DEAR TRAVEL TROUBLESHOOTER: I recently tried to change an Amtrak ticket from Boston to Baltimore. I couldn’t find a way to do it online, and Amtrak’s online chat was of no help. When I reached the call center, I found out that the train was canceled.
An Amtrak agent told me that they could not change my train reservation, but didn’t mention that my train had been canceled. Now I am trying to apply all, or part, of my original reservation to the cost of a new ticket.
I bought a new ticket online for $127. The original fare was $74. An Amtrak agent suggested that I should ask for a refund of the difference between the rail fares.
Given that Amtrak canceled the original reservation, I think I am owed a refund of $53. I asked Amtrak, but it has not responded. I escalated my request in writing to one of the executive contacts on your consumer advocacy website and haven’t heard anything. Can you help me?
— John deCastro, San Francisco
ANSWER: This should have been two simple transactions. Amtrak canceled your first train from Boston to Baltimore. You should have received a full refund for that. And transaction number two? You buy a new ticket.
Instead, Amtrak combined these into one problem, turning it into a complex case that involved a cancellation and a credit. Oh, boy.
Here’s the confusing part: It’s not entirely clear if you tried to change your ticket before Amtrak canceled it or afterward. If you did it before, then cancellation penalties might apply, and you could lose part, or all, of your ticket credit.
If, however, Amtrak canceled before you did, then you should have received a full refund, or Amtrak should have rebooked you on another train without you having to buy a new ticket.
You followed all the right steps for resolving this, including keeping a paper trail and appealing to one of the executive contacts for Amtrak who I list on my consumer advocacy site, Elliott.org. Someone from Amtrak should have responded and straightened this out. The easiest fix would have been to just refund your first ticket.
By the way, you are not the first reader who has complained about Amtrak’s site. Amtrak has a step-by-step guide on changing your reservation on its site. Next time you have to change your ticket, you might want to check it out. My inner consumer advocate says that such a guide should not be necessary; it should be obvious how to change your ticket.
I contacted Amtrak on your behalf. The company refunded your $53.
Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a nonprofit organization that helps consumers solve their problems. Email him at [email protected] or get help by contacting him at elliottadvocacy.org/help/.
(c) 2023 Christopher Elliott
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