Saver, Value, or Flexible ... or Business class?

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MARC Rider

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Apr 5, 2011
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Next month, I'm taking two joyrides in part (I thought) to try out the 50% promotion.

The first trip is a 2-day Baltimore- Pittsburgh circle trip, the other is a Baltimore - Boston -Albany - New York --Baltimore circle to ride the LSL across Massachussetts.

All fares were from the app, coach fares are with the senior discount:

BAL -- PHL -- PGH
Saver Fare : $71
Value Fare: 75.60
Flexible: $159
Business: $135

PGH -- WAS -- BAL

Saver: $33
Value: $49.50
Flexible: $105.00
Roomette: $151.50 (PGH-WAS only)

BAL -- BOS
Acela
Saver: $50 (!)
Value: $116.10
Flexible: $336
First Class: $251

BOS - ALB
Saver: $13
Value: $27.90
Flexible: $59.00
Business Class: 52.90
Roomette: $140

ALB - BAL (Empire Service and Crescent)
Saver: $49
Value: $89.10
Flexible: $188.00
Business $129 (Business class from ALB - NYP only)
Roomette (NYP - BAL only) ~$250

The Saver fares are non-refundable, and look so low, because I suspect that the 50th Anniversary 50% off promotion is being applied. Note that the promotion doesn't apply to the Pennsylvanian, which is why the saver fare for the return trip from Pittsburgh via the Cap is much lower than the outbound trip via the Pennsylvanian. The Value fares also seemed pretty good, and given that I'm a bit risk-averse about non-refundable tickets, I mostly got value fare tickets, except for the Lakeshore Limited BOS - ALB run, where I took Business class. I was tempted by that $50 BAL-BOS Acela Saver fare, but they can't be combined with any other deals, and I'm thinking I might use one of my upgrade coupons and go First Class, and $116 BAL - BOS Acela fare is still a good deal.

I did note a couple of weird things about these fare categories. The business class tickets were cheaper than the Flexible tickets, and Acela First class was cheaper than the Acela BC flexible ticket -- by a lot. Also, the difference between the Value ticket and the Flexible ticket is a lot more tha n the 25% penalty charge one takes for cancellations or changes. In other words, why would anyone in their right mind want to buy a Flexible coach ticket? I suspect there may be buckets within each of these ticket categories, so it may be that closer to train time, the difference between flexible and value fares may be less, or maybe the only thing available is Flexible.

I'll let you all know how the trips turn out. Any suggestions for bring-your-own train lunches are appreciated. I've only got a 40 minute layover in Philly for the Pittsburgh trip, and I'll be relying on cafe car food for everything except if I upgrade my Acela ride. Suggestions for good places to pick up lunches for later eating in Boston and Albany are also appreciated.
 

me_little_me

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I'm always amazed at the stupidity of the flexible fare vs the business fare and why anyone would choose it. The only reason I saw was that you didn't have to make the effort to call 5 minutes before travel to cancel. And for that, you get the opportunity to pay far more for less. And those fares have been that way for many years.
 

Michigan Mom

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Jan 28, 2012
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MI
Good info, lot to unpack. The lack of flexibility on those deep discount tickets is going to be a factor again for trip planning, you really have to be sure you're going on that trip, and maybe purchase the cancel insurance too...although to my knowledge, cancelled trips still can be turned into a voucher.
For Coach trip meal planning, I look at Cafe car offerings ahead of time and decide. In recent years it's worked out well to bring our own lunches on board,
 

IndyLions

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Brownsburg IN
If anyone has ever gotten their money back for a trip they had to cancel that was insured, I’ve never heard about it.

My own experience was that my mother-in-law had a stroke and it caused to cancel our insured airline trip. It was the the same insurance company that Amtrak uses. Effectively, after filling out a bunch of forms I never got paid.

I think travel insurance is just a scam. Airlines (and Amtrak) already hold your money for months on end until you actually travel. At least Amtrak has a more reasonable policy than the airlines, although the Amtrak policy is getting more unreasonable as time goes on.

Not trying to hijack the thread, sorry.
 

IndyLions

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Nov 6, 2016
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Brownsburg IN
Back on topic - I’d do Business Class everywhere it was available if it were me.

Especially on Acela, since the food isn’t any good right now - there’s certainly no advantage to First over Business as far as I can tell.

Another thing I didn’t like about a Acela First Class (even when the food was better) was the fact that I didn’t have access to the lounge car, or to stretch my legs and roam the train at all.
 

MARC Rider

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Apr 5, 2011
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Location
Baltimore. MD
Wow - didn't know about that. It would indeed be a reason to avoid "First" Class.
Of course, as they say, "your mileage may vary," but I've never had any desire to go to a lounge car during a 2 hour BAL-NYP trip. It's never even bothered me on 6 hour BAL - BOS trips. I make enough trips to the restroom to stretch my legs, anyway. :) I think from Amtrak's view, there are very few passengers who make the full 6-7 hour trip who might be driven away by the lack of a lounge car. And even with the reduced meal service, they still have the open bar, a perk that makes the need for alcohol service at the Metropolitan Lounge redundant. Plus, there's a reasonable chance that a solo traveler can get a single seat with no seatmate. In fact the only downside to Acela First Class, aside from the cost (and I ride it on coupons or points) is that there are sometimes self-important blowhards who insist on having non-stop cellphone conversations.
 

Sidney

Lead Service Attendant
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Jul 12, 2020
Messages
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If anyone has ever gotten their money back for a trip they had to cancel that was insured, I’ve never heard about it.

My own experience was that my mother-in-law had a stroke and it caused to cancel our insured airline trip. It was the the same insurance company that Amtrak uses. Effectively, after filling out a bunch of forms I never got paid.

I think travel insurance is just a scam. Airlines (and Amtrak) already hold your money for months on end until you actually travel. At least Amtrak has a more reasonable policy than the airlines, although the Amtrak policy is getting more unreasonable as time goes on.

Not trying to hijack the thread, sorry.
 

Sidney

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Joined
Jul 12, 2020
Messages
371
I don't see any reason to buy Amtrak's travel insurance. Usually,if you miss a connection,whether guaranteed or not Amtrak will take care of you. On short trips the price of the insurance can be half the price of your fare. i've ridden hundreds of times and have never gotten the insurance. Just another way to nickel and dime you.
 

jebr

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I think travel insurance is just a scam. Airlines (and Amtrak) already hold your money for months on end until you actually travel. At least Amtrak has a more reasonable policy than the airlines, although the Amtrak policy is getting more unreasonable as time goes on.
It's also worth checking to see what coverage any credit cards you have will offer if you book the ticket through them. The coverages have been shrinking over the past few years on many cards, but some do offer trip delay coverage, bag delay/lost luggage coverage, and/or trip interruption/cancellation coverage for certain reasons. I generally try and use cards that have those coverages if I'm booking non-refundable reservations - I'm more comfortable losing 1% in cash back than paying for coverage, especially since the credit card issuer has a bit more incentive to try and keep me happy than a random travel insurance company does.
 

MARC Rider

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Apr 5, 2011
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Location
Baltimore. MD
They physically lock the door to the First Cass car?
No, it is possible to pass from the fist class car to the rest of the train, but the passageway is located by the galley, and the attendants don't really like to have passengers passing by interfering with their workspace. And there's really no need to go to the rest of the train, as the "seating" in the cafe car is just uncomfortable stools. Plus, the vast majority of riders are only on the train for 1 to 3 hours. But, in my experience, the first class car is quite comfortable for a 6 hour trip, which is about as long as it gets for the Acela. And with the free booze, who's going to be able to walk the train, anyway? :)
 
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