Improving Amtrak Reservation system

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Northwestern

Service Attendant
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Jan 3, 2022
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I think I'm starting to acquire a "1-800" phobia. I dread calling any 800 number due to the many problems with communication and lack on understanding by the person on the other end.

A month ago, I called the "800" Amtrak number to make reservations, on the Coast Starlight, for July. I wanted to book a sleeper, Martinez to Seattle and back. It seemed like, with every question I was asked, I had to repeat the answer at least 3 times. For a simple C. Starlight sleeper reservation, I couldn't get off the phone for at least 25 minutes with all the communication problems, back and forth. To be fair, I have dealt with Amtrak people who were functional and polite. But. not always.

I know you can make your reservations on-line, or you can use Julie. However, if you book a sleeper, Amtrak has to switch you to a live person for sleeper reservations. I have to wonder why. Most plane reservations let you complete the reservation efficiently on-line. You can preview and choose your seat on the plane. Why can't Amtrak do this? It would be nice to select your roomette or bedroom based on what side of the train you want to be on.

Richard
 

jis

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I know you can make your reservations on-line, or you can use Julie. However, if you book a sleeper, Amtrak has to switch you to a live person for sleeper reservations. I have to wonder why. Most plane reservations let you complete the reservation efficiently on-line. You can preview and choose your seat on the plane. Why can't Amtrak do this? It would be nice to select your roomette or bedroom based on what side of the train you want to be on.

Richard
I have booked many Sleeper reservations for myself on Amtrak and I never had to switch to a live person. Always managed to complete the transaction on the web/app. Of course, one thing you cannot do is get a specific room, but that has never been an issue with me. I couldn't care less which room I got as long as I got one. But then again, even on planes you have to be in the proper fare grade to be able to allocate a specific seat to yourself too.

That is of course not to say that Amtrak's reservation system does not need any improvements. It could do with many, including allowing self allocation of accommodation where it does not cause to much unintended problems. This has been discussed ad infinitum in these forums.

For example top get a feel for the pros and cons of assigned seating and self-selection of seats see this lengthy thread from the past:

 
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pennyk

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I am very particular about which room I am assigned, so I routinely phone and talk to an agent (sometimes more than once) when making a reservation. I am Select Executive and almost always I phone to speak to an AGR agent whether or not I am using points. I have had agents that lacked proper training, but I have encountered more agents that I considered excellent. On Viewliners, I generally know what side of the train on which I will be riding, but on Superliners, it is random.
 

NES28

Service Attendant
Joined
Jan 18, 2019
Messages
112
I have recently made my first two Amtrak reservations in about 6 months. I was totally unsuccessful using the website. In both cases I had to call. Those worked fine. One required an hour wait. Seems to be some kind of glitch on the website.
 

Gary Behling

Train Attendant
Joined
Mar 28, 2019
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I have recently made my first two Amtrak reservations in about 6 months. I was totally unsuccessful using the website. In both cases I had to call. Those worked fine. One required an hour wait. Seems to be some kind of glitch on the website.

I found that the more I used it, the better I became at it. You will also--- just keep trying.
 

rs9

Service Attendant
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Dec 26, 2021
Messages
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Chicago
I've encountered twice now in the past couple months where trains I want to book far in advance are showing the highest bucket fares despite the train being only 10% full. Eventually it will be fixed, but how many riders are lost in the meantime...
 

daybeers

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I've encountered twice now in the past couple months where trains I want to book far in advance are showing the highest bucket fares despite the train being only 10% full. Eventually it will be fixed, but how many riders are lost in the meantime...
It's happening everywhere. The NEC blocks out the lowest bucket (or sometimes two) on Fridays and Sundays no matter how far in advance.
 

Trogdor

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I've encountered twice now in the past couple months where trains I want to book far in advance are showing the highest bucket fares despite the train being only 10% full. Eventually it will be fixed, but how many riders are lost in the meantime...

That’s revenue management. Has nothing to do with the reservation system, per se.

The only thing that really matters, from a revenue management perspective, is how full the train is, and at what fare levels, when it operates. How much has been sold today for a train that won’t operate for another nine months is fairly meaningless. If selling cheap tickets today means there aren’t seats available closer in to sell at a higher fare, then that’s potential revenue left on the table.
 

rs9

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Dec 26, 2021
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That’s revenue management. Has nothing to do with the reservation system, per se.

The only thing that really matters, from a revenue management perspective, is how full the train is, and at what fare levels, when it operates. How much has been sold today for a train that won’t operate for another nine months is fairly meaningless. If selling cheap tickets today means there aren’t seats available closer in to sell at a higher fare, then that’s potential revenue left on the table.

Yes, that could be true, but then Amtrak's revenue management makes no sense. For example, Wednesday August 17 Lake Shore Limited tickets have no saver or value fares available Chicago-Albany. Yet, Labor Day weekend trains 10 days later have cheaper prices, including saver and value fares. Surely there can't be more demand, or the opportunity to manage revenue from a captive market, for a Wednesday in August than one of the busiest travel weekends of the year - not just for leisure travel but students heading to college as well.

I've already seen this with LSL fares for a train I booked (and then was cancelled) in May, again on a Wednesday. Only the high bucket fares were shown, until they weren't. There was no discernible change in booking (10% occupancy consistently) when the fares returned to their normal levels.
 
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