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2018 Discount Fares and Refund/Cancellation Fee Changes

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

Ed.

Edited by caravanman

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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.

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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

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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

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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.

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*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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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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While I think a lot of of the policy is ill-advised and eliminates one of the advantages Amtrak held over airlines, I think a lot of you may be overreacting because of the way the proposal was typed. There are plenty of times where you will not receive a full refund...but you will receive 100% of the value in an e-voucher.

 

In other words, let's take this:

 

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 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 eVoucher
Cancel after scheduled departure or no show - No Refund, No eVoucher

 

You can basically cancel right up to the scheduled departure time and you'll get 100% credit on an eVoucher or 75% of your refund.

 

It is similar to the Sleeping Car 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 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

 

Again, you can basically cancel up until the scheduled departure time and you'll get 100% credit on an eVoucher. If you want a refund, you get back 75% of your funds.

 

So, you can all but miss the train without letting anyone know and still retain 100% of your value for future travel...assuming you want to travel.

 

Meanwhile, I bought a ticket on a commuter railroad and not only is it non refundable (or exchangeable) after purchase, apparently it expired because I didn't use it in time.

 

We may still be ahead of the curve.

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I hope that is correct and that this is incorrect:

 

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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Excellent post,as usual, Thirdrail!

 

The e-voucher is still our Ace in the hole for preventing "loan shark" fees by Amtrak!😉

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So, we now have two different interpretations of the meaning of "75% refund or eVoucher." One is that the 75% only applies to the refund with the eVoucher issued for 100%. The other is that the 75% value applies to both. I guess we'll find out the first time someone cancels into an eVoucher - which could be me next week.

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So, we now have two different interpretations of the meaning of "75% refund or eVoucher." One is that the 75% only applies to the refund with the eVoucher issued for 100%. The other is that the 75% value applies to both. I guess we'll find out the first time someone cancels into an eVoucher - which could be me next week.

 

Well, as I mentioned in the past, there are people that may see things that others may not, some may drop hints <cough cough> , while others may paraphrase and try to recreate the message to give people heads up. When that happens, sometimes things "are lost in the translation."

 

I'm hopeful that when the policy is posted PUBLICLY (or someone other than me decides to directly cut and paste the internal fact sheet), some of the concerns may be eased....a little.

Edited by Thirdrail7

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Meanwhile, I bought a ticket on a commuter railroad and not only is it non refundable (or exchangeable) after purchase, apparently it expired because I didn't use it in time.

 

We may still be ahead of the curve.

 

I tend to see commuter railroads different than Amtrak for fares, though. Typically there's no advantage to buying a ticket ahead of time other than not having to wait in line to purchase a ticket, trains are almost never reserved, and there's rarely a cutoff for how many people can book a ticket for a train. Amtrak can and does sell out and there is usually an advantage to booking ahead of time, putting it in a different category altogether in terms of what fare policy is expected.

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So, we now have two different interpretations of the meaning of "75% refund or eVoucher." One is that the 75% only applies to the refund with the eVoucher issued for 100%. The other is that the 75% value applies to both. I guess we'll find out the first time someone cancels into an eVoucher - which could be me next week.

I bet not the first time, since we know that three Amtrak customer agents can interpret things five different ways too.

 

But eventually we will find out the true Zen of Amtrak's refund policy I am sure, and hopefully before it changes again. :P

 

 

Meanwhile, I bought a ticket on a commuter railroad and not only is it non refundable (or exchangeable) after purchase, apparently it expired because I didn't use it in time.

 

We may still be ahead of the curve.

I tend to see commuter railroads different than Amtrak for fares, though. Typically there's no advantage to buying a ticket ahead of time other than not having to wait in line to purchase a ticket, trains are almost never reserved, and there's rarely a cutoff for how many people can book a ticket for a train. Amtrak can and does sell out and there is usually an advantage to booking ahead of time, putting it in a different category altogether in terms of what fare policy is expected.

 

Yeah. I usually purchase my Commuter train ticket after I board the train, on my Smartphone. Seldom does an occasion arise when I actually have the need to return one unused.

Edited by jis

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Also, perhaps lost in the pitchforks and torches brigade is that there is a max fee - while yes, it sucks to lose $250, you're not going to lose out on thousands of dollars as long as you cancel before the train leaves.

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Meanwhile, I bought a ticket on a commuter railroad and not only is it non refundable (or exchangeable) after purchase, apparently it expired because I didn't use it in time.

 

We may still be ahead of the curve.

 

I tend to see commuter railroads different than Amtrak for fares, though. Typically there's no advantage to buying a ticket ahead of time other than not having to wait in line to purchase a ticket, trains are almost never reserved, and there's rarely a cutoff for how many people can book a ticket for a train. Amtrak can and does sell out and there is usually an advantage to booking ahead of time, putting it in a different category altogether in terms of what fare policy is expected.

 

 

Agreed...but then you'd also have to realize that since their trains are not reserved, do not sell out, which means that you're not really depriving anyone down line of transportation (which are all things Amtrak has to contend with) you'd probably expect a more liberal policy from a commuter railroad. Indeed, there's is more conservative.

 

I mean, basically you can call up to 1 minute prior to departure and receive credit for future travel. Meanwhile, that space may not be sold or may be sold at some bucket that may or may not cause losses.

Edited by Thirdrail7

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Also, perhaps lost in the pitchforks and torches brigade is that there is a max fee - while yes, it sucks to lose $250, you're not going to lose out on thousands of dollars as long as you cancel before the train leaves.

That is generally true of non-refundable fares on most airlines too. You can always preserve the PNR for at least a year by canceling before the departure of the first segment of the itinerary, and rebook a completely different itinerary using the full value for an additional fee.

 

And in addition airlines generally have a fully refundable fare too, that does not involve any vouchers or anything like that.

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Also, perhaps lost in the pitchforks and torches brigade is that there is a max fee - while yes, it sucks to lose $250, you're not going to lose out on thousands of dollars as long as you cancel before the train leaves.

 

And to further muddy already turbid water, is the $250 max fee per person or per reservation? In other words, if a couple on the same PNR cancels a trip with a fare of $1000 per person, will the cancellation fee be $250 for the reservation, or $250 for each passenger - $500 total?

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With regard to the value of a cancelled reservation retained in an eVoucher, I keep going back to this statement in the original, albeit unofficial report:

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 and 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 to the remaining balance.

 

Beyond the initial discussion of "cancellation fee" as pointed out by Ryan, there is the further issue of the stated conditions required for modifying a reservation retaining full value - specifically "immediately rebooked in the same record." That requirement would not be necessary if cancelled reservations retained full value with eVouchers. New bookings could be made at anytime within the period of eVoucher validity.

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AFAICT the Commuter Agencies have the policy that they have because it is the least cost policy for them, in that they don't have to maintain accounts of escrows of money that has been collected and service is yet to be delivered. For them once a ticket is purchased they can just book it as collected revenue with no encumbrances on it. Also they do not have to maintain the infrastructure for handling refunds on standard tickets. They do still maintain the ability to refund unused monthly tickets usually.

 

Also typically, the amounts involved in individual tickets are relatively small. And as I mentioned earlier, hoarding tickets is something that only railfans seem to do any more.

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Sounds like a few interpretations are out there now. Lets hope its the better of the two. I can totally see Amtrak restricting the cheapest "Saver" fares to non-refundable, non-changeable and no evouchers either. Or at least put in a penalty for having to change it. The next bucket is the "Value" which is what I buy the most and there is a not a penalty for changing this into an eVoucher. I can see Amtrak restricting this fare as well. Hopefully there will be a fare available that is totally changeable or voucher-able.

 

Any idea where these rumors came from?

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Sounds like a few interpretations are out there now. Lets hope its the better of the two. I can totally see Amtrak restricting the cheapest "Saver" fares to non-refundable, non-changeable and no evouchers either. Or at least put in a penalty for having to change it. The next bucket is the "Value" which is what I buy the most and there is a not a penalty for changing this into an eVoucher. I can see Amtrak restricting this fare as well. Hopefully there will be a fare available that is totally changeable or voucher-able.

 

Any idea where these rumors came from?

I believe the info is from an internal memo.

 

 

Sent from my iPhone using Amtrak Forum

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