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Determining segment availability for Amtrak Pass

Westfield, NJ
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Determining segment availability for Amtrak Pass

Looking at how you need advance reservations for segments to use an Amtrak 15 day (or longer) pass, you would think it that being able to reserve online would be the perfect way to try to put together an itinerary for a pass. But it seems the only way to determine availability for a segment is to call and have an agent check each segment you want as part of the booking process which would seem to require a bit of time if you had to redo your plans if segments you want are not available to book for a pass. Of course, if the entire train is sold out then you have your answer for that segment.

As you can on some airlines for award or upgradeable seats, can you check for availability of seats on Amtrak trains in the "buckets" suitable for pass usage?

6 replies to this topic
Chicago, Illinois
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1. Re: Determining segment availability for Amtrak Pass

So what is your question? This reads like a statement. The passes are a way to purchase discounted tickets The passes have restrictions. You already seem to know them. Call the agent to reserve your space on the train. Once a train reaches 80% capacity the system does not accept passes so do it in advance.

To get Amtrak Awards points you join Amtrak Awards Program; just like the airlines. We use our points to upgrade to business class when available but that has to be done in advance too. I don't believe that passes purchased tickets are upgradeable.

Westfield, NJ
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2. Re: Determining segment availability for Amtrak Pass

ok, my question: Aside from speaking to an agent, is there any way to determine online if you can book a specific segment for train travel via an Amtrak Pass?

It just seems a bit backwards that one can do a variety of planning looking at the schedules online only to find out that one or more are not available only after speaking to an agent, forcing one to redo planning, and hope for the best when you call back.

Chicago, Illinois
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3. Re: Determining segment availability for Amtrak Pass

See answer #2. As I've already said, talk to an agent. The pass is a discount way of purchasing tickets and has a lot of rules and regulations. You have to talk to an agent and be flexible in your travel dates. Also: don't plan on using it on the long distance cross country trains Chicago to the West Coast unless you arrange for your tickets well in advance. Those trains sell out 4-6 months in advance. The passes are for chair-car only.

Washington State
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4. Re: Determining segment availability for Amtrak Pass

Technically, you can buy a sleeper accommodation on top of a pass, but it pretty much negates any advantage of the pass, since the rail portion of the sleeper fare is always at the lowest "Value" bucket and the point of the pass is to get a low rail fare.

As for research online to see if a pass may be valid for a segment, you can go to Amsnag.net, look at coach fares for a bunch of days fairly far out in advance during a known low travel period (mid-January?) and that may give you a good idea of what the lowest "bucket" is. Then look at your dates and see if the fare is the same. My understanding (and I do not know for sure), is that passes are only accepted when the lowest bucket is available.

I am not a big fan of the pass. One, often overlooked, disadvantage of the pass is a segment gets used every time you step on an Amtrak train or Amtrak Thruway bus. For example, if going to San Francisco, which involves a bus connection over the Bay Bridge from Emeryville, the fares to San Francisco or Emeryville are pretty much the same price, either exactly the same or only nominally different (like $1). If you are on a pass, that short bus ride consumes a segment.

Wales, United...
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5. Re: Determining segment availability for Amtrak Pass

I'm not a fan of the passes now. I used one bfore segments cam ein, and I found it fine, though not flexible as I booked everything in advance when I arrived in Chicago from Heathrow. I wouldn't buy one at all these days.

New York
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6. Re: Determining segment availability for Amtrak Pass

Before I booked my rail ticket I checked online for availability of certain segments but I was stuck on one segment but I had the entire itinerary in my head before calling Amtrak. I worked with the service agent on the phone. She was able to accommodate my itinerary with the rail pass but I was very flexible about getting from point to point using different routes and managed to get what I wanted for my rail pass. The service agent was extremely knowledgeable and I managed to get rid of one segment which was a waste of my time and I still had one segment left to use on a day trip to a major city in the Northeast. I booked my trip three weeks in advance but I stayed in coach the entire way and slept in coach just about the entire time. It was a round trip ticket to different cities in the West Coast.

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