Which time zone counts for this Amtrak cancellation deadline?

The Amtrak cancellation deadline is in Eastern time.

What time zone does the Amtrak cancellation policy adhere to? That’s what Sonia Thacher and her mom want to know. 

Sonia booked a trip to the Grand Canyon with Amtrak Vacations and wisely included trip insurance with her purchase. But when she fell ill and was hospitalized, her mom canceled the trip. She did so before noon on the day the policy required in order to qualify for a full refund. So why is she being told she missed the deadline?

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I booked an Amtrak vacation to the Grand Canyon from April 3rd to April 8th.

On Friday, March 31st, I took ill and was hospitalized. My mother called immediately and canceled the trip, reaching an agent a little after 11 a.m. Pacific time.

We have been told that we missed the time window for any refund, because it was after noon Eastern time. Again, this was not me simply changing my mind about the trip: I was in the hospital receiving medical care. I can submit a letter from my doctor confirming that this was a medical emergency. It seems we only missed the Amtrak cancellation window by two hours.

I am at a loss and would appreciate assistance. Sonia Thacher, Berkeley, Calif.


What an aggravating situation. Not only were you dealing with an unexpected illness and the disappointment of missing your trip, but you were also forced to deal with an unanticipated roadblock on the path to your refund.

You made a good decision when you purchased the $119 trip insurance policy to protect your investment in your Grand Canyon Getaway.

The Elliott Advocacy team receives many requests each week from travelers who neglect to purchase any trip insurance and are faced with sudden, unplanned circumstances that force a trip cancellation. They want our help to recoup their loss. But without any trip insurance those requests are often fruitless.

In your case though, I felt confident that we could retrieve your money.

When your mother made the call to cancel the trip and request a refund she was certain that she was complying with the Amtrak cancellation policy. It said that the deadline was noon on the last business day before the trip begins.

The Amtrak cancellation deadline is in Eastern time

However, upon closer look at the Amtrak cancellation policy, it clearly identifies noon Eastern time as the cancellation deadline.

In fact, the Amtrak cancellation policy notes that you are considered a “no-show” if you fail to cancel by noon Eastern time on the last business day before the trip begins. If you are marked as a no-show there is no cancellation benefit, and the cost of the trip is forfeited.

That was a bit of bad news for your case.

It wasn’t an unreasonable assumption for your mother to think that a noon deadline meant noon in your own time zone. Unfortunately, the contract specified something else, and in contract/traveler disputes, the written contract almost always wins. Assumptions don’t typically count for anything.

But not this time.

Amtrak reconsiders this cancellation deadline

I thought because you, your mother and the trip were all located in the Pacific time zone and you had canceled by noon in that time zone, it was worth an inquiry to ask Amtrak to reconsider your situation.

I contacted Amtrak Vacations on your behalf and pleaded your case. And in this instance, Amtrak agreed to overlook the fact that your mom missed the cancellation cutoff by about two hours because of the time zone confusion. It agreed to honor your policy and refund the full amount of your trip, minus the cost of the trip insurance.

You are pleased with this resolution and I am glad that we could help you. But your case does serve as a reminder to read your trip insurance policy carefully and make sure that you are familiar with all of its terms and deadlines.

Hopefully, when you are feeling up to it, you can still take that trip to the Grand Canyon. It’s a spectacular place to see.

9 thoughts on “Which time zone counts for this Amtrak cancellation deadline?

  1. Good that you advocated for & secured a refund for these PAX, however I would respectfully take issue with your use of the term ‘investment’. I think it important to not conflate ideas with vastly different meanings. In this case, as a ‘consumer advocate website’, you’re really not dealing with ‘investments’ with a monetary ROI. Trips are services that are contracted for, not ‘investments’. When I go shopping for a new car, the salespeople try to tell me that buying a new car is an investment, it is not. It is the purchase of a durable consumer good. The only aspect of a vacation that is an ‘investment’ is that people are emotionally invested in an experience that they anticipate having while consuming travel services. As such, it is understandable why those who believe they have not received full value for money spent are upset & in need of expert help to be made as whole as possible.

  2. Since the railroads in fact invented the concept of time zones — before rail travel, people observed local time wherever they were, and travel was so slow that the gradual change in sunrise/sunset timing as one traveled east to west or vice versa really didn’t matter — it is poetic justice that Amtrak recognized that neither the trip or the pax were on the east coast.

    East coast time zone cutoffs are the bane of my existence here in Alaska. Why would any national company (or government agency, FERC!) pick one end of the six time zones where most business occurs in the USA, not including zones on the other side of the dateline? Why not use Mountain time, for example?

  3. What a shame that this poor woman was further stressed because of a two-hour difference in time zones. Three cheers for coming to her rescue, Michelle!

    1. The office for Amtrak VACATIONS is based on the East Coast, so it does make sense (covers the later time zones in most cases)

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