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Amtrak BidUp (Bidding for Upgrades to Business Class/Acela First Class)

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roadman3313

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Just read this on the Amtrak Media site. I have experienced e-standby upgrade offers via email from hotels where they offer a fixed, often discounted price for additional services (i.e. early/late check-out) or upgraded rooms on a stand-by basis (i.e. if available at check-in). If it is available they charge you at check-in. If not, then you don't pay anything. Basically it serves as a discount to be on stand-by rather than paying full price to guarantee an upgrade in advance.

The Amtrak version below sounds less like the standby option that hotels use and more like a bidding system where one bids for an upgrade up to two hours prior to departure and then sees if they "win." Not really sure what to think of the concept but I wanted to share in the event anyone has an eligible trip coming up.

Make offers before departure for Business Class or First Class
WASHINGTON – All Amtrak customers enjoy roomy seats and legroom. But for those who want a more premium experience – with even more comfort and amenities – Amtrak customers now can make BidUpSM offers for upgrades to Business Class or First Class.

  • Customers with existing reservations can visit Amtrak.com/BidUp, check eligibility up to two hours prior to departure and place a bid to upgrade their reservation into our premium classes of service: Business Class (most corridor routes) and First Class (Acela).
  • Participants view upgrade options for their scheduled trip and submit a bid for an upgrade on their itinerary. There is no fee to make a bid and Amtrak also will provide tips on how to increase the chances of winning an upgrade.
  • Customers have the option to modify or cancel the bid and they will not be charged unless the upgrade is awarded.
  • Customers with winning bids will receive a new ticket prior to their scheduled departure.
  • Other terms and conditions will apply, with more information at Amtrak.com/BidUp.
Amtrak Guest Rewards members will earn two points per dollar spent on their trip, plus Business Class and First Class point bonuses.

“BidUp is a great way for more Amtrak customers to enjoy our premium services,” said Roger Harris, Amtrak Executive Vice President/Chief Marketing and Revenue Officer.

Amtrak Business Class customers enjoy amenities beyond Coach class, including a dedicated car or section on the train, more legroom, a 25% point bonus for Guest Rewards members, and reserved seating on Northeast Regional, Palmetto,Carolinian and Vermonter trains.

Acela First Class customers have an array of premium upgrades from Acela Business Class and exclusive to our highest speed service in the Boston-New York-Washington corridor, including reserved single, double and conference table seating, at-seat service with complimentary meals and beverages, a 50% point bonus for Guest Rewards members, and complimentary lounge access with priority boarding.

Amtrak is utilizing the Plusgrade platform as the first rail travel customer of the Quebec-based ancillary revenue and merchandising company.

Source: Amtrak Media Center
 

Mailliw

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So apparently Amtrak is going to allow passengers to bid for upgrades now like airlines do. At first only for Business Class (or Acela First Class), but sleeper accommodations are a future possibility.
I agree with the author here; it probably won't be a big deal unless it's expanded to sleepers. Coach passengers (or roomette passengers looking for a bedroom) could fine bargain last minute upgrades, but then again how common is it for sleeping cars to have last minute vacancies? Thoughts?
 

roadman3313

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Why not do this for sleeper accommodations on long-distance trains? 🥺
The FAQ on the page does say, "Bidding for an upgrade to a private room will be offered at a later date." Might be a possibility in the future.

In looking at the site for an upcoming reservation, the bidding appears to be on a sliding scale. Each point on the scale shows the likelihood (strength) of your bid. Some would be a savings while others are not so much depending on any current promotions that are going on. One key catch is if you bid and your bid is accepted as a winner, once the upgrade is applied the ticket becomes fully non-refundable, non-changeable, and non-transferable, even if the original fare was refundable.

There is also one item in the Terms and Condition of note:
"Amtrak cannot guarantee that passengers on an Upgraded Booking will receive all the inclusions of the higher class of service." While this is meant to imply any special services such as special meal preferences or what not if the award is booked close in, it is still language to be aware of.

As an aside, Amtrak also made an update to the Terms and Conditions for E-Vouchers as of 2/21 but I haven't seen any language updated that ties them in with the new bidding system.
 

bms

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I got a message about the program. I usually travel alone so there's really no reason to upgrade from the guaranteed two coach seats up to business. Not to make light of Covid, but I will always remember this past year, as it was nice that I always had the two seats to myself ;)
 

Exvalley

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Here is a good writeup on the program:

I have done this with Air Canada in the past. It never seems to be an amazing deal, but once or twice I have gotten an upgrade for a reasonable price.
 

Amtrakfflyer

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Just like airlines nowadays leave with every first class seat filled Amtrak should do the same. Rooms included. Just have to find the fine line as to not cancel out advance bookings while doing it.

I personally think as far as sleepers go Amtrak should do the bidding and go back to how it used to be. Sell them on board at some discount, low bucket minus 20 percent maybe. (Right now a onboard upgrade is pretty much high bucket, meaning the upgrade is $1000+ and no one does it). Or at 8pm make an announcement onboard offering a few open rooms available for the night at $100 good til 8am the next day including the continental breakfast that’s now served. Bed and breakfast upgrade, I guarantee those rooms would go quick and introduce people to sleeper travel. In the digital age it’s all easily possible if the will was there.
 
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