Amtrak to simplify fare structure, eliminate Saver seats

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Amtrak is revamping its fare structure.

The rail carrier announced Wednesday it is launching a new set of fares later this fall that reduces the number of available fare categories from three to two.

The new fare structure includes two fare types: Flex and Value. It eliminates Amtrak’s existing third Saver fare type.

The newly updated Flex fares will be refundable and have no change fees. As the name suggests, the Value fares cost less than Flex fares — but they’ll come with more restrictions. They’ll be nonchangeable, though passengers can cancel before a trip and receive a 75% refund; this essentially amounts to a 25% cancellation penalty. 

The new fare types will roll out across most coach and Acela business-class tickets. Rooms on long-distance trains and trains on the Capitol Corridor and Pacific Surfliner will have different fare rules, an Amtrak spokesperson told TPG. Tickets for Acela first class and business class on other trains already are refundable.

“This streamlined fare structure with more affordable and flexible fares is part of Amtrak’s continued commitment to upgrading the customer experience at every step along their journey,” Amtrak President Roger Harris said in a statement.

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With its fare overhaul, Amtrak’s new Value fares will combine elements of its existing Value and Saver fares. Now, however, refunds from canceled Value fares will be processed back to the original form of payment — meaning no more eVouchers.

Previously, Amtrak’s Saver fares were only refundable within 24 hours of booking, though passengers could receive a 75% nonrefundable eVoucher for canceling the trip. However, since Amtrak suspended change fees during the pandemic, customers could cancel a Saver fare and receive an eVoucher for the full value with no 25% penalty. This created a loophole that allowed Amtrak customers to reprice their tickets when fares dropped.

For example, if a customer bought a Saver fare of $79 but later noticed the fare dropped to $58, the customer could cancel the trip and get an eVoucher of $21 to apply toward a future trip. This loophole likely would’ve ended since Amtrak had planned to reinstate change fees in 2024, but now the new fare structure codified the 25% change penalty on the Value fares that will replace Saver fares.

Amtrak’s current iteration of Value fares are fully refundable 15 days or more before departure; they would only incur the 25% fee if canceled less than 14 days before departure.

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Amtrak’s updated Flex fares closely resemble its existing Flexible fares, though Amtrak has touted that its new Flex fares will begin at lower prices. The rail carrier did not give specifics, though it’s likely that the new Flex fares will cover the range currently offered by both the cheap Saver fares and the mid-tier Flexible fares.

Amtrak has waived change fees until Dec. 31.

The simplified fare structure comes as Amtrak has made many changes to its customer experience during the pandemic. These changes include the introduction of the ultra-discounted Night Owl fares for select Northeast Corridor routes as well as the new Acela trains expected to roll out in 2024 — though they’re now more than three years behind schedule. The new Acela trains will include more seating, more outlets and USB ports.