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Old May 22, 11, 11:44 pm
Join Date: May 2010
Programs: Amtrak S+, HH GLD, AA 1MM, SPG, UA, TSA Disparager Gold
Posts: 371
Amtrak AGR Upgrade Voucher Compendium

Now that this is a sticky, I've rewritten this first post to consolidate the information we have so far on Amtrak's one-class upgrade coupons. The information below details the finer points of coupon use. For a list of the standard T&Cs, please see the last item below, where we duplicate the fine print from the back of the coupon.

How to get them: You'll get several in your Select or S+ packet. While transferable, these will bear your name and AGR number. S+ members receive 48-hour upgrades. Select members receive 12-hour upgrades. You can also order a pack of 5 for 10,000 points from AGR. These will not be labeled with your name and will have a 12-hour upgrade window. All are transferable. They also tend to appear on CC toward the beginning and end of their validity periods, March 1 - Feb 28/29.

Can reserve upgrade by phone and pick up later: Amtrak's phone agents can apply upgrades over the phone; you must then turn in your coupon to a station agent to pick up the upgraded ticket. When upgrading over the phone, you'll receive a new confirmation e-mail (if you want one) showing the upgraded class of service; your reservation number will not change. An upgrade results in a reissue with a new ticket number under the same reservation number.

For best service, use ClubAcela: If you're upgrading on Acela at WAS, PHL, NYP, or BOS, there's no need to go to the main waiting line to get your F ticket. Simply present yourself at ClubAcela your coupon with reservation number or pre-printed ticket, and the agent will upgrade you and let you in. ClubAcela agents understandably process lots of upgrades and are the most proficient and reliable ones to do so.

One leg on a roundtrip OK, with advice: This should be elementary, but this is Amtrak. Yes, you can upgrade one leg of a round-trip itinerary. However, since upgrades result in ticket resissue, it's generally easier to process an upgrade prior to printing the ticket. So, if your destination has an agent available and you don't expect to be rushed, it's best to book two one-ways instead of a roundtrip so that you don't print your return ticket until you're about to upgrade it. (Lots of other good reasons to do this: unprinted tickets are often refundable without fee, can be changed online, can't be lost, etc.)

One coupon on connecting through fare, with caveats: Like the airlines, Amtrak will accept a single upgrade coupon for a connecting itinerary priced with a single "through-fare." (Examples: WAS-NYP-BOS, RVR-PHL-PGH.) However, not many agents are aware of this, and not every agent can do it right. It's best to work with an agent who handles upgrades coupons, such as a ClubAcela agent. Also note that you must be within the upgrade window for your last connecting train to receive upgrades on all segments—this could be problematic for long layovers if you have a 12-hour coupon. See post 8 for full details.

No capacity controls: Despite the fine print, none of us have observed capacitiy controls on the upgrades. Once the upgrade window opens, any available premium seat is game. One corner case that we haven't studied is where coach is full and only business seats are available. (For Acela, we mean that business is full and only first class is available.) It is unknown whether upgrades will be permitted in this situation, though I don't see why not.

Earned points based on travelled class of service: Unlike airlines frequent flyer programs, where you earned miles based on your purchased class of service, Amtrak will award points based on the upgraded class of service. This only makes a difference on Acela, where select city pairs earn 750 points for first vs. 500 points for business. You will earn 750 for an upgraded, select city-pair Acela ticket.

Strict upgrade windows: Upgrade coupons typically have 12-hour or 48-hour windows. In the past, an agent could let the window slide a bit. Today, the computer will reject an attempt to upgrade outside the designated time window.

Same blackout dates as AGR redemptions: The 2011 coupons show the same blackout dates as for AGR reward travel. However, the Acela time-of-day blackouts for reward travel do not apply to upgrades. Go ahead, upgrade your Monday 7am Acela ticket.

No fare difference: Like airlines, Amtrak will preserve your original rail fare when an upgrade is applied. Sometimes this is easier said than done and requires a "manual price." (If an agent claims that you owe a fare difference, instruct the agent to manual price per the terms on the back of the coupon. And report it here!)

Not valid with most promotional discounts: The T&Cs state that only corporate discounts are valid with the upgrades. Since upgrade coupons require use of a H*** promotion code (asterisks are numbers, different each year), any discount that relies on a promotion code of the same form (X***, V***) will generally not qualify. Discounts that require advance purchase (NARP, AAA, Student Advantage, etc.) are unlikely to work since a reissue within 12 or 48 hours would kill the discount. It is unknown whether upgrade coupons are valid for deep-discount fares that aren't upgradeable at time of purchase, such as YE and YF coach fares (14-day NEC advance purchase, weekly specials, 3-day sales, and their ilk) and child and military tickets, which require no advance purchase. We suspect they won't work.

Impact of e-ticketing: Unknown at this time. Amtrak is rumored to be rolling out e-ticketing to mobile devices. Given that the upgrade coupon needs to be turned in to a human agent to receive the upgrade, I'm speculating that an upgrade will force a paper ticket to be issued. We shall see.

Fare basis/booking code: For the real wonks out there who want to know what booking code your upgrade will book into, it depends. Usually, a KD fare (Acela business, "D" fare bucket) will become a PD fare (Acela revenue first, "D" bucket). I've seen at least one instance of "PK". Not sure whether this means upgraded business or full-fare first. For point-earning purposes, it doesn't matter.

What's in the fine print: On the back of a 2011, 12-hour coupon (promotion code H119) are the following restrictions:
Coupon valid for one (1) space-available upgrade from Coach to Business class or Business class to First class. Not valid for upgrade to sleeping accommodations.

Limited availability; upgrade not available on all trains at all times.

Valid for travel between March 1, 2001 and February 29, 2012. Travel blackouts apply: April 22, 2011; April 24-25, 2011; May 27, 2011; July 1-2, 2011; September 2, 2011; September 5, 2011; October 7, 2011; November 22-23, 2011; November 26-28, 2011; December 21-24, 2011; December 26-30, 2011, January 2, 2012; February 17, 2012; February 20, 2012.

Offer is not valid on the following services: Adirondack, Auto Train, California Zephyr, Capitol Limited, Cardinal, City of New Orleans, Coast Starlight, Crescent, Empire Builder, 7000-8999 Series Thruway Service, Keystone Service, Lake Shore Limited, Palmetto, Silver Meteor, Silver Star, Southwest Chief, Sunset Limited and Texas Eagle.

Upgrade may be combined with corporate discount, but may not be combined with any other discount, coupon, or Amtrak Guest Rewards redemption travel.

The coupon has no cash value and is not valid for resale. Photocopies and reproductions will not be accepted. Coupons are transferable.

Other restrictions may apply.
Summary of open questions:
  • Can exchangeable tickets (e.g. 14-day NEC fares) that can't be upgraded at time of booking be upgraded with a coupon?
  • Can military and child tickets, which have no advance-purchase requirement, be upgraded with coupons?
  • No upgrades on the Palmetto? Seriously?

Last edited by gatelouse; Jun 5, 11 at 10:50 pm Reason: significant updates based on Rover75's post
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