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The Official Onboard Sleeper Upgrade Thread

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i'm planning to upgrade onboard for my entire cross-country trip, except for the empire builder. would love to hear the scoop on what experiences others have had. specifically:

 

- when is a good time to ask the conductor for the upgrade?

- what's the lowest you've paid for a roomette? for a bedroom?

- what other routes frequently sell out?

- what form of payment is preferred/easier?

 

 

FYI, Bedrooms and Family Bedrooms are already selling out in July on the Capitol Limited, and Bedrooms were already sold out on the date I wanted to travel (July 28) as of September 10.

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Guest Guest

I tried to upgrade on board from Chicago to Ashland and was told there was no rooms when the agent said there was a room in Chicago. The conductor said there was none {I know he was lying.} On the way back I called and there was two rooms When I boarded I told the conductor he said that there was none till Indianapolis then I wouldn’t want to up grade at Indianapolis’s but i did so I could go to the lounge in Chicago . At Indianapolis I called and there was two rooms still. I went the conductor and he said that he sold them .What a lie. I called customer relations when I got home and was told that the two rooms were available on the return trip she couldn’t tell on the way out. I was told in Chicago that there was only one sleeper car with the crew in it also. In my opinion I don’t think the crew wants to sell it. Don’t whine to me about funding when things like this go on and no one seems to care. The train on the way back was dirty the crew was rude . Get another job if you hate yours . I ride often and have never tried to upgrade. If this had been my first trip it would have been my last. Wake up Amtrak

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Guest Guest

These are great tips, thanks all for sharing on the Web. I've done the Zephyr (Reno-CHI), the Lakeshore Limited (CHI-NYC) and Coast Starlight (San Jose-LA) a couple of times. I've never asked for an upgrade (have always just paid the sleeperette price). A few months ago on a trip from San Diego to San Jose, I did have a nice conductor on the Pacific Surfliner change tickets for me mid-journey since I was inadvertantly going the long way. She had to call ahead to an agent at the next stop, jump off the train and run in and pick up my new tickets. She was a total rock star! Funny enough, the station agent at my point of origin said it "couldn't be changed" since I had already been ticketed. So yes, some of these folks do have the power to think for themselves.

 

I will try an upgrade on a May Reno-Chicago Zephyr trip and report back. I have a sleeperette booked for a decent price ($216), but was hoping for a full bdrm (which on the web is over $1200!!). I am even tempted to change my tix and go through Portland via the Empire Builder, which has a full bdrm for $400 to Chicago. I've never done that route,

but being so remote makes me a little nervous (I have some health issues). We'll see!

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Guest Guest

Hi, I'm one of those guys who makes a living doing things like saying "all aboard" and punching little holes in pieces of paper. Let me tell you how this onboard upgrade thing actually goes down when you're on my train.

 

1. You pull me aside and ask about it. Ideally, this is during a mundane activity like inventorying the coaches. If I'm in the middle of something fairly urgent, I will make a note of your car and seat number and come back to you. Otherwise, let's talk.

2. I ask how far you are going, and look at my paperwork to get a preliminary idea of what's open. (I always carry the sleeper lists with me - it's only a few pages. Your mileage with other trainmen may vary - worst case, they need to wander up to the crew car to check.)

3. I let you know that I may have a room available but I need to make sure. Give a quick look/tour, only if you ask.

4. I call up just to make sure that the room in question has not been sold by anyone else yet.

5. If it is indeed still open, I go talk to the sleeper attendant to make sure he knows about this potential new arrival, and is willing to accomodate.

6. If we've made it this far, then and only then will I come back to you with good news. If I haven't given you a price quote yet, I'll do so now.

7. I'll usually wait until you're settled into your room before "taking care of business". However, it would be nice if you could play along for a moment at the coach seat and start trying to pull out the cash/card, just so I know you're good for it. ;)

8. I help you get moved along with your baggage, collect payment, and call up to finalize the transaction in the system.

 

 

Some of you have posted about calling up Julie, or stations, or whomever else, and then using your new-found knowledge to try and get the upper hand on me. Please do not do this; it is very rude. If you give me an accusatory statement like "well I know that room X is open", then I will not be very inclined to help you out. Here's how the system works. Every trip, a few hours before departure, someone (or some bot) will look at the train's sleeper load. If it is very light, then a certain number of the open rooms (not all) will be tagged as "Conductor-Sale." Then, and ONLY then, is when I am actually obligated to try and sell those spaces. On the other hand, if the train is reasonably well patronized on that day, and there are only a few rooms left, then they will not be 'tagged.' In this case, I am still able to sell them, but I am not obligated to - in fact, Amtrak would probably rather that I not, because a free room represents not only a safety net in case of a bad-order but also a potential last-minute high-ticket sale at a station down line. BUT, if you are nice to me, and hold off on the "matter of fact" attitude, then I will absolutely invite you to buy one of those very-limited rooms. The Golden Rule, folks, that's all it is. If you come across a less savory trainman who you think is being lazy and BSing you, don't always assume that this is the case. It might be, but you don't know for sure. And hey, no one's going to stop you from asking the other trainman on the crew, or one of the next guys after the crews change hands.

 

 

And just to get the matter straight on the rate. When upgrading on board, you always pay the lowest bucket available for the applicable accomodation. There are no discounts (senior, military, etc.) on upgrade fees. You pay the fee from the train's current location (if between stations, round up to one station in the future) to your destination station. You do not pay for the portion of the trip that is already complete (likewise, if you have already paid for any meals, you are not reimbursed for them). If you are upgrading from a roomette to a bedroom, you only pay the difference between the low-bucket bedroom and the amount already paid for the roomette (regardless of bucket) - or $50.00, whichever is greater. So in essence, 50 bucks is the absolute lowest you should ever pay for any onboard upgrade, and the only way that can happen is if you have a high-bucket roomette booked on a full train, and you manage to get into a vacant bedroom that cancelled or no-showed.

 

 

Finally, folks, I wouldn't recommend relying on the onboard upgrade method as a means to save money, unless you really do your homework or are a seasoned rider. If you think you know when the slow times of the year are for your particular train, then it may make sense for you to take the chance. But remember that these trains are more popular than ever, and as such are filling up faster than in years past. So if you REALLY need that sleeper, without any shadow of a doubt, then please book as far ahead as possible!

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Hi, I'm one of those guys who makes a living doing things like saying "all aboard" and punching little holes in pieces of paper. Let me tell you how this onboard upgrade thing actually goes down when you're on my train.

 

Awesome advice, Guest! Thanks for the post and for reminding us that respecting your position goes a lot further than arguing with you... (Sort of like what, in airline enthusiast circles, is known as The Speech--the bribery of the gate agent to try and get an operational upgrade...there was an extensive post on FlyerTalk by a former United gate agent detailing how operational upgrades work and soundly denouncing The Speech...)

 

I can think of many other people who would love your perspective on this site if you choose to become a regular contributor! Feel free to hang around (and maybe register) and join in the fun!

Edited by jackal

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And just to get the matter straight on the rate. When upgrading on board, you always pay the lowest bucket available for the applicable accomodation. There are no discounts (senior, military, etc.) on upgrade fees. You pay the fee from the train's current location (if between stations, round up to one station in the future) to your destination station. You do not pay for the portion of the trip that is already complete (likewise, if you have already paid for any meals, you are not reimbursed for them). If you are upgrading from a roomette to a bedroom, you only pay the difference between the low-bucket bedroom and the amount already paid for the roomette (regardless of bucket) - or $50.00, whichever is greater. So in essence, 50 bucks is the absolute lowest you should ever pay for any onboard upgrade, and the only way that can happen is if you have a high-bucket roomette booked on a full train, and you manage to get into a vacant bedroom that cancelled or no-showed.

I understand the fare structure on cash/credit card upgrade. My question is if you are travelling in a roomette on AGR points and wish to upgrage to a bedroom, how is that calculated or can it be done in the first place. I guess the answer would be what cash value AMTRAK places on a sleeper that is redeemed for points Is it high bucket or low bucket or somewhere in between as this would depend on the difference in fare upgrade to the bedroom or a $50 increase.

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Hi, I'm one of those guys who makes a living doing things like saying "all aboard" and punching little holes in pieces of paper. Let me tell you how this onboard upgrade thing actually goes down when you're on my train.

 

5. If it is indeed still open, I go talk to the sleeper attendant to make sure he knows about this potential new arrival, and is willing to accomodate.

 

If what you say is true, and I do believe you, the sleeping car attendant has the power to turn down potential revenue if he cannot "accomodate" the pax. Try telling that to a stressed out business man on a packed plane with one seat left and see what reaction you get. I think their CEO would have a few choice words to say about it also. Again, I say, just where are the Product Line managers when you need them?

Edited by had8ley

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Guest iadis58

I will be taking The California Zephyr over the fourth of July and have a roomette. Could someone please tell me if the odd number rooms are on the right or left hand side of the train. I want to make sure my room will be on the rights side going through the Rockies going west. Any information would be greatly appreciated. I currently am scheduled for room 002. Thank you

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Could someone please tell me if the odd number rooms are on the right or left hand side of the train.

 

YES.

 

That is, your room could be on either side. Until you board the train you never know which way the sleeping car is facing, could be either way, so your room may be on the left or the right (with the direction of travel).

 

Normally, but not always, the bedrooms are toward the rear of the train, but they may not always be.

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Guest iadis58

Thanks for the information, this will be my second trip on the California Zephyr, first time we had a family bedroom and that was great. I guess it's just the luck of the draw whether my view will be the canyon walls or the mountain overlook. That was the nice thing about the familt bedroom, didn't matter since you had a window each side. Thanks again for the response

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Could someone please tell me if the odd number rooms are on the right or left hand side of the train.

 

YES.

 

That is, your room could be on either side. Until you board the train you never know which way the sleeping car is facing, could be either way, so your room may be on the left or the right (with the direction of travel).

 

Normally, but not always, the bedrooms are toward the rear of the train, but they may not always be.

Aloha

 

From my trip they were on the front, but on the OTOL in both directions they were on the rear. Heck from the way the station in Emervile in the station, one end of the train is in Emervile and the other is in a different town. I saw the sign while walking to my sleeper. :lol:

Edited by GG-1

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Guest Guest_Liz_*

We just got back from a trip to the mid-west. We had two roomettes reserved on the way out as far as Chicago and a standard bedroom reserved on the way back from Chicago to Albany. Unfortunately our train was late getting into Chicago and we missed our connection. We had to stay overnight in Chicago and when we went to exchange our tickets the next day there were no sleepers available on that night's train. We continued to ask throughout the day, right up to the point of boarding, but no go. However, we knew that the Lincoln Service train was even later that night and figured that someone might have had a sleeper reserved from Chicago. When the conductor came around to get tickets we asked about an upgrade. He didn't get back to us for over half an hour and we figured we were stuck with coach. Then he came back and asked how many of us were in our party (3). He said he had one bedroom, but he'd have to get the price from Amtrak, were we interested. Of course we were. He then came back and told us it would be $275. We took it of course. Ironically, the sleeper we were supposed to have the night before had cost us (before our refund of course) $784. So we saved $500 had a day in Chicago, a night in a nice hotel, and still got to ride first class to Albany. I wouldn't ever count on it, but sometimes an upgrade can apparently save you money over making a reservation in the first place. Of course some of the people who were on the LS had to ride coach all the way to their destination...., but they still got the night in a nice hotel and a day in Chicago.

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When the conductor came around to get tickets we asked about an upgrade. He then came back and told us it would be $275. We took it of course. Ironically, the sleeper we were supposed to have the night before had cost us (before our refund of course) $784. So we saved $500 . I wouldn't ever count on it, but sometimes an upgrade can apparently save you money over making a reservation in the first place. Of course some of the people who were on the LS had to ride coach all the way to their destination...., but they still got the night in a nice hotel and a day in Chicago.

 

I thought that saving money was one of the reasons to try an onboard upgrade :rolleyes:

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Just returned from a round trip from Denver to San Francisco on the Zephyr, and have a couple of upgrade attempts to report.

 

Dec. 13, DEN-EMY, traveling in roomette

 

I got onboard and found my roomette still being cleaned. The attendant apologized, but said that there were several other roomettes available all the way to EMY, and suggested that I settle into one of them, which I did. I immediately headed to breakfast, where I met a nice couple who also just got on in Denver. They haven't slept at all the night before and looked like they could use a bed, so I suggested they see the conductor about getting an upgrade. As luck would have it, the conductor walked through the dining car as we were talking about this, so they flagged him down and politely asked him if they could upgrade to a roomette. His reply was "not right now, maybe after Grand Junction." Long story short, they never did get the upgrade. The sleeping car I was in was half-empty, and the roomette that I was originally supposed to occupy remained empty all the way to EMY.

 

Dec. 20 EMY-DEN, traveling in coach

 

Train was sold out in coach, but, according to amtrak.com, there were at least 5 roomettes available all the way to Denver. Tickets were collected by the coach attendant instead of the conductor, which I found a little weird. I eventually found the conductor and asked him if I could upgrade to a roomette. He looked at me like I had three heads and said "Absolutely not, it's the holiday season! There will be no upgrades for the next 2 weeks." I found it a little strange -- how could he know that there will be no upgrades, on any segments, in the next two weeks? Then I remembered the post by a conductor on this board (http://discuss.amtraktrains.com/index.php?...st&p=106700), where he mentioned that if the rooms are not tagged "Conductor-Sale," the conductor is not obligated to help you. Since it's unlikely that loads will be so light that some rooms would be tagged "conductor-sale" during the holiday season, it seems that the default position is that there's nothing available.

 

Overall, I must say I'm somewhat disappointed with these experiences. It appears that the conductors are likely to brush off your upgrade requests if they're not obligated to help you, which is unfortunate. I understand that they're dealing with a lot of crap already, particularly during the holiday season, and the current onboard upgrade system seems to be a major pain in the butt. It really should be streamlined: there's no reason for sleeper cars to ride half-empty if there are coach passengers wanting to upgrade.

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The preceding post shows a pretty pathetic business sense by Amtrak. Amtrak is constantly begging for more money, and yet they allow this and other potential sources of revenue to sit untapped because they don't want to be bothered.

 

Here's my idea - no charge for Amtrak to adopt it. For each long distance train and at each station served by that train that has an attended ticket window, at one hour prior to the scheduled departure of the train all unsold sleeping car rooms would become available for upgrade a the low bucket price. At T-59 you would simply take your coach ticket to the agent, pay the upgrade fare, and then get a new ticket for your sleeper. This way all the funds change hands at the station, not on the train. Your booking goes straight to the computer system and the booked room is immediately blocked. And you board the train right to your room, not to coach first and then move to your room. It also takes the upgrade effort away from the Conductor who, in many cases, does not want to be bothered dealing with such things.

 

I have no expectation that Amtrak would ever do such a thing. They are to firmly entrenched in the 1970's.

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The preceding post shows a pretty pathetic business sense by Amtrak. Amtrak is constantly begging for more money, and yet they allow this and other potential sources of revenue to sit untapped because they don't want to be bothered.

 

Here's my idea - no charge for Amtrak to adopt it. For each long distance train and at each station served by that train that has an attended ticket window, at one hour prior to the scheduled departure of the train all unsold sleeping car rooms would become available for upgrade a the low bucket price. At T-59 you would simply take your coach ticket to the agent, pay the upgrade fare, and then get a new ticket for your sleeper. This way all the funds change hands at the station, not on the train. Your booking goes straight to the computer system and the booked room is immediately blocked. And you board the train right to your room, not to coach first and then move to your room. It also takes the upgrade effort away from the Conductor who, in many cases, does not want to be bothered dealing with such things.

 

I have no expectation that Amtrak would ever do such a thing. They are to firmly entrenched in the 1970's.

 

Sounds like an idea you should submit to them, though. Who knows, maybe someone would read it and understand it is a good idea. On;y problem I can see is what about folks who want to board at an unstaffed station and would like an upgrade? If you take it out of the conductor's hands they have no chance at all.

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The preceding post shows a pretty pathetic business sense by Amtrak. Amtrak is constantly begging for more money, and yet they allow this and other potential sources of revenue to sit untapped because they don't want to be bothered.

 

Here's my idea - no charge for Amtrak to adopt it. For each long distance train and at each station served by that train that has an attended ticket window, at one hour prior to the scheduled departure of the train all unsold sleeping car rooms would become available for upgrade a the low bucket price. At T-59 you would simply take your coach ticket to the agent, pay the upgrade fare, and then get a new ticket for your sleeper. This way all the funds change hands at the station, not on the train. Your booking goes straight to the computer system and the booked room is immediately blocked. And you board the train right to your room, not to coach first and then move to your room. It also takes the upgrade effort away from the Conductor who, in many cases, does not want to be bothered dealing with such things.

 

I have no expectation that Amtrak would ever do such a thing. They are to firmly entrenched in the 1970's.

 

Sounds like an idea you should submit to them, though. Who knows, maybe someone would read it and understand it is a good idea. On;y problem I can see is what about folks who want to board at an unstaffed station and would like an upgrade? If you take it out of the conductor's hands they have no chance at all.

 

Well if its unstaffed I am pretty sure every station these days has a Quick-Trak machine so I don't see why you couldn't just do it right from the quick-trak this would just be the cost of developing and upgrading the software on the machine so you can do it from the Machine so if the there is no agent or the lines for agents are to long you could just use the machine.

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Well if its unstaffed I am pretty sure every station these days has a Quick-Trak machine so I don't see why you couldn't just do it right from the quick-trak this would just be the cost of developing and upgrading the software on the machine so you can do it from the Machine so if the there is no agent or the lines for agents are to long you could just use the machine.

 

Not even close. Just look at the first page of the station listing in the TT, and clearly 3/4ths of the stations have no Quik-Trak machines.

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having personally experienced a snotty conductor who dismissed my upgrade request, i think this idea (or something similar) is great. airlines do something equivalent where they offer vouchers for people who give up their seats on oversold flights. in amtrak's case, they wouldn't even need to sell it for the lowest bucket price like they do today (since announcing a price lower than what others paid further in advance might ruffle some feathers). as for the snag with unstaffed stations, just don't attempt it at those places (which are likely to be light volume anyway).

 

here's a possible revision:

 

1) announce upgrade availability AFTER passengers board at staffed stations and the train is in motion (thereby lopping off any potential delays and giving advanced purchase customers some semblance of a benefit... first class boarding).

2) interested parties hit the attendant button (don't all LD trains have these? do they even work anymore?).

3) conductor comes by with handheld (credit card purchases only) to complete transaction.

4) sleeping car attendant meets upgrade customer in the cafe/dining car to take them to their room.

 

maybe even lop off the meal benefit, which on most routes is still a good deal if you discover you dislike coach. it's quite possible that people would even pay a premium to upgrade on board... especially newbies.

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On National Train Day our return train (#6) was within two hours of Denver when a rockslide caused major problems. The train ended up being 6 hours late. When we boarded fortunately there was a conductor that was the one who turned me on to Amtrak. I asked for an upgrade for the 4 of us. We needed two roomettes. He ended up telling us that he was busy, but would come back through coach and get us when he was finished getting all the tickets. He sent the Asst. Conductor through and all of us recieved the upgrade. Allthough it wasn't the conductor doing the paperwork, it was the asst. and we all slept 1000 times better having a roomette and breakfast the next morning.

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interested parties hit the attendant button (don't all LD trains have these? do they even work anymore?).

AFAIK, the only attendant buttons are in the roomettes and/or bedrooms! And if you haven't yet upgraded, how would you ring it? :huh:

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Why cant the sleeper attendant deal with the upgrade? Surely they must know if they have empty rooms and it takes it out of the conductors hands. That's the way it works in the UK on the few sleeper trains, just approach the sleeper attendant and see what's on offer.

The sleeper attendant would have more incentive to sell any empty rooms as more punters in the sleeper would equal more tips!

A more proactive approach would bring in more revenue for Amtrak, why not announce the availabilty of any spare rooms over the PA? Seems like someone needs to get their act together!

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i'm planning to upgrade onboard for my entire cross-country trip, except for the empire builder. would love to hear the scoop on what experiences others have had. specifically:

 

- when is a good time to ask the conductor for the upgrade?

- what's the lowest you've paid for a roomette? for a bedroom?

- what other routes frequently sell out?

- what form of payment is preferred/easier?

 

It appears that this thread has a long life, with four pages of posts.

 

My experience with upgrades has always been from roomettes to deluxe bedrooms or family bedrooms, not from coach to roomettes. Prior posts have suggested that the conductors don't have authority to (materially) deviate from the prevailing accomodation price for the rooms. I have been fortunate enough to experience situations where they have done so after the train departs (e.g. when the conductor is going through the train collecting tickets). This has primarily been in cases where I am not traveling to the train's final destination and there are one or more major destinations before the termination of the train after I detrain; for example if I am looking for a Seattle or Portland Coast Starlight upgrade to Sacramento or Emeryville (thus allowing Amtrak to still resell the room Sacramento or Emeryville to LA). In those cases I have already researched the accomodation price for the leg I want on line, and I have been quoted on board upgrade costs well below the on line numbers. Sometimes this works; others it doesn't. Frankly though, when I did not like the deluxe room price being asked when I originally buy the ticket, causing me to book a roomette, I have done better keeping close tabs of the on line accomodation prices for the deluxe room and then when the drop as they sometimes do, I grab the deluxe room then; not waiting to try for an on board upgrade.

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His reply was "not right now, maybe after Grand Junction."

 

Apologies for the late reply, but the above is just classic Amtrak.

 

Perhaps the conductor was busy and knew he would be less so after Grand Junction... especially since he would be off-duty! (For those not familiar with the route, Grand Junction is a crew change point for California Zephyr conductors and engineers). I'm sure he relayed the pending upgrade request to the next conductor during the crew relief process!

 

It seems like right after the conductor's reply might have been a good time to ask your tablemates to, "Pass the buck... er... I mean the salt, please!"

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