Save Cornwells Heights
Wednesday, March 29, 2006
If you are looking
for the “usual” SaveCornwellsHeights web pages…
The usual pages, last
about “Group Ticket Savings”
that I’ve been
handing out at the Cornwells Heights station
as of March 29th
is available here in web page format:
March 29th Flier
MAJOR NEW WARNING
ABOUT GROUP TICKETS
policy on what riding “together”
or missing a
train means is all over the map!
Credit for unused
tickets is also unclear
and now varies
with whom you talk to.
After having spoken to several Amtrak agents
who assured me that anyone who misses a train on a group pass can apply the
printed cost of the ticket to a future Amtrak ticket purchase and the other
riders won’t have a problem, I reached an agent just a few minutes ago who said
she had “just gotten training on the group fares” who told a different story.
According to her, the group not
only has to be on the same train at the same time, but the conductors have to
validate the presence of the two full-fare riders on the train in order for the
90% discount tickets to be valid. She also seemed
unsure whether the absence of a single rider with a ticket printed with a 90%
discount fare would also invalidate all the other tickets, but she seemed less
concerned about that problem.
This would seem to make sense as an
anti-fare-abuse policy, but all prior versions of the story I have gotten (at
least three times) from the agents at 1-800-USA-RAIL (Amtrak) have said unused
tickets could be turned in for face value credit towards future purchases. I gave them the example of three couples
traveling from Philadelphia to New York City together to have dinner and go to
a Broadway show and traveling on a set of six group tickets. Assuming each couple may pick a different
show, I asked, if one of the couples gets caught in traffic and doesn’t make it
back to the train, what happens? And
the answer always previously given to me was that whoever missed the train had
to buy new full-price tickets, but that the printed fare on the unused ticket
could be applied to the new ticket.
This is not a “refund” but a “credit towards future travel,” something
that is not specifically addressed on Amtrak’s website. They also said that the other couples who
did make it to the train in time could still use their tickets even though one
of the couples didn’t make it back to the train (which they could easily not
even realize on a train of a thousand people).
Amtrak also does not make it clear on its
website that traveling “together” on the train means knowing where everybody
else is on the train, which the latest agent seemed to think was
important. In the case of the three
couples trying to get back to the same train, there is no warning that they
have to know where on the train everybody else is. There are sometimes a dozen cars and a
thousand people on a train, so it would seem to be an important thing to
The Bottom line: If Amtrak
wants to hassle us whenever all six group riders can’t point to each other in
the same car (and often, finding seats means splitting up, anyhow), they
will. If Amtrak wants to refuse to
credit unused tickets toward future purchases, they might decide to do that,
too. Their online policy statement is
vague and does not make a distinction between “non-refundable” and “non-creditable.” There is existing precedent for there being
a distinction in that refunds on most tickets are only worth 90% of face value
(10% “restocking” charge) whereas their face value is reportedly given 100%
credit when applied to another ticket purchase. That’s the way it works with most tickets when missing the train. That is why I called up Amtrak and
specifically asked what happens when someone misses the train? It’s very important for group riders to know,
and most current Amtrak agents seem to say that the printed fare is creditable
up to a year. Once again, we
can’t trust them.
One additional suggestion regarding purchasing tickets as a
group: Whoever purchases a set should be listed as the first passenger of the
set, and the second passenger (the second ticket issued at “full fare”) can
rotate among group members to even the ticket price distribution.
Good luck, and please let me know if anyone actually wants
to try this as a group – and how it works out.
My cell is 215-837-6557, and I would be glad to help anyone who wants to
try. Besides the money, there’s a
message to Washington in this.