Amtrak will adopt an airline model for its ticket policies

Feb 24, 2020

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Amtrak is about to get a little more like an airline.

Starting on March 1, the national intercity rail carrier will make its cheapest tickets nonrefundable. According to Amtrak, the move will enable it to make its lowest fares even lower. The policy change is also likely to help the perpetually under-funded railroad’s profit margins.

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The plan to adopt non-refundable ticket policies was first reported by Business Insider in December, and the railroad officially announced the changes on Monday.

Amtrak has long had flexible ticket policies with generous refund allowances and no rebooking fees on most tickets. However, former Delta Air Lines CEO Richard Anderson took control of the rail operator in 2017, and has since been reshaping Amtrak’s policies to more closely mirror those of major U.S. airlines.

Related: Amtrak will officially begin testing its high-speed Acela train

When the new policies take effect, passengers who purchase “saver” fares will have 24 hours to cancel or modify their reservation without a penalty. After 24 hours, the tickets will become nonrefundable and changes will not be permitted, according to Amtrak.

Some more expensive tickets will also become more restricted. On standard “value” fares, a 25 percent penalty may apply for cancellations or a 15 percent penalty for changes made within two weeks of departure, unless the passenger is changing or upgrading the reservation on the same train or day as the original reservation.

More flexible tickets — including business and Acela First Class fares will — continue allowing changes without penalty.

The new policies also bring Amtrak in line with rail operators abroad, which generally have more restrictive ticketing policies on low-fare tickets than the American railroad.

Related: Guide to all the Amtrak routes in the U.S.

Related: Amtrak plans to expand new nonstop Acela service

Featured photo by Michelle Gustafson/Bloomberg via Getty Images.

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