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Amtrak's New Unfriendly Group Rates Policy

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rtabern

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I work for a travel tour operator who was considering incorporating Amtrak into a couple of its 2017 tours... but not after their policy change for group tours. Basically, if we make a reservations 10 months out -- we have to pay Amtrak the full, non-refundable amount 8 months out. So, if a traveler were to cancel, we'd have to eat the costs. I know a lot of fellow tour operators are not happy. But maybe business is booming they are trying to discourage group travel?

For reservations booked more than 6 months prior to departure, the full, non-refundable payment is due 60 days after booking is made.

For reservations booked 3 to 6 months prior to departure, the full, non-refundable payment is due 30 days after the booking is made.

For reservations booked 45 days to 3 months prior to departure, the full, non-refundable payment is due 7 days after booking.

For reservations booked 14-44 days prior to departure, full payment is due 3 days after booking.

The former policy was much more tour operator friendly: They asked for a 10% refundable deposit due two weeks after booking. Final payment and cancellation for a refund of the deposit was 45 days prior to travel.
 

Walt

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I wasn't aware of this change, to non-refundable fares for groups, but I think it is great! Kudos to Amtrak for fixing this injustice.

When you book, 10 months out, the consequences to me are:

I can't book at all because there are no seats/rooms left.

I have to pay more, sometimes considerably more, for my tickets because YOU pushed me into a higher bucket.

If this is all for nothing; the travel tour operator ends up cancelling later, it is totally unfair. The new policy makes travel tour operators stop, and reevaluate more carefully just how many seats/rooms they really need, only reserve those, and not one more.

Again, with so much bad news from Amtrak, finally some good news.
 

JoeBas

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Exactly. You want to know who to blame? Tour operators who gobble up all the prime time seats months and months and months in advance, wait until the last second to try and sell them, and dump them for a refund weeks or even DAYS before the train actually travels; seats which then often go unsold, due to people not have time to plan to take the trip, because when they checked it was uber bucket or "Sold out".

Keep strangling that golden goose, and eventually you kill it.
 

Just-Thinking-51

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The problems of tour groups have been on the radar screen for sometime. Just like the issues with AGR, and debit cards before that.

A fix has been done.

Now the fall out begins...
 

rtabern

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I don't think the issue is so black and white --- yes, it's possibly good news for the individual traveler because there will be more space available, but if you enjoy traveling with a group, or heck, are even part of a railroad club who does charters -- it could be really bad news for you -- and maybe you don't realize it.

For example, for at least the past 30 years now, the 20th Century Railroad Club out of Chicago (which I have been a part of) has bought a group of Amtrak tickets so club members and the general public could ride together out to the Galesburg Railroad Days. This occurred the last weekend in June with travelers going from CHI-GBB on #381 and returning in the evening on #382. The club would purchase the tickets for $40 round-trip from Amtrak and mark up the trip to $55. They would use the $15 they made off each passenger to support club activities, etc. Because of the change in policy this is the first year they will not be doing the trip through Amtrak. Getting non-refundable tickets is too much of a liability for them to try and do because it could be mean a big loss if they weren't able to see every ticket to the public and members.

So yes, cheer on for the individual traveler -- but if you are part of a railroad club who does charters on Amtrak -- it could be a big hurt. It's not just those "big travel companies gobbling up every room". Sure, there is some of that, but I was talking more smaller RR clubs who do Amtrak charters, etc. The 20th Century RR Club and other clubs like it could be facing a big loss in revenue thanks to this.

The 20th Century is trying to get around this in 2016 by buying seats on a dome car that will be back of 381 and 382.

Again, not so black and white as it may seem at first.
 
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KnightRail

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I wasn't aware of this change, to non-refundable fares for groups, but I think it is great! Kudos to Amtrak for fixing this injustice.

When you book, 10 months out, the consequences to me are:

I can't book at all because there are no seats/rooms left.

I have to pay more, sometimes considerably more, for my tickets because YOU pushed me into a higher bucket.

If this is all for nothing; the travel tour operator ends up cancelling later, it is totally unfair. The new policy makes travel tour operators stop, and reevaluate more carefully just how many seats/rooms they really need, only reserve those, and not one more.

Again, with so much bad news from Amtrak, finally some good news.
AMEN!
 

fairviewroad

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I suspect very few people here are actually part of a railroad club that books charters on Amtrak.

That said, I can't help but think of all the people I've met on western LD trains that were traveling as part of a tour group. The sheer amount of revenue provided by these groups must be significant. And, many of those people were traveling on a LD train for the first time in their lives. I bet a non-trivial number of them turn into repeat customers.

But ultimately, if Amtrak can fill that space with non-group passengers (or with groups that yield to the new policies) then I suppose it's a worthwhile change. The proof will be in the pudding.
 

JoeBas

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I don't think the issue is so black and white --- yes, it's possibly good news for the individual traveler because there will be more space available, but if you enjoy traveling with a group, or heck, are even part of a railroad club who does charters -- it could be really bad news for you -- and maybe you don't realize it.

For example, for at least the past 30 years now, the 20th Century Railroad Club out of Chicago (which I have been a part of) has bought a group of Amtrak tickets so club members and the general public could ride together out to the Galesburg Railroad Days. This occurred the last weekend in June with travelers going from CHI-GBB on #381 and returning in the evening on #382. The club would purchase the tickets for $40 round-trip from Amtrak and mark up the trip to $55. They would use the $15 they made off each passenger to support club activities, etc. Because of the change in policy this is the first year they will not be doing the trip through Amtrak. Getting non-refundable tickets is too much of a liability for them to try and do because it could be mean a big loss if they weren't able to see every ticket to the public and members.

So yes, cheer on for the individual traveler -- but if you are part of a railroad club who does charters on Amtrak -- it could be a big hurt. It's not just those "big travel companies gobbling up every room". Sure, there is some of that, but I was talking more smaller RR clubs who do Amtrak charters, etc. The 20th Century RR Club and other clubs like it could be facing a big loss in revenue thanks to this.

The 20th Century is trying to get around this in 2016 by buying seats on a dome car that will be back of 381 and 382.

Again, not so black and white as it may seem at first.
Yup, so it sucks for small nonprofits who were trying to make a little bit of skim milk.

But something had to be done with the unscrupulous tour operations who were booking the western trains solid 10 months out, and trying to sell them right up until fairly the last minute on a speculative basis.

So, your small amount of baby got thrown out with a great big heaping oil storage tank size amount of bathwater. Sorry.
 

JoeBas

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Not to mention that it's kind of skeezy if this club was buying most if not ALL of the seats on these trains, pushing them either into some kind of higher bucket or making them TOTALLY not available, to everyone else (members of the public traveling to the train days who might not know about 20th Century, and/or people who just want to visit Great Aunt Effie in Galesburg on those days and couldn't care less about train days), and then re-selling them at a "profit".
 

jis

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It opens up the possibility of Amtrak hauling more PVs booked by such group. Maybe that should be the model. Large group sales are not from the general inventory but from a special inventory that is provided in additional cars either provided by Amtrak or the numerous PV lessors. Sort of like the model followed by Alaska Railroad with the cruise lines. But yeah, this business of cornering a whole bunch of accommodation from general inventory purely for speculative sales in the future, had to stop. I am glad it has become much harder..
 
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Alice

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A little jiggering could improve the situation for both groups and individuals, allow changing the names of passengers without re-pricing to current bucket.
 

PaulM

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Why can't the clubs protect themselves by instigating a cancellation penalty? As I understand it, previously Amtrak alone suffered from a cancellation. The OP seems to be saying that now now the club suffers alone. Why shouldn't the cancelling member take some of the risk?
 

SP&S

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Once again, the sins (and they were quite egregious) of the few cause problems for the innocent.
 

Cho Cho Charlie

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I don't think the issue is so black and white --- yes, it's possibly good news for the individual traveler because there will be more space available, but if you enjoy traveling with a group, or heck, are even part of a railroad club who does charters -- it could be really bad news for you -- and maybe you don't realize it.
I don't see there being any problem for groups or clubs that make serious reservation, actually follow-thru, and go on a rail trip.

There is only a "problem" for groups or clubs that make frivolous reservations, knowing they will not use some, most, or even all of them.

If a group or club wants to go on a trip, count "noses", get deposits, and then make your reservations. If someone can't go, that person is out their money; not the group nor the club.
 

Cho Cho Charlie

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Why can't the clubs protect themselves by instigating a cancellation penalty? As I understand it, previously Amtrak alone suffered from a cancellation. The OP seems to be saying that now now the club suffers alone. Why shouldn't the cancelling member take some of the risk?
Because too many times, there isn't an actual cancelling member. A reservation was made for a nobody. Or worse, multiple reservations made for multiple nobodies.

That's how loosely these trips are put together by these groups.
 

zephyr17

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I work for a travel tour operator who was considering incorporating Amtrak into a couple of its 2017 tours... but not after their policy change for group tours. Basically, if we make a reservations 10 months out -- we have to pay Amtrak the full, non-refundable amount 8 months out. So, if a traveler were to cancel, we'd have to eat the costs. I know a lot of fellow tour operators are not happy. But maybe business is booming they are trying to discourage group travel?

For reservations booked more than 6 months prior to departure, the full, non-refundable payment is due 60 days after booking is made.

For reservations booked 3 to 6 months prior to departure, the full, non-refundable payment is due 30 days after the booking is made.

For reservations booked 45 days to 3 months prior to departure, the full, non-refundable payment is due 7 days after booking.

For reservations booked 14-44 days prior to departure, full payment is due 3 days after booking.

The former policy was much more tour operator friendly: They asked for a 10% refundable deposit due two weeks after booking. Final payment and cancellation for a refund of the deposit was 45 days prior to travel.
YAYYYYYYY!
 

Bob Dylan

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You can buy trip insurance that covers cancellations for covered reasons but not being an insurance person not sure if people dropping out qualifies if it's for a group ??

I agree that overall it's probably good for Amtrak and us individual riders but as Alice said, there should be a way to negotiate this!!
 

rtabern

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Why can't the clubs protect themselves by instigating a cancellation penalty? As I understand it, previously Amtrak alone suffered from a cancellation. The OP seems to be saying that now now the club suffers alone. Why shouldn't the cancelling member take some of the risk?
Because too many times, there isn't an actual cancelling member. A reservation was made for a nobody. Or worse, multiple reservations made for multiple nobodies.

That's how loosely these trips are put together by these groups.
I am not in favor of large companies like America by Rail or other groups buying out almost every single sleepers in the summer the second they go on sale so they jack up the price for everyone. Something had to be done about that. But as I said earlier on in this thread, this new policy isn't totally black and white / good and bad either... as it does impacts RR charters and groups that many of us on here I'd imagine like to do and ride on.

I will give you one quick scenario to show what issues a club or RR history group might face now with this policy. Again, I can see why individuals (esp. those who aren't part of a RR History group who likes to Amtrak excursions) might be happy with this new policy, but if you are part of a club or organization or non-profit who does Amtrak excursions and trips... this is a real damper.

Here is the rule again for reference:

For reservations booked more than 6 months prior to departure, the full, non-refundable payment is due 60 days after booking is made.

So, let's say the 20th Century Railroad Club (or whatever group or RR history group you are part of) wanted to organize an excursion. It's 10 months out from the date of the excursion. So, the organizer goes to Amtrak and purchases 40 seats. They now basically have just 60 days to try and sell those tickets to members or the public before final non-refundable payments are due. The thing is, from my experience working in the travel business, most people are NOT going to book a non-refundable excursion 8-10 months out. I'd argue most folks aren't planners and don't know what they are doing even a few months out from now on the weekends. I have seen very few day or weekend trip rail excursions go on sale 8-10 months out... and if they did... they most often aren't totally non-refundable. So let's say the club sells 10 seats in that time frame.

Do they return the 30 seats to Amtrak and not make anymore money and have to try and stop selling them? Or do they take the huge risk and hold on to those 30 seats and make the payment and hope to re-coop their money by finding 30 people to go?

The thing is -- most excursion groups aren't going to take that risk of buying the 30 tickets knowing if they don't sell them, they are stuck with them.

Hope this makes sense to some folks on here.
 

Just-Thinking-51

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Again fall out over a policy. There was a problem, now we have a change. A small group of people who you did not want to impact got impacted.

The question is how to do a better policy.

Do you allow group booking for non-sleeper trains to have a different policy then a sleeper equiped train?

Do you allow a group to "buy" 100 seats and allow a refund of 25% seats within a certain cut off day (90 days out).

K.I.S.S. Keep it simple.

The new policy will be adapted / adjust / overcome to by those using the system.

If you can't adapted / adjust / overcome try asking group sales is there a way around the issue, for your event.
 
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