Issues with Amtrak reservation system

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Pal2Pluto

Train Attendant
Joined
Sep 20, 2021
Messages
41
Location
Pennsylvania
I've been going onto Amtrak.com and double checking fares for our upcoming trip. Have been able to get better pricing a couple of times. Imagine my surprise when I looked at my Chicago to Denver leg on Saturday July 2, and "We don't have train service matching your request" pops up!!! Does this mean the train is entirely full? Or did they cancel? is it a glitch??? All surrounding days show trains, and it's a day they normally run CHI to DEN.

Can anyone shed light on this???
 

Sidney

OBS Chief
Joined
Jul 12, 2020
Messages
844
Looks like the train is full on July 2. You have reservations,right? I saw the 100% occupancy on that date
 

Willbridge

50+ Year Amtrak Rider
Joined
Mar 30, 2019
Messages
1,857
Location
Denver
According to schedules the train is running. So it would appear that it is sold out.

You can still book it from Chicago to Omaha, but not Chicago to Denver.
I dream of the day when Amtrak fixes their website to show that a route is sold out rather than implying that you should never bother them again.

And then I'll dream of the existing fleet being put into service.

And then I'll go hog wild and dream of a larger fleet.

Note that psychedelic mushrooms are legal in Denver.
 

zephyr17

Engineer
Joined
Jul 23, 2009
Messages
6,012
Location
Washington State
It is utterly ridiculous that a train leaving 56 days from now is sold out.

100% on Amtrak at this point knowing their HR practices from potential employees.
Because, at least on the LDs, current management is focused entirely on costs and ignores revenue enhancement. It has been that way for a long time now.
 

Trogdor

BURNiNATOR
Joined
Aug 3, 2004
Messages
5,928
Location
Here
It is utterly ridiculous that a train leaving 56 days from now is sold out.

100% on Amtrak at this point knowing their HR practices from potential employees.

Believe it or not, there’s still an overall labor shortage. I know transit agencies massively short of drivers that are predicting not being able to staff up in time for the start of the school year in fall. Shame on their HR departments, I suppose.

Others are already giving up on providing special event extra service for the entire summer. Same deal. I know folks think you can just “magic wand” these issues away, if only the HR department would “try really hard” or whatever, but it is going to take a while before needed staff in various crafts are fully filled. Amtrak is not exempt from these economic realities.
 

zephyr17

Engineer
Joined
Jul 23, 2009
Messages
6,012
Location
Washington State
Believe it or not, there’s still an overall labor shortage. I know transit agencies massively short of drivers that are predicting not being able to staff up in time for the start of the school year in fall. Shame on their HR departments, I suppose.

Others are already giving up on providing special event extra service for the entire summer. Same deal. I know folks think you can just “magic wand” these issues away, if only the HR department would “try really hard” or whatever, but it is going to take a while before needed staff in various crafts are fully filled. Amtrak is not exempt from these economic realities.
I'd give them the benefit of the doubt under current conditions had their track record not shown their ineptitude (at best) and lack of any attention to anything except cost not long predated the current situation.
 

gn2276

Service Attendant
Joined
Jul 24, 2011
Messages
187
Location
Federal Way Washington
One thing I learned being a exAmtrak ticket agent is if a train shows sold out between two stations you can book your trip by segments. Try booking from Chicago to Omaha and then Omaha to Denver. I see that there is space available by doing it this way. I learned this trick when booking trips for passengers on the Empire Builder and using Spokane as a segment break.
 

niemi24s

Engineer
Joined
Feb 11, 2015
Messages
2,841
One thing I learned being a exAmtrak ticket agent is if a train shows sold out between two stations you can book your trip by segments. Try booking from Chicago to Omaha and then Omaha to Denver. I see that there is space available by doing it this way. I learned this trick when booking trips for passengers on the Empire Builder and using Spokane as a segment break.
The only fly in the ointment with that method is when splitting the ticket on the train (by departure date from CHI) the total fare increases. At present, for this CHI - SPK - SEA split for the train departing CHI on 29 Sep, the fares for Roomettes or Bedrooms are, respectively:

• CHI - SEA = $1074 or $2376
• (CHI - SPK) + (SPK - SEA) = ($1041 + $391) or ($2283 + $851) = $1432 ($358 more) or $3134 ($758 more)

Assuming this analysis is correct, splitting the ticket in this example costs about 1/3 more (unless ticket agents have a way to manually adjust fares). But, if you must travel between those two dates - it's only money.

P.S.: I f you want to try this on your favorite train and the first leg goes past midnight, don't forget to change the departure date for the second leg. Otherwise, the fares for the second leg could be from a different bucket.
 
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joelkfla

Conductor
Joined
Oct 16, 2018
Messages
1,927
Location
12 miles from Walt Disney World
One thing I learned being a exAmtrak ticket agent is if a train shows sold out between two stations you can book your trip by segments. Try booking from Chicago to Omaha and then Omaha to Denver. I see that there is space available by doing it this way. I learned this trick when booking trips for passengers on the Empire Builder and using Spokane as a segment break.
I wonder whether someone requested a specific room, or Arrow screwed it up on its own. I would hope that Arrow has the intelligence to assign a room that's occupied on some other part of the run over one that's vacant for the entire run, but I'm doubtful.
 

John Santos

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Jun 24, 2018
Messages
287
P.S.: I f you want to try this on your favorite train and the first leg goes past midnight, don't forget to change the departure date for the second leg. Otherwise, the fares for the second leg could be from a different bucket.
Much worse than that. When you arrive in Spokane in the middle of the night, you could discover your "connecting" train had left two days before and you had missed it!
 

thully

OBS Chief
Joined
Sep 2, 2011
Messages
647
Location
Ann Arbor, MI
One thing I learned being a exAmtrak ticket agent is if a train shows sold out between two stations you can book your trip by segments. Try booking from Chicago to Omaha and then Omaha to Denver. I see that there is space available by doing it this way. I learned this trick when booking trips for passengers on the Empire Builder and using Spokane as a segment break.
This makes sense for sleepers, since passengers are ticketed to specific rooms. As such, a single room may not be available for the entire trip, but one may be available partway and another for the other part. I’d probably be wary of doing that unless I was willing to switch sleepers at that point in the trip - which may be tolerable during the day, but not great if it is in the middle of the night (like Spokane on the Empire Builder). Though if this is happening for coach, it would seem like a glitch in the system unless it was a route with assigned seats (which is just some NEC trains in business class and above).
 

west point

Engineer
Joined
Jun 9, 2015
Messages
3,466
Location
SW ATL airport
I saw OBS advertised for CHI. Wonder if OBS is short or no spare equipment. Certainly could put on a couple extra coaches CHI -DEN if available. If that is preferred day continue checking after 0200-0300 EDT when cancellations might show up.
 

railiner

Engineer
Joined
Mar 20, 2009
Messages
9,841
Location
X
This makes sense for sleepers, since passengers are ticketed to specific rooms. As such, a single room may not be available for the entire trip, but one may be available partway and another for the other part. I’d probably be wary of doing that unless I was willing to switch sleepers at that point in the trip - which may be tolerable during the day, but not great if it is in the middle of the night (like Spokane on the Empire Builder). Though if this is happening for coach, it would seem like a glitch in the system unless it was a route with assigned seats (which is just some NEC trains in business class and above).
I don't think the lack of coach thru space is actually a 'glitch', but rather a result of how space is programmed into the reservation system, where they control how many 'seats' are available between each city pair. It is an ancient program that may have been designed with good intentions, as to make sure that each market may have some availability, up to a point, when Space and Equipment control may manually make adjustments according to demand, and maximize yield management. Good agents knowing this, as gn2276 mentioned, learned how to 'work around' this, and piece together with two or more segments, and then manually price the ticket to the thru fare. Usually it was the other way around...they would block local segments, such as DEN to GSC, to preserve thru space for longer trips...

Back when I sold tickets at Denver, I would use the three trains (CZ, Pioneer, and Desert Winds separate inventories to piece together space for passengers to work around "sold out trains". More often than not, I could get passengers where they were going that way...something that Arrow should have been programmed to automatically do by itself, IMHO.

Another trick I employed to take care of my customer's, was when the 'discount' thru seats were no longer available, I would check to see if I could piece together segment discount seats, using the same or the other train's inventories to do so, and again, if successful, would manually price them to the thru discount fare. Back then, there were only two "buckets" of inventory...regular "C" seats, or discount "CA" seats.
Taking care of customer's was good for the Company in the long run, and for station agent job preservation as well, as customer's could also choose to buy from travel agents, or from the Reservation Sales Offices. Not likely the latter two would go to the trouble that we would for a customer coming down to the station to make the purchase personally.
 

Amtrak709

Service Attendant
Joined
May 6, 2021
Messages
140
Location
Columbus, GA
I don't think the lack of coach thru space is actually a 'glitch', but rather a result of how space is programmed into the reservation system, where they control how many 'seats' are available between each city pair. It is an ancient program that may have been designed with good intentions, as to make sure that each market may have some availability, up to a point, when Space and Equipment control may manually make adjustments according to demand, and maximize yield management. Good agents knowing this, as gn2276 mentioned, learned how to 'work around' this, and piece together with two or more segments, and then manually price the ticket to the thru fare. Usually it was the other way around...they would block local segments, such as DEN to GSC, to preserve thru space for longer trips...

Back when I sold tickets at Denver, I would use the three trains (CZ, Pioneer, and Desert Winds separate inventories to piece together space for passengers to work around "sold out trains". More often than not, I could get passengers where they were going that way...something that Arrow should have been programmed to automatically do by itself, IMHO.

Another trick I employed to take care of my customer's, was when the 'discount' thru seats were no longer available, I would check to see if I could piece together segment discount seats, using the same or the other train's inventories to do so, and again, if successful, would manually price them to the thru discount fare. Back then, there were only two "buckets" of inventory...regular "C" seats, or discount "CA" seats.
Taking care of customer's was good for the Company in the long run, and for station agent job preservation as well, as customer's could also choose to buy from travel agents, or from the Reservation Sales Offices. Not likely the latter two would go to the trouble that we would for a customer coming down to the station to make the purchase personally.
Railiner: I commend your resourcefulness and customer service. You sound just like two Amtrak agents I knew well in the 1980's and 1990's that were station agents in DLD and SFD (SFD not SFA). Thank you!
 

amydeg

Train Attendant
Joined
Apr 27, 2022
Messages
20
Location
San Diego
I've been trying to price a trip from San Diego to Boston this summer and I'm noticing what I think must be a glitch in the Amtrak website.

The first leg is SD to Fullerton, which adds fine. For the second leg - Fullerton to Chicago - I change it from Roomette to Bedroom and hit add, but when it moves to the third leg - Chicago to Boston - the price reflects the cost of a Roomette not a Bedroom. Nothing I do changes it. I add it to my cart anyway and it shows that I've chosen a Roomette for that middle leg and not a Bedroom.

Does anyone have any experience with this? Do I have to book each leg individually to get the correct choices? I don't have a problem doing that, except that I will need to check bags from SD to Boston and I worry that not booking all three legs together will prevent me from being able to do that.

Thanks!
 

zephyr17

Engineer
Joined
Jul 23, 2009
Messages
6,012
Location
Washington State
I just did a dummy reservation on 3 different dates with your itinerary, both using simple "one-way" and multi-city and sorta recreated the problem (more on that in a bit). I also have a solution.

The issue appears that the bedrooms are sold out on the Lake Shore (there are only 2 to BOS) on your date, coupled with more Amtrak IT stupidity. I couldn't get the "Add to Cart" button to respond at all with the mixed bedroom/roomette itinerary, but the price displayed did reflect roomettes not bedrooms.

I have a simple workaround for you, though. Use Multi-City. You can use Multi-City with just one segment, SAN-BOS. The difference in UI interaction between the simple reservation UI and the multi-city UI allows you to book a bedroom on the SWC and a roomette, all that is available, on the LSL, with no problem.

The only way the "simple" booking interaction appears to work consistently is having the same room type all the way. More excellence from Amtrak's crack IT department.

Personally, I use Multi-City for pricing anything these days, even a single, through segment like SAN-BOS. The current iteration of the "simple" booking UI is too opaque for me when it comes to pricing. I like to see rail and accommodation broken out, and see my accommodation types, which are available under "details" in Multi-City. However, once pricing is confirmed, for sleepers I always call for the reservation because I am a bit picky about roomette location, at least on Superliners.

Finally, booking a single, through trip on separate reservation numbers is a very, very bad idea. Checking bags isn't the problem, you show your boarding pass with your ultimate destination and they'll check it there. The problem is you lose the connection guarantee which is based on reservation numbers. If the SWC is so late that it misses the LSL, as far as Amtrak is concerned they got you to your ticketed destination of Chicago and they do not owe you anything (like a hotel room). Further, you would be treated as a no-show on the Lake Shore with your ticket cancelled with no refund. You might be able work a refund out after the fact by explaining the situation at length. But that is only after having had to find your own place to stay in Chicago and found your own way to Boston at the cost of a new ticket. But maybe not, they are under no obligation at all to refund under those circumstances. In either case you would have created a huge, self-inflicted PITA.
 
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JP1822

Service Attendant
Joined
Mar 8, 2019
Messages
103
My last few trips on the CA Zephyr - pre-COVID - I had to book in segments to get ”all the way” in sleeper from Chicago to Emeryville. Even happened in 2013 when there was a third sleeper line in place from Chicago to Emeryville. It was a BUSY train in peak season and still is.

Chicago to Denver in a roomette, then Denver to Reno in a bedroom, then Reno to Emeryville in a roomette. Typically it has taken three segments - and yes definitely more expensive.

Few years ago I had booked the Empire Builder in August for a return back East. After searching for the first available opportunity, I had to book coach from Whitefish to East Glacier. Then in East Glacier I was able to get a bedroom all the way to Chicago. The folks occupying the bedroom I would be in de-trained at Essex. I decided to make the “move” at the longer platform at East Glacier. Some strange looks from the conductor and crew in the process, but it worked!

If you explain your booking dilemma to a good agent on the phone, sometimes they will “get it” and work with you to narrow things down (narrow down the time spent in coach before a bedroom opened up). Course then there’s also the reservation agent who doesn’t realize that train #8 and #28 are “the same train” in motion east of Spokane. That’’s always fun!
 

zephyr17

Engineer
Joined
Jul 23, 2009
Messages
6,012
Location
Washington State

Just want to clarify booking "segments". Segments in the booking UI on Amtrak.com are between any two points that are served by one train or with officially connecting trains. It isn't just time on one train. In your case, it was two segments on the same train, Whitefish-Essex and Essex-Chicago. Those kind of itineraries can be booked through Multi-City, but I agree that those kinds of things are better worked out with an good agent (a less competent agent will get wrapped around the axle).

@amydeg isn't trying anything so complex as switching rooms or moving from coach to a room on the same train. The current UI appears not to be able to handle different room types on separate trains in one trip ("segment"). That is a pretty common situation (switching enroute on one train is kind of unusual and an edge case) and the Amtrak.com UI used to have no problem with it until it got "improved".

In any case, multi-city (which retains a lot of the DNA of the older UI) handles it with very little complexity or issue. You just have to know to start there.
 

amydeg

Train Attendant
Joined
Apr 27, 2022
Messages
20
Location
San Diego
I just did a dummy reservation on 3 different dates with your itinerary, both using simple "one-way" and multi-city and sorta recreated the problem (more on that in a bit). I also have a solution.

The issue appears that the bedrooms are sold out on the Lake Shore (there are only 2 to BOS) on your date, coupled with more Amtrak IT stupidity. I couldn't get the "Add to Cart" button to respond at all with the mixed bedroom/roomette itinerary, but the price displayed did reflect roomettes not bedrooms.

I have a simple workaround for you, though. Use Multi-City. You can use Multi-City with just one segment, SAN-BOS. The difference in UI interaction between the simple reservation UI and the multi-city UI allows you to book a bedroom on the SWC and a roomette, all that is available, on the LSL, with no problem.

The only way the "simple" booking interaction appears to work consistently is having the same room type all the way. More excellence from Amtrak's crack IT department.

Personally, I use Multi-City for pricing anything these days, even a single, through segment like SAN-BOS. The current iteration of the "simple" booking UI is too opaque for me when it comes to pricing. I like to see rail and accommodation broken out, and see my accommodation types, which are available under "details" in Multi-City. However, once pricing is confirmed, for sleepers I always call for the reservation because I am a bit picky about roomette location, at least on Superliners.

Finally, booking a single, through trip on separate reservation numbers is a very, very bad idea. Checking bags isn't the problem, you show your boarding pass with your ultimate destination and they'll check it there. The problem is you lose the connection guarantee which is based on reservation numbers. If the SWC is so late that it misses the LSL, as far as Amtrak is concerned they got you to your ticketed destination of Chicago and they do not owe you anything (like a hotel room). Further, you would be treated as a no-show on the Lake Shore with your ticket cancelled with no refund. You might be able work a refund out after the fact by explaining the situation at length. But that is only after having had to find your own place to stay in Chicago and found your own way to Boston at the cost of a new ticket. But maybe not, they are under no obligation at all to refund under those circumstances. In either case you would have created a huge, self-inflicted PITA.
Holy brain cramp, Batman! It never even occurred to me to look for a multi-city option, but that absolutely worked. Thanks so much for the suggestion.

I hadn't even considered the issue with no guaranteed connections if booking them separately, so that's helpful too. Not having Amtrak's assistance in the event of a missed connection would not be fun.
 
Joined
Sep 2, 2021
Messages
731
Location
Lubec, ME
I will need to check bags from SD to Boston and I worry that not booking all three legs together will prevent me from being able to do that.
Be aware that there is no longer a baggage car on 448 so the only way for bags to be checked to Boston is for them to go on 48 to NYP then the overnight NER fka the Night Owl or Twilight Shoreliner which is not running at present and has no official date for its resumption.
 
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