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-   -   Amtrak AGR Upgrade Voucher Compendium (https://www.flyertalk.com/forum/amtrak-guest-rewards/1218268-amtrak-agr-upgrade-voucher-compendium.html)

gatelouse May 22, 11 11:44 pm

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?

AlanB May 23, 11 6:36 am


Originally Posted by gatelouse (Post 16432516)
When Amtrak started yield-managing the NEC, there were reports of agents repricing to the prevailing, often higher, fare when redeeming an upgrade. This issue has been definitively fixed some time ago. (The coupon even instructs agents to manually price tickets to preserve the original fare.)

That wasn't a deliberate act on the part of the agents. Right about the same time that AGR started with the coupons, Amtrak changed how revenue management worked. Amtrak decided that any changes to a reservation would automatically reprice things to the current bucket.

Well the upgrade, even though free, was still a change to the reservation. So the computer repriced and if the agent wasn't paying attention, they didn't notice that it had repriced. Even worse, one limitation in ARROW is that they can't find out what the original price was, so unless they had noted it prior to starting, you had to bring printer proof to the station later on to get the original price.

This situation has since been fixed via other means now anyhow.


Originally Posted by gatelouse (Post 16432516)
This should go without saying, but this is Amtrak. Upgrading individual legs of a roundtrip works. I had a roundtrip Acela booking with J outbound and F returning. Upgrading the J leg without disturbing the return was a cinch.

Yes, that works. However, both tickets are still issued at the same time. So if you were planning to upgrade the return as well and you're not within the window it causes more issues. You can still can when within the window, but it is harder for the agent to process the upgrade on a ticket that has been printed.

So if you're planning to upgrade both legs, make separate resevations. It's just easier!


Originally Posted by gatelouse (Post 16432516)
Despite the fine print on the coupon, the upgrades don't appear to be capacity-controlled, but I haven't had a chance to test that assertion.

I haven't seen that either, yet.


Originally Posted by gatelouse (Post 16432516)
Upgrades aren't valid for child tickets, right?

I don't believe so, since that is a discounted ticket. And on Acela, you can't buy childs tickets M-F.


Originally Posted by gatelouse (Post 16432516)
Can you upgrade a two-segment trip priced with a single through fare? If so, one coupon or two?

Never tried, as there aren't many places where you could even take such a ride. My guess however is that you'd need two.


Originally Posted by gatelouse (Post 16432516)
Anyone tried using an upgrade voucher for a rail fare that doesn't permit a purchased upgrade to business class, like those 14-day advance NEC fares?

Never tried. But also wouldn't waste a voucher on BC when I could use it for First Class on Acela. It's a much better value for the voucher.


Originally Posted by gatelouse (Post 16432516)
How strict are the 12-hour and 48-hour windows? Will the computer reject the upgrade, or is it left to the agents to enforce the waiting periods?

It's up to the agent to enforce things. In my experience most will let you slide by a few minutes, not that I've pushed the window all that much. But if you are hours early, I wouldn't expect them to process it.

amamba May 23, 11 4:03 pm


Originally Posted by gatelouse (Post 16432516)
[*]How strict are the 12-hour and 48-hour windows? Will the computer reject the upgrade, or is it left to the agents to enforce the waiting periods?

Interesting question regarding the windows. I had no problems processing a 48 hour upgrade coupon last year at the station in PVD within 49 hours or 48.5 hours.

But this year, select members only got the 12 hour upgrade coupons, so that is what I have. I tried to get one of those processed about 14 hours ahead of time, and when I called 1800USARAIL the very friendly agent told me that the computer wasn't taking the code. He told me to call back in exactly two hours, which I did.

In terms of the coupons being capacity controlled, they are limited in terms of the FC car capacity, not how many coupons can be used on a train I think. FC acela sells out fairly often, and by sells out, I mean I think people are using the upgrade coupons. I used upgrade coupons just this past weekend for a trip BOS - PHL and then NYP - BOS. When I called to get my upgrade for the Sunday train, at first the agent told me it was sold out. I was prepared to try for a later train if it wouldn't kick my BC fare bucket too high, when she apologized and told me she was looking at the wrong train. If there are no more FC seats, you aren't going to get an upgrade.

gatelouse May 23, 11 8:51 pm

I'll buy a drink for the first FTer who books their, say, BOS-WIL Acela ride as BOS-NYP-WIL using the multi-city option (which will get you a through fare, though the higher fare bucket prevails) and attempts to upgrade the BOS-NYP segment with a coupon.

If you've an hour or two to spare, note that you get the 500/750 point minimum for BOS-NYP, plus the pro-rated value for NYP-WIL, plus a visit to your favorite NYC eatery.

Mizu Jun 2, 11 1:40 pm

The 12h upgrades are locked out before the 12h period - I tried to upgrade a 7PM WAS-NYP when I was checking in for my 7AM NYP-WAS (around 6:40AM), and the lounge agent tried and said that the computer wouldn't accept the request until the 12h window opens. Don't know about the 48h upgrades, but there seem to be not too many of those around...

ByeByeDelta Jun 2, 11 3:01 pm

I'm going to sticky this thread as it contains useful information on upgrades.

ByeByeDelta
AGR Moderator

gatelouse Jun 3, 11 10:21 pm


Originally Posted by ByeByeDelta (Post 16493175)
I'm going to sticky this thread as it contains useful information on upgrades.

ByeByeDelta
AGR Moderator

My first sticky...thanks! I've updated the first post to be more comprehensive and useful to new readers. Please keep posting your coupon upgrade experiences, and I'll keep adding the community's discoveries and experiences to the first post.

Rover75 Jun 5, 11 8:55 am

1 Upgrade Coupon for 2 Segments on Thru Fare
 
I routinely travel between Washington and Boston with a one hour stop over (or longer) in New York using a single upgrade coupon. The underlying fare is the through one way fare. The ticket agents at the Acela Club in DC and at Route 128 in Boston fully understand that a single upgrade applies to two segments of an itinerary priced on a through fare basis. During the most recent triple mile promotion, I used two upgrades on a roundtrip between Washington and Boston with a stopover each way in New York. The ticket price was $314 (two times $157 WAS-BOS through fare) and I earned triple miles on four 750 point segments plus the 50 percent SelectPlus bonus for a total of 10,500 points. The SelectPlus complimentary upgrade coupons allow any upgrade within 48 hours (not 12 hours) which means I can apply the upgrade coupon within 48 hours of the departure of the second train (which means I can arrange a layover in New York for a day or so if I want). I have been doing this for years since it was first explained to me that this was possible by a very helpful woman in the Acela Club in Washington Union Station.

I once tried to do a two segment through fare upgrade by phone and my reservation was completely mangled (repriced in a non-sensical fashion) by an Amtrak reservations agent. In addition, only one of the two segments was actually upgraded. While I managed to get this fixed at the station, I have learned to NEVER attempt this two segment upgrade for a through fare itinerary with anyone other than an experienced agent in Washington or Boston.

To keep things simple, I always book each one way through fare separately rather than as part of a combined round trip reservation.

Also: To restate the obvious, don't you use any kind of restricted fare (14 day advance purchase, AAA discount etc.) if you want to use an upgrade coupon. So, for example, I never use the AAA discount on weekend Acela travel because the three day advance purchase requirement prevents me from using an upgrade coupon 48 hours prior to departure without paying a big fare increase.

gatelouse Jun 5, 11 10:40 pm


Originally Posted by Rover75 (Post 16506747)
(Lots of extremely helpful insight )

Welcome to FT, Rover75, and thanks for the insight on multi-leg itineraries! We've been trying to track that one down for quite a while.

I've made a number of changes to the "FAQ" on post 1 thanks to your contributions.

vatraveler Jun 18, 11 8:06 am

Any anecdotal evidence on using these on Acela on Saturday afternoons (NYP-WAS)? If there's typically tons of availability, I probably won't bother calling in advance to apply the upgrade.

gatelouse Jun 18, 11 11:30 am


Originally Posted by vatraveler (Post 16583118)
Any anecdotal evidence on using these on Acela on Saturday afternoons (NYP-WAS)? If there's typically tons of availability, I probably won't bother calling in advance to apply the upgrade.

Historically, I've seen low fare buckets readily available on Saturday afternoons. This doesn't necessarily speak to F availability, but emptier trains usually mean better chances of an upgrade.

If it were me, I wouldn't worry about a F sellout if you're traveling on a non-holiday weekend. Whenever I've upgraded an offpeak Acela, F has been less than half-full.

amamba Jun 20, 11 5:58 pm

I have done the upgrade on 3 different weekends in calendar year 2011 - none of which were holiday weekends - and the FC car was sold out on each of those one ways. I traveled:
BOS - NYP
NYP - PVD
BOS - PHL
NYP - PVD
BOS - NYP
NYP - PVD

one trip I went south on a Saturday morning, one trip was a Friday morning, and one trip was a Thursday evening.

All of the returns were either the 2250 or 2252 (Sunday afternoon).

I personally wouldn't chance just showing up the station, I would definitely call within the 12 hour window rather than be disappointed.

gatelouse Jun 20, 11 11:12 pm


Originally Posted by amamba (Post 16596344)
I have done the upgrade on 3 different weekends in calendar year 2011 - none of which were holiday weekends - and the FC car was sold out on each of those one ways. I traveled:
BOS - NYP
NYP - PVD
BOS - PHL
NYP - PVD
BOS - NYP
NYP - PVD

one trip I went south on a Saturday morning, one trip was a Friday morning, and one trip was a Thursday evening.

Thanks for the data points, amamba! I'd consider all the times you describe to be peak Acela travel times. Even Saturday morning can become busy because there is so little Acela Express service available during this time.

My take on off-peak Acela travel times are: Mon-Wed late morning, midday, and late evening after the PM business rush; Thursday late morning and midday; Saturday afternoon/evening; and Sunday morning. All other times bring a risk of sold-out trains. Holidays can turn every train into a busy train. Trains that run WAS-NYP or NYP-BOS only are usually less full than the ones that run the entire route.

Using the above definitions, I've seen lightly loaded F cars during "off-peak" periods. "Peak" periods indeed produce fairly high loads both in biz and first.

EDIT — if you're not doing so already, may I respectfully suggest booking your NYP-PVD tickets as NYP-BOS/BBY/RTE, and getting off in Providence? This nets you the 500/750 point minimums for your northbound trips. The few extra dollars paid are generally worth the additional points earned, especially if you have an elite bonus or double points promo in force.

yonatan Jul 5, 11 7:07 am


Originally Posted by gatelouse (Post 16432516)
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.

About two years ago I was trying to get on an earlier Acela from Newark to DC, and it was sold out in business. But they let me pay for a business class ticket at the government fare and use my coupon to upgrade to first, which still had space. YMMV

amamba Jul 5, 11 3:44 pm

Gatelouise, thank you, I always book to BOS because the price difference is generally $9. Sometimes if I have time to spare, I take the regional up to BOS from PVD prior to traveling south to NYP. It nets me an extra 100 rail points plus some time in the Club Acela - plus it is wicked stressful boarding in PVD because the best seats are always gone and I end up in a foursome with three coworkers yapping away about their business the entire trip.

I have had no trouble getting the 750 points on the FC segments when boarding in PVD or detraining in PVD with a BOS ticket.


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