Boarding at later station: experiences?

Old Jun 10, 19, 4:40 am
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Join Date: Mar 2014
Posts: 24
Question Boarding at later station: experiences?

I'm about to book an Empire Builder ticket, which goes from Chicago, IL (CHI) to Seatte, WA (SEA). However, we're considering visiting family in Wisconsin, and we'd like to embark in Columbus, WI (CBS), which is the stop almost three hours after Chicago. Same train.

Anyway, the ticket prices are significantly higher from this later stop... (CHI-SEA 6k pts, CBS-SEA 10k pts)
I searched the forums but a lot of info on this seems to be outdated, or only applicable to the station the topic starter mentioned. Called amtrak but they are unable to explain why the ticketing system generates this higher price.

Does anybody have any recent experience
  • with boarding at a later station than the ticket departure station on a long distance train,
  • or with rebooking to change to a later departure station without being charged double?
Have a nice day!
jbxx is offline  
Old Jun 10, 19, 7:23 am
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"with boarding at a later station than the ticket departure station on a long distance train,"

The system will automatically cancel your ticket if you don't board at Chicago. I've sometimes heard in certain situations of people being able to board at the next stop after the one that was booked (getting on at BBY or RTE instead of BOS, for example), but I don't know if that applies to the EB and I'm just about 100% sure they would cancel your ticket before you get on at CBS.

I don't know anything about the rebooking question, unfortunately.
lo2e is offline  
Old Jun 10, 19, 8:37 am
Join Date: Jan 2008
Location: WAS
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I haven't had any problems boarding at a later station, but I'm also not trying to board three hours later (the two stations I swap between are 15 minutes apart: CYN and RGH). I think you could talk your way on, but it might be stressful. If you rebook to change stations, Amtrak will treat it as though you'd canceled and then rebought your ticket at whatever the going rate at time of rebooking is.
ambyr is offline  
Old Jun 10, 19, 4:25 pm
Join Date: Mar 2012
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You need to get rebooked from Columbus.

Tickets are cancelled if they are not scanned by the conductor within at most two hours after departure on long distance trains. You will be treated as a no-show and your reservation and money/points will be gone. It would probably be all right to be ticketed from Chicago and get on at Glenview, first stop outside Chicago, but Columbus is clearly too late. You probably couldn't "talk your way out of it" as the cancellation is done automatically and the ticket would show as voided when he scans it and it validates the ticket with the reservations system. He has no choice. You either buy a new ticket there and then (not on points, those evaporated), or you get put off the train at Portage, the next stop.

Amtrak yield manages its fares, similar to the airlines, so fares shift as demand changes. Point redemption is now based on cash fare, so it moves with the cash fare. The Columbus fare would be booked at the current price level, not at the one you originally had, just like the airlines (though without the exorbitant change fee) . Also, a Columbus-Seattle ticket may not be at the same yield management bucket as the Chicago-Seattle fare at any given time. Since on re-reading the OP's post I see they are trying to do the initial booking, it is likely the second case, CBS-SEA is in a higher yield management bucket than CHI-SEA.

I had an experience where I was actually on the train and the conductor neglected to scan my round trip ticket. She had directed me to a seat she had determined before I boarded and just said "I got you" and she hadn't (they don't have to physically scan, they can just check you in by name on their iPhone device and she hadn't taken that step, though she apparently thought she had). Since I was at my destination and it was clear I had ridden the train I was booked on, Amtrak did reinstate the return ticket because it was their fault not mine. But if you aren't on board, that would be an entirely different situation.

Last edited by zephyr17; Jun 10, 19 at 4:48 pm Reason: clarification
zephyr17 is offline  
Old Aug 11, 19, 5:36 am
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Do it all the time...

I book tickets WAS - NYP yet many times I donít board until BWI or BAL (1-2 stops after) depending or where I am the night before. Conductor told me it itís fine as long as Iím paying for the longer route.
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Old Aug 11, 19, 6:45 am
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Originally Posted by srfrgirl4 View Post
I book tickets WAS - NYP yet many times I don’t board until BWI or BAL (1-2 stops after) depending or where I am the night before. Conductor told me it it’s fine as long as I’m paying for the longer route.
Apples & oranges.

WAS & BWI are 25-35 minutes apart. OP is talking about 3 hours. That is longer than the entire Acela route WAS-NYP.

In OP's case, there is no talking his way past the conductor. With a voided ticket, it would have to be a conductor willing to let a passenger ride without a ticket. Not happening.
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Last edited by Often1; Aug 11, 19 at 2:38 pm
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