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Basic Qs about Sleeping Car Rez Changes, Cancellations

Basic Qs about Sleeping Car Rez Changes, Cancellations

Old Aug 4, 17, 4:54 pm
  #1  
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Basic Qs about Sleeping Car Rez Changes, Cancellations

Here are some questions I have, for the experts. Some Qs may be answered on the Amtrak website, but I'd be surprised if they all are.

Background: there is a 10% or 20% points penalty for cancellations or most changes, according to the phone rep (but only after I probed him on the matter - he just went ahead and made the booking without any caveats). The only exception is where the points redemption cost remains exactly the same as when the booking was made. And you can't change dates without penalty.

Q: Can you cancel a points booking within 24 hours without penalty for any reason, as with an airline booking? How about a cash booking?

Q: Can you add someone to a sleeping car booking (same room) without fee?

Q: Can you change rooms without fee? Note: the initial room booked may not be in the optimal location. You can only specify a room by phoning to reserve, not by using the website. And you only can only guarantee the left side or right side by booking a room in the transition sleeper, because Amtrak doesn't have the discipline to marshal other sleepers in a consistent direction.

Thanks!
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Old Aug 6, 17, 9:45 am
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Originally Posted by Explore View Post
Here are some questions I have, for the experts. Some Qs may be answered on the Amtrak website, but I'd be surprised if they all are.

Background: there is a 10% or 20% points penalty for cancellations or most changes, according to the phone rep (but only after I probed him on the matter - he just went ahead and made the booking without any caveats). The only exception is where the points redemption cost remains exactly the same as when the booking was made. And you can't change dates without penalty.

Q: Can you cancel a points booking within 24 hours without penalty for any reason, as with an airline booking? How about a cash booking?

Q: Can you add someone to a sleeping car booking (same room) without fee?

Q: Can you change rooms without fee? Note: the initial room booked may not be in the optimal location. You can only specify a room by phoning to reserve, not by using the website. And you only can only guarantee the left side or right side by booking a room in the transition sleeper, because Amtrak doesn't have the discipline to marshal other sleepers in a consistent direction.

Thanks!
I'm not familiar with the details regarding your first question, but I've added someone to my sleeper reservation and changed rooms with no fees.
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Old Aug 6, 17, 6:25 pm
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Thanks......is that in the past year or so, since Amtrak introduced penalties for sleeping car reservation changes, even far in advance of travel?
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Old Aug 8, 17, 7:16 am
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Originally Posted by Explore View Post
Q: Can you add someone to a sleeping car booking (same room) without fee?
You should be able to, but you will need to pay their railfare. Sleeper fare structure is:
rail fare for each passenger (minimum coach fare for the city pair you are traveling) PLUS Room Charge.

So if for example rail fare is $25, and sleeper is $75, total cost for one person is $25+$75=$100, for 2 people it would be $25+$25+$75=$125.

Originally Posted by Explore View Post
Q: Can you change rooms without fee? Note: the initial room booked may not be in the optimal location. You can only specify a room by phoning to reserve, not by using the website. And you only can only guarantee the left side or right side by booking a room in the transition sleeper, because Amtrak doesn't have the discipline to marshal other sleepers in a consistent direction.
Call an agent to change rooms. If they tell you there will be a fee, tell them not to do anything and hang up and call again. A more experienced agent will be able to do this without any additional charge.
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Old Aug 8, 17, 10:14 am
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Originally Posted by bmorechris View Post
You should be able to, but you will need to pay their railfare.
This is correct, but there is a nuance. Each rail passenger pays the lowest bucket Value fare. The Saver coach fare, if available, is lower than the Value fare, and is not available for the sleeping car passenger's rail fare. (I think those are the fare names. If not, I'm sure someone will provide the correct names.)

It is also possible that the lowest available coach fare at the time of the change is a higher bucket fare, in which case the fare for the new sleeper passenger will be less than the current coach fare.

Originally Posted by bmorechris View Post
Call an agent to change rooms. If they tell you there will be a fee, tell them not to do anything and hang up and call again. A more experienced agent will be able to do this without any additional charge.
On another web site (Amtrak Unlimited), members emphasize that a caller should use the term "modify" when changing a reservation. In any event, bmorechris is correct in the advice to hang up and call again if the agent wants to collect more money. The last two times I have changed rooms, the first agent said that Amtrak no longer allows this without an upcharge, but HUCA worked. The last time I did this, even the second agent said it wasn't allowed, but since I'm special (I'm not), THIS ONCE it could happen.

Explore, I'm sure I did this in April of 2016. I'm not sure if I've done it since. Do you know when Amtrak increased the penalties for cancellations?

Note that even after Amtrak increased the penalties for cancellations, travelers could still receive 100% value in a voucher.
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Old Aug 12, 17, 4:12 pm
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My Experience

So I called in 3 times to change the room. Each time, the agent insisted I would have to pay the current (higher) points cost for an identical room, different room number. The third time, I was careful to call during weekday business hours in hopes of getting a more experienced agent. The agent did sound more experienced, but the story was the same. At least she was reasonably courteous.

Rather than HUCA a fourth time, I asked pleasantly if she could check with her supervisor to see if an "override" was possible. After a bit of time on hold, she was back to say that the change had been made "as a one-time exception."

Of course I complimented her, but why can't Amtrak change its systems to allow simple room changes without upcharges - or better yet, allow passengers to select or change their own room from an online map?
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Old Aug 13, 17, 7:07 am
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Thanks for the update, Explore.

Originally Posted by Explore View Post
... why can't Amtrak change its systems to allow simple room changes without upcharges - or better yet, allow passengers to select or change their own room from an online map?
I have heard that Amtrak is trying to juggle room assignments to maximize availability for long-haul passengers. For example, if a passenger wants to travel from Minot to Whitefish, and another passenger has already reserved a room from Milwaukee to Rugby, the Minot-Whitefish passenger will likely be put in the room that the Milwaukee-Rugby passenger had occupied, rather than tying up a room that would otherwise be available from Chicago to Seattle or Portland (depending on the car). Of course, this is a problem that a point-to-point service, such as an aircraft, would not have.

I have boarded Amtrak at an intermediate point and been told that my room has been switched to accommodate an earlier passengers request, so even a "confirmed" assignment is subject to change.
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Old Aug 15, 17, 5:16 pm
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Originally Posted by serpens View Post
Thanks for the update, Explore.



I have heard that Amtrak is trying to juggle room assignments to maximize availability for long-haul passengers. For example, if a passenger wants to travel from Minot to Whitefish, and another passenger has already reserved a room from Milwaukee to Rugby, the Minot-Whitefish passenger will likely be put in the room that the Milwaukee-Rugby passenger had occupied, rather than tying up a room that would otherwise be available from Chicago to Seattle or Portland (depending on the car). Of course, this is a problem that a point-to-point service, such as an aircraft, would not have.

I have boarded Amtrak at an intermediate point and been told that my room has been switched to accommodate an earlier passengers request, so even a "confirmed" assignment is subject to change.
I've actually always kind of wondered why they don't just assign rooms at some kind of "check-in window" like 24 hours before departure. That way, they can always optimize room assignments for maximum efficiency given en-route turnovers.

I've also always wondered, but have been able to actually see, what Amtrak's reservation system would do in the event that there is not one single room open for the entire route--but that there is always at least one room of any given room type open on any given segment along the full route. Does Amtrak just shut down and say "No rooms available"? That's my suspicion.

To clarify, what I mean is this:

Let's take the Zephyr and say the train only has three bedrooms--A, B, and C. Current bookings are:

EMY -- SLC -- DEN -- CHI
[-- Bedroom A --] [Vacant]
[Vacant] [--Bedroom B --]
[Bed. C] [Vacant] [Bed C]

Now, let's say I want to book EMY-CHI. None of the three bedrooms is open for the full route, but I could occupy Bedroom B from EMY to SLC, then Bedroom C from SLC to DEN, and then Bedroom A from DEN to CHI.

Would ARROW even show a room as available? Or would it simply say, "Sold Out"?

If the latter, then that's why I'm suggesting that it would ultimately be to Amtrak's benefit to not assign rooms until 24 hours before departure. If that were the case, The person who booked EMY-SLC would be assigned to Bedroom B, and the person who booked SLC-DEN would be assigned to Bedroom A. Then, Bedroom C would be open for the full route, and it would be assigned to me.

I wonder if this is actually happening, and if so, how much revenue it costs Amtrak.

(FWIW, this same problem would exist if Amtrak pre-assigned seats, which is why I've always mentioned here on FT when the topic of preassigning seats comes up that it shouldn't be done until the last moment--perhaps, like I said, 24 hours before departure.)
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Old Aug 16, 17, 12:51 pm
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Originally Posted by jackal View Post
I've also always wondered, but have been able to actually see, what Amtrak's reservation system would do in the event that there is not one single room open for the entire route--but that there is always at least one room of any given room type open on any given segment along the full route. Does Amtrak just shut down and say "No rooms available"? That's my suspicion.
That is my understanding and what people on another board have mentioned. To expound, a person was in that situation and booked a room from A to B and a different room from B to C. This was accomplished using the multi-city option at amtrak.com, and there was no discount for traveling from A to C; it was the offered price from A to B and the offered price from B to C, which made it an expensive trip.
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Old Aug 16, 17, 1:39 pm
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Originally Posted by serpens View Post
That is my understanding and what people on another board have mentioned. To expound, a person was in that situation and booked a room from A to B and a different room from B to C. This was accomplished using the multi-city option at amtrak.com, and there was no discount for traveling from A to C; it was the offered price from A to B and the offered price from B to C, which made it an expensive trip.
Thanks for clarifying. That's too bad--especially about the part that it caused a fare break, too.

Amtrak would probably do well to figure out how to resolve this.
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Old Aug 17, 17, 5:06 pm
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Originally Posted by jackal View Post
I've also always wondered, but have been able to actually see, what Amtrak's reservation system would do in the event that there is not one single room open for the entire route--but that there is always at least one room of any given room type open on any given segment along the full route. Does Amtrak just shut down and say "No rooms available"? That's my suspicion.
Actually, ARROW will show that a room is available. However, when you actually go to book the room, it will fail and you'll get some goofy error code. I don't remember what it is anymore. But I have hit that very situation.

I was trying to book the EB from Chicago to Portland and ARROW kept showing a room as available, but every time the AGR agent tried to book the room for me, they were unable. Eventually, with the help of a friend who used to work for Amtrak, we figured out that there was a room available from Chicago to Whitefish IIRC. And another room available from like 2 stops before Whitefish to Portland. One was on the upper level, the other on the lower level.

But since it wasn't the same room for the entire trip I wanted, ARROW refused to book the room. Once I understood what the problem was, I called up AGR again and instructed the agent to pull room 14 from CHI to WFH and room 8 from WFH to PDX which they did and I got my trip.

I have subsequently even seen a situation where it required changing the room twice in order to book the trip. In that case however, one of the changes occurred around 3AM so the person I was trying to help decided to pass.
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Old Aug 18, 17, 6:51 am
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Originally Posted by AlanB View Post
But since it wasn't the same room for the entire trip I wanted, ARROW refused to book the room. Once I understood what the problem was, I called up AGR again and instructed the agent to pull room 14 from CHI to WFH and room 8 from WFH to PDX which they did and I got my trip.
Thanks for the explanation. It might save someone some hair-pulling in a similar situation.

Was there any discount for traveling from Chicago to Portland compared to traveling from Chicago to Whitefish and Whitefish to Portland? My understanding is that the two part-way tickets are booked at regular price and so the total cost of the trip is significantly more, and I'm hoping you can confirm or deny this understanding.
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Old Aug 18, 17, 3:28 pm
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Originally Posted by serpens View Post
Was there any discount for traveling from Chicago to Portland compared to traveling from Chicago to Whitefish and Whitefish to Portland? My understanding is that the two part-way tickets are booked at regular price and so the total cost of the trip is significantly more, and I'm hoping you can confirm or deny this understanding.
My experience was back with AGR I, where the amount of points was based upon how many zones one crossed. So my price didn't change because of this trick.

That said, a quick check right now showed a roomette price from Chicago to Seattle for a random date that I picked of $947. Attempting to book it with a break in the middle jumped the price up to over $1,200. That's without a layover in Whitefish. That however could be a limitation of ARROW and the online booking system not understanding what's happening. I don't know if perhaps an agent could override things and get the lower price since you are technically making a through booking.
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