Help, my Amtrak tickets were accidentally canceled

Photo of author

By Christopher Elliott

Mel Jung’s Amtrak tickets are canceled accidentally, and he’s forced to pay $236 for a new ticket. No one is taking responsibility for the error. Is he stuck with the higher fare?

Question

I’ve been trying to resolve a problem with Amtrak, and have spent hours on “hold.” I need your help.

I recently purchased Amtrak tickets to Reno, Nev., on my American Express card. For the roundtrip ticket that cost $156, I received 11,000 rewards points, enabling the purchase of another roundtrip ticket.

There was a misunderstanding when I booked the second ticket, and my first ticket was somehow canceled.

I didn’t find out about the cancellation until I went to the train station in Emeryville to get my tickets. An Amtrak agent said I would have to spend another $236 for a ticket.

Since then, I’ve spent countless hours on the phone, including a three-way call between Amex, Amtrak and myself, to try to get this sorted out. They’ve asked me to mail proof of payment and proof that I’ve taken the trip, which I have done.

I just received a message from Amtrak that they will not refund the ticket. I have disputed the charge with American Express. Now what? — Mel Jung, San Rafael, Calif.

Answer

When the erroneous cancellation was discovered, Amtrak should have found a way to reinstate them at the same price. That would have fixed the problem and prevented you from having to spend half an eternity on the phone to chase down a refund (your time is more valuable than that).

TravelInsurance.com makes it fast and easy to compare and buy travel insurance online from top-rated providers. Our unbiased comparison engine allows travelers to read reviews, compare pricing and benefits and buy the right policy with a price guarantee, every time. Compare and buy travel insurance now at TravelInsurance.com.

In reviewing your case, it’s difficult to know exactly where the fault lies. I contacted Amtrak on your behalf, but it didn’t respond to me. It did, however, address your case. I’ll get to that in a moment. It could have also been a problem with American Express, or with you. (Here’s our guide to resolving your consumer problem.)

I have a few thoughts on how this might have been avoided, though. It appears that the reason one reservation got canceled is that you made two bookings at once. That may have confused the agent with whom you spoke. Maybe making one reservation per call would have solved that. (Related: Amtrak refund problem: Why can’t I get a credit for a new ticket?)

Then again – and I think this is far more likely – an agent might have just hit the wrong button and wiped out one of your reservation.

The vanishing confirmation

When a ticket is canceled, you should receive some kind of confirmation in the form of an email or letter. I’m surprised that no one sent you a confirmation.

Clearly, something went very wrong here. (Related: Amtrak offered an $834 voucher after a “service disruption.” Can it do that? )

I’m less concerned with this error than the way it was addressed by all of the parties. Mistakes happen, after all. They’re what make us human, and they can be instructive. From what I can tell, Amtrak wasn’t eager to fix this mistake or learn from it. American Express didn’t exactly come to your rescue, either. Instead, you spent more time than you should have on the phone.

After my advocacy team and I contracted Amtrak, you received a note from American Express saying that you’d received a refund for the ticket.

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.

Related Posts