Guest Rewards a Winner; Unconditional Guarantee Program a Goner

Guest Rewards a Winner; Unconditional Guarantee Program a Goner

As of Nov. 1, Amtrak pulled the plug on its two-year-old free voucher program that virtually guaranteed a free ticket for unhappy customers. But it is full steam ahead for its other two-year-old marketing program, Guest Rewards.

After some $8.9 million worth of travel was awarded to unhappy customers, Amtrak will now handle the complaints on a case-by-case basis.

Dan Stessel, a spokesman for Amtrak, said 996 of every 1,000 passengers were happy with the service and didn’t ask for a voucher. The majority of those that did complained of circumstances beyond Amtrak’s control, such as bad weather and track delays.

Stessel, however, is pleased with the growth of Amtrak’s Guest Rewards program.

“The Amtrak Guest Rewards program is going phenomenally well,” he said. “It’s exceeding our expectations.” The program has 400,000 members. Members earn two points for every dollar spent on Amtrak travel. Special trains like the

Metroliner and Acela Express offer customers 500 points, or 750 for first-class seats. Bonus points can also be obtained through a variety of means. Points can be redeemed for Amtrak trips, hotel stays at Hilton, Marriott, Sheraton, Westin and Ritz-Carlton hotels and for equal amounts of frequent flyer miles on United, Continental or Midwest Express. There are also more than 22,000 Amtrak Guest Rewards credit card holders.

Amtrak also recently unveiled its Select Member status program, offering exclusive rewards and benefits — such as 25 percent more points per trip and seating upgrades to a select crew of travelers.

“The Amtrak Guest Rewards program is a great way for us to get passengers to take future trips and to reward them for being loyal to us” said Stessel.

But Guest Rewards is not without a few faults. A recent decision-without notice-to restrict the transfer limit of any participating program to a maximum 25,000 points per calendar year has meant that a few Continental and United members will be staying home for Christmas this year. Viewed as an unpublished benefit, Guest Rewards was an exchange in the making.

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