and publicly, not in private meetings behind the scenes (allegedly). They should provide names, phone numbers, emails etc. for members to contact at Amtrak, just as they do when Congress is planning some negative action toward Amtrak. After all, NARP is supposed to represent the interests of rail passengers. Representing passengers may at times mean opposing Amtrak. I'm not holding my breath.

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Might as well throw phases of the moon into the penalty calculations.

 

Don't give them any ideas!

 

I laughed out loud. :giggle:

Edited by KmH

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This new policy will significantly impact my travel decisions. Between my chronic health conditions that flare unexpectedly and the nature of my husband's job that involves being ready to temporarily relocate (for a few weeks to many months) on very short notice, Amtrak's e-voucher refund/change policy has made it possible to plan travel knowing if either issue arises I can change my plans.

 

I don't think that I will risk planning a trip when I risk losing 25% of the already expensive cost of traveling cross country by sleeper car, generally in a bedroom.

 

This policy change seems to be influenced by the airline background of Amtrak's new CEO. Sad.

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if that is the correct understanding of charging a fee for an evoucher that really is very bad news indeed! I have used a voucher to change my plans at the last minute many, many times. You have to use the voucher for Amtrak travel within a year anyway so they aren't losing any money. There are many trips I just could not afford to take if they are going to charge major fees to change a date since my work schedule can change at the drop of a hat. Flexibility with fares and dates is a huge advantage Amtrak has had. What a shame to throw it away.

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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.

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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.

 

Sent from my STV100-1 using Amtrak Forum mobile app

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I agree.

 

If multiple reservations are booked by XYZ Travel Agency, I think there should be a penalty. However, if a room is booked by Joe & Kathy Smith at (address) and (phone number), or even a 2nd room by Ken & Steph Public at (address) and (phone number), there should not be a penalty. Most likely, a travel agency booking a block of rooms 11 months out will not have all the clients names at the time.

Edited by the_traveler

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On the one hand, they might put names on the reservations but change them later. On the other hand, they'll probably be paying with the same credit cards, so some sleuthing on Amtrak's part should show what's going on. It wouldn't seem to be too hard for them to put a line into their terms and conditions barring such a practice and then drop the hammer on and agency, forcing them to a refund if they're being abusive.

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