Compensation for Amtrak Cancellation

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There have been several threads recently where passengers have posted that Amtrak has canceled their sleeping car reservations and re-booked them into coach due to equipment changes, etc. I thought the adequacy of Amtrak's compensation in these instances deserved its own topic but if the moderators don't agree they can move this elsewhere.

It seems to me that when Amtrak cancels a reservation due to a change in equipment it is akin in many aspects to an airline overbooking a flight and bumping passengers either by asking for volunteers or by bumping passengers involuntarily as a last resort. I understand that this is controlled by government regulations. It used to be that passengers who were bumped received a one-way free ticket as compensation which could be used anywhere that airline flew in the continental U.S. In more recent years, I think the airlines used a bidding process to offer some cash or a voucher to entice volunteers when a flight was overbooked. I don't travel by plane often so I don't profess to be an expert in this but my wife who regularly travels by plane has received a number of free tickets over the years by being bumped. And when you are bumped you still have your original ticket so you can re-book your flight for later that day or a different day.

So why doesn't this happen when Amtrak cancels your sleeping car reservation and puts you in coach? It is certainly not the passenger's fault. All you get normally is a voucher for the price difference between your sleeping car accommodation and the coach seat, and perhaps maybe a small additional pittance for your inconvenience and human suffering.

Instead it seems to me that if your sleeping car accommodation is canceled by Amtrak, you should be entitled to a full refund and entitled to be re-booked with your original sleeping car accommodations at a later date at no charge. If you consent to be downgraded to coach, you should be entitled to a full refund and entitled to receive a second coach ticket valid between any two Amtrak stations.

These instances are not the fault of the passenger and Amtrak should be the one to pay. Has RPA ever suggested this or are they too timid?
 

Ryan

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it seems to me that if your sleeping car accommodation is canceled by Amtrak, you should be entitled to a full refund and entitled to be re-booked with your original sleeping car accommodations at a later date at no charge.
Let me make sure I'm parsing this correctly. You think one would be entitled to all of the money back AND a free trip on Amtrak's dime?

That expectation is a bit... excessive....
 

rs9

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Not sure about a free ride, but Amtrak should develop a way to ensure you receive the lowest bucket fare for your downgrade. For example, I have a LSL trip downgraded from business to coach. They tried to rebook me based on the coach fares available. I pointed out that I had booked months in advance to secure the lowest price. Took a lot of haggling to get the correct low bucket price.
 

Eric in East County

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The whole idea of not informing passengers that their bedroom reservations had been downgraded until a week or so before their scheduled departure is odious in the extreme, particularly if Amtrak knew well in advance that these downgrades would take place.

As has been discussed in other threads, many of the bedroom reservations are now being made by seniors who for medical or other reasons can’t fly or drive, and for whom an Amtrak bedroom is the only means for them to travel long distance. These are also the people most at risk for suffering great emotional stress at having their travel plans fall apart at the last minute. (Perhaps a class action lawsuit on behalf of downgraded seniors is in order.)

As to who should be downgraded first, it should be based on when the reservations were made. Someone who made their reservations 6-12 months in advance shouldn’t be downgraded before someone who made their reservations 2-5 months in advance.

If a downgrade occurs, a passenger should be able to demand and receive a full refund, including for passages on any connecting trains. In addition, they should be paid extra for the loss of interest-income they incurred while Amtrak held their money. Substantial discounts on future LD travel should also be given.

Reservation downgrades made during peak summer travel months will certainly undermine the public’s confidence in Amtrak (and its management) to honor the reservations they make and are expected to pay for up front. If a passenger cancels their reservation 2-4 weeks before their scheduled departure, they forfeit their money. Amtrak should be put in a similar position when they downgrade somebody at the last minute.
 

Burns651

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"Human suffering"? I can think of some stuff in the news now to show you actual suffering.

Expecting a free trip on top of a refund for the difference is very unrealistic. You willingly subjected yourself to all that potential inconvenience when you accepted the Terms and Conditions upon buying the ticket.

Downgrade or Cancellation due to an Amtrak Initiated Change​

If Amtrak makes a schedule change, an equipment substitution or cancellation and the new accommodation charge or rail fare is lower as a result, an eVoucher will be created to hold any residual value. A cancellation fee or non-cancellation penalty will not apply to the refundable amounts in this eVoucher.

Disclaimer of Liability​

Amtrak's fares, time schedules, equipment, routing, services and information (hereinafter "Amtrak services") are not guaranteed and are provided "as is" without any warranties of any kind, either express or implied, and Amtrak disclaims all warranties, express or implied.

Amtrak reserves the right to change its policies without notice.

Amtrak further specifically disclaims liability for any inconvenience, expense, or damages, incidental, consequential, punitive, lost profits, loss business or otherwise, resulting from errors in its timetable, shortages of equipment, or due to delayed trains, except when such delay causes a passenger to miss an Amtrak train guaranteed connection.
 
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jis

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Ir the airlines are compelled by law to give pax (especially old [email protected] like me) the cash value of their tickers and a free ride, why isn't Amslack required to do the same?
Mainly because they are governed by different sets of regulations. There is no logic to it beyond that.
 
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"Human suffering"? I can think of some stuff in the news now to show you actual suffering.

Expecting a free trip on top of a refund for the difference is very unrealistic. You willingly subjected yourself to all that potential inconvenience when you accepted the Terms and Conditions upon buying the ticket.

Downgrade or Cancellation due to an Amtrak Initiated Change​

If Amtrak makes a schedule change, an equipment substitution or cancellation and the new accommodation charge or rail fare is lower as a result, an eVoucher will be created to hold any residual value. A cancellation fee or non-cancellation penalty will not apply to the refundable amounts in this eVoucher.

Disclaimer of Liability​

Amtrak's fares, time schedules, equipment, routing, services and information (hereinafter "Amtrak services") are not guaranteed and are provided "as is" without any warranties of any kind, either express or implied, and Amtrak disclaims all warranties, express or implied.

Amtrak reserves the right to change its policies without notice.

Amtrak further specifically disclaims liability for any inconvenience, expense, or damages, incidental, consequential, punitive, lost profits, loss business or otherwise, resulting from errors in its timetable, shortages of equipment, or due to delayed trains, except when such delay causes a passenger to miss an Amtrak train guaranteed connection.
Some companies, after screwing over their customers, seem to love to fall back on strict contractual defenses rather than providing adequate compensation. As a result, these companies rarely have good public relations. They are not well-run and in the long run, they are not successful, but we knew that about Amtrak already.
 

Trogdor

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I'll agree that last minute cancellations and downgrades should be subject to more than just a simple refund of the fare difference, given the difficulty of making alternative plans last minute. But if we're going to start whining about "emotional stress" and "human suffering" because a sleeping car isn't available, it really speaks to an extreme level of entitlement and privilege in this world to which the traveler is oblivious.
 

Ryan

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I'll agree that last minute cancellations and downgrades should be subject to more than just a simple refund of the fare difference, given the difficulty of making alternative plans last minute. But if we're going to start whining about "emotional stress" and "human suffering" because a sleeping car isn't available, it really speaks to an extreme level of entitlement and privilege in this world to which the traveler is oblivious.
Indeed. Interest because they withheld your money from you for so long? In the immortal words of Steven Tyler, "Dream On".
 
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Compensation rules for overbooking, which is a business decision by the airlines to maximize revenue is treated very differently than cancellations for other causes. You aren't getting anything of substance other than another flight for most other reasons. And sometimes you get a full refund, and you are on the hook for making your own substitute plans at greatly increased cost. No parallel to Amtrak.
 
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I'll agree that last minute cancellations and downgrades should be subject to more than just a simple refund of the fare difference, given the difficulty of making alternative plans last minute. But if we're going to start whining about "emotional stress" and "human suffering" because a sleeping car isn't available, it really speaks to an extreme level of entitlement and privilege in this world to which the traveler is oblivious.
My use of the term "human suffering" was meant to be an obvious exaggeration but I guess it was not obvious to some so I apologize for its use which has distracted from this discussion.

The situation where Amtrak cancels a person's sleeping car reservation or coach reservation on short notice is capable of objective proof. The passenger had a valid reservation and Amtrak canceled it on short notice to serve its own corporate purposes. The passenger in that case should receive significant compensation as a good business practice.

Subjective complaints, where a passenger complains that they didn't receive good service, or their tea wasn't hot enough, or the Flexible dining salad was too small, or the bench at South Station was too hard, should still be resolved by Customer Relations on a case by case basis. I did not mean to suggest that free tickets should be handed out in those situations willy-nilly but a night in South Station due to an excessively late arrival comes close.

It seems to me that VIA once employed an objective standard in issuing travel credits to passengers for late trains. If a train was late by a certain number of hours, you were entitled to a travel credit of a certain percent of your fare. I don't think that is still the case because ai haven't seen any mention of it for years but maybe someone knows for sure.
 
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Compensation rules for overbooking, which is a business decision by the airlines to maximize revenue is treated very differently than cancellations for other causes. You aren't getting anything of substance other than another flight for most other reasons. And sometimes you get a full refund, and you are on the hook for making your own substitute plans at greatly increased cost. No parallel to Amtrak.
Agreed. The comparison with the current Amtrak situation is with that of a flight cancellation due to an unavailable aircraft - whether due to a maintenance issue or crew shortage. Overbooking is an entirely different animal.
 

pennyk

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MODERTOR NOTE: Please keep your comments on the topic of compensation to passengers for Amtrak Cancellations and please avoid extraneous discussions that could be considered political, classist, racist, etc. Thank you for your cooperation.
 

jebr

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The government-mandated airline protections are extremely weak. The involuntarily denied boarding (IDB) protections:
  • Only apply if the flight is overbooked on the day of travel; if there's a cancellation before check-in, it does not fall under IDB rules.
  • Generally does not apply if equipment issues result in substituting an aircraft day-of with lower capacity, or if the flight is outright cancelled for any reason.
  • Does not apply if you're able to board, but are downgraded from business/first class into coach.
  • Only require paying 200% of the one way fare or $775, whichever is lower, if the resulting delay is 1-2 hours domestically, and 400% or $1550, whichever is lower, if the delay is 2+ hours.
Some airlines will do more, and historically some would avoid IDBs if at all possible by offering larger travel vouchers to those who chose to be rebooked (or "voluntarily denied boarding.") However, in most of the instances discussed here, even if the airline protections would apply to Amtrak it wouldn't change anything, since the compensation wouldn't apply if someone's downgraded to coach a week before departure.

IMO, there's a lot of room for the US government to mandate much stricter traveler protection. The EU has fairly strong protections, and I'd like to see something like them applied across all intercity transportation in the US, though even those may not apply if the rebooking/downgrade is far enough in advance.

As for what Amtrak should do, frankly if they're offering either a refund of the full fare (including connections) or rebooking at no charge (including waiving the fare difference) to an alternate train, if the cancellation is happening at least a month in advance that seems adequate, if not amazing. Ideally Amtrak should also pay the difference between a flight in a comparable level of service and the refund amount if someone chooses to fly instead, and similarly if someone chooses to take the bus instead. This should almost certainly be required if the cancellation is very close to departure (where it's much more likely that the fare difference will be substantial to the passenger.) I think for customer goodwill Amtrak should also offer some sort of voucher, though a $1000+ trip fully paid for seems excessive. I don't think that voucher needs to be required by law, though.
 
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