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Does Amtrak owe me anything for a forced downgrade?

Daniel Onn booked a business class ticket on Amtrak. Then the rail carrier removed the business class car. Does it owe him anything?

Amtrak routinely reconfigures its trains, but when it does, it needs to ensure the passengers who paid for a higher level of service get compensated.Matt Rourke/Associated Press

Q. I had a business class ticket on Amtrak’s Coast Starlight train from Seattle to Los Angeles. I booked business class because of my low vision and the ability to have access to Amtrak’s business class lounge. I also get 25 percent more Amtrak points for food and beverage purchases.

Just before my trip, Amtrak removed the business class car and downgraded my seats. I lost my lounge access in Los Angeles and my 25 percent Amtrak Guest Relations points after it changed my tickets from “value” to the “standard” category.

I think Amtrak can do better. I’d like an upgrade to a roomette or access to the business class lounge at the train station and meal vouchers with drinks. Can you please help me fix this?


DANIEL ONN, Saratoga, Calif.

A. Amtrak routinely reconfigures its trains, but when it does it needs to ensure the passengers who paid for a higher level of service get compensated. Amtrak’s refund policy addresses downgrades made by passengers, but not by the rail carrier.

And what does it have to say about those downgrades? It offers no refunds, but suggests a fare adjustment may be in order. Separately, the rail carrier says if it makes a schedule change, an equipment substitution, or a cancellation and the new accommodation charge or rail fare is lower as a result, it will issue an eVoucher for any residual value. So check your account — you should have received some credit for your downgraded ticket.

You contacted me before your departure, meaning Amtrak may still have intended to respond to your request for additional compensation. I think a fare adjustment would have been appropriate. Certainly, as a goodwill gesture, a few additional points or an upgrade would have been a nice touch.

If you ever find Amtrak is responding too slowly — or not at all — you can contact the rail carrier through the Amtrak executive contacts I list on my consumer advocacy site: Elliott.org.


I contacted Amtrak on your behalf. A representative called and offered you 1,000 loyalty points and a $100 discount on a roomette upgrade. You are happy with that offer.

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy (elliottadvocacy.org), a nonprofit organization that helps consumers solve their problems. E-mail him at chris@elliott.org or get help by contacting him at elliottadvocacy.org/help/.