Want to cancel or change your Amtrak ticket? Starting in March 2014 you’ll need to plan ahead on some routes. Amtrak is implementing a 24-hour cutoff for all reserved Coach class and AcelaExpress Business class reservations. Tickets canceled inside the 24-hour window will incur a 10% refund fee unless purchased as a fully flexible fare. No-show passengers will, in many cases, forfeit their fare paid rather than being able to refund or transfer into a credit for future travel.
Here’s how Amtrak describes the change:
For all reserved Coach class and Acela Express Business class reservations, you must cancel your reservation at least 24 hours prior to the train’s scheduled departure in order to be eligible for a full refund. If the reservation is canceled within 24 hours of the scheduled departure, a refund fee will apply (Value fare tickets only; Saver fare tickets are not refundable). If the reservation is not canceled prior to the scheduled departure (“no show”), the entire amount paid for the reservation will be forfeited (Value and Saver fare tickets); the ticket value will not be stored in an eVoucher and cannot be applied toward future travel. Flexible fare tickets will remain fully refundable.
The new policy will affect both existing reservations and all new reservations for travel beginning on or after March 1, 2014.
The good news is that most Amtrak tickets remain incredibly flexible, even when purchased as a “Value” or “Saver” fare, the names Amtrak gives to their advance-purchase or discounted tickets. The bad news is that they’re not quite as flexible as they used to be and the new rules affect previously purchased tickets as well, though odds are not many passengers bought travel 90+ days out on the train.
Ultimately the move is all about revenue management. If you allow all fares to be fully refundable all the time it is much harder to maximize the yield of any given trip. Not being able to sell a last-minute, walk-up fare on the Acela service because someone decided to no-show a discounted, advance purchase fare hurts Amtrak’s books in more ways than one. Moves like this should help them quite a bit, though (obviously) at the expense of some customers.
This won’t really affect me too much personally. Most of my Amtrak travel is booked relatively last minute and doesn’t change. Also, most of it is booked as Amtrak Guest Rewards trips, trading in my Chase Ultimate Rewards points to AGR and redeeming for seats I otherwise probably wouldn’t pay for.
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