Amtrak’s New Refund Policy May Have a Built-in Problem.

Amtrak has always had what seemed to me to be a very liberal policy regarding refunds. Even when someone made a reservation, paid for the ticket, and then was a no-show at the time of departure, Amtrak would provide a full refund, although in some cases it would be in the form of a voucher for future travel.

In order to get a full refund after that date, reservations will have to be cancelled no less than 24 hours in advance, and if you’re a no-show, you’ll get no refund at all.

Personally, I don’t have a problem with that, but there’s a big asterisk tacked onto the new policy. It says the 24-hour cancellation requirement is based on when the train departs from its point of origin.

If Amtrak sticks to that requirement literally — and, it does make sense when you think about it — it’s going to be complicated in some cases and will, I’m afraid, be a problem for some Amtrak customers.

For instance, let’s say you live in Grand Junction, Colorado, and you’ve booked a roomette on January 14 for the overnight ride on the California Zephyr from there to Sacramento, California. The fare is $461 and you’ve already charged the cost of the ticket to your credit card.

To illustrate the potential problem, let’s say you fall off a ladder putting up Christmas decorations in your home and break a leg. Now you have to cancel that reservation.

According to the new policy, you must do so no later than 1:00 p.m. (Mountain Time) on January 12, because that is 24 hours before the Zephyr is scheduled to depart at 2:00 p.m. (Central Time) from its point of origin, which is Chicago.

Some people – especially infrequent Amtrak travelers – will think they can cancel 24 hours before the day and time when they would be boarding. In this hypothetical example, and taking the different time zone into account, the actual cancellation deadline would be 49 hours prior to the time the westbound Zephyr leaves Grand Junction. 

How’d you like to be working Amtrak’s Customer Service phone lines the day that policy kicks in?