Amtrak’s “Delta-izing” Continues.

The Anderson regime continues to find more ways to squeeze every last dime out of every reservation, even if it means antagonizing their best, most loyal customers.

Let me tell you about a family of five—mom, dad and kids ages 14, 11 and 5—and all of them train travel enthusiasts. These folks are taking extensive rail excursions as a family every year. Last year they enjoyed the Southwest Chief; this year it will be the Empire Builder, the entire route from Seattle to Chicago.

The two adults and three kids can still manage to travel nicely in two roomettes. Their trip on the Southwest Chief was paid for with cash, but Dad planned to pay for this one with points earned through Amtrak Guest Rewards.

With most of the major details settled, he went on line to the Amtrak website where he booked two roomettes from Seattle to Chicago on their preferred date, and for which he used a total of 52,000 points. He was assigned roomettes 4 and 7 by the computer.

The next day, he telephoned Amtrak’s reservations center, reached a live agent, and asked if he could be re-assigned to another roomette so the family would be in roomettes across the corridor from each other.

“No problem,” said the agent, who tapped away at his keyboard for a few seconds, then said, “OK, you’re now in roomette numbers 7 and 8, which are across the corridor from each other.” Then he said, “That’ll be 3,000 points for the change fee.”

Whoa! A change fee? Since when? This family had to make the same change in roomettes last year and there was no change fee. I emailed the Rail Passengers Association in Washington and change fees were news to them, too. Then three separate calls to Amtrak Reservations yielded three different responses, ranging from (1) There is no penalty, to (2) There is a penalty only if you’re using AGR points, to (3) There is a 5% penalty on all changes.

Another bad idea from the people who brought us contemporary dining. They’re on a roll.