Does Amtrak owe me anything for a forced downgrade?

Photo of author

By Christopher Elliott

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


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 Guest Relations points after it changed my tickets from “value” to “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. 


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 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. (Here’s the story of how complimentary amenity kits on Amtrak’s Empire Builder and Coast Starlight routes disappeared.)

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, You can also try using the Elliott Method for a faster resolution.

Global Rescue is the world’s leading provider of medical, security, evacuation and travel risk management services. Founded in 2004, Global Rescue has exclusive relationships with the Johns Hopkins Emergency Medicine Division of Special Operations and Elite Medical Group. Global Rescue provides best-in-class services that identify, monitor and respond to client medical and security crises. Learn more about Global Rescue.

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.

Photo of author

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can't. He's the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes three nationally syndicated columns. He also publishes the Elliott Report, a news site for consumers, and Elliott Confidential, a critically acclaimed newsletter about customer service. If you have a consumer problem you can't solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on X, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter. He is based in Panamá City.

Related Posts