ZFV (and other Amtrak) Codeshares May Complicate Travel

Discussion in 'United Airlines | MileagePlus' started by dotorg, Jun 11, 2011.  |  Print Topic

  1. dotorg
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    dotorg Silver Member

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    Booking flights that leave from ZFV (Philadelphia 30th St Train Station) can present significant cost savings over those that leave directly from EWR. CO doesn't send you a train ticket, though. You must go and pick up the ticket in person.

    Amtrak is usually pretty flexible with tickets. Once you have it in hand, you can usually take any other available train with the same class of service. It's also rather easy for people in NYC or NJ to get to ZFV in order to pick up the ticket.

    But, be aware that the train tip can complicate your journey. Lessons learned today:

    1) It is not possible to alter your train reservation in any way. Most of the agents I spoke with today, including the PPlat line, didn't know much if anything about the train. One agent said he had no clue CO offered train service.
    2) Don't expect the people at Amtrak to help. They gave me a phone number, but refused to do anything to help me (including talking to the person at the CO PPlat line - "we don't get in the middle of stuff"). I checked in at T-24. My reservation was in the computer but not marked as paid. So, Amtrak would not issue the ticket.
    3) Everyone at CO tried to indicate that it wasn't paid because my travel agent didn't pay Amtrak. That is not how this works, though. Nobody could promise that Amtrak would be "paid" and able to issue my ticket tomorrow.
    4) CO sends one daily update to Amtrak. They can't make changes mid-day.

    My original itinerary was ZFV (Sunday @ 10:19) -> EWR (11:23) == EWR (12:3) -> RDU (2:15). The EWR>RDU flight is Colgan. I wanted to change to the 6:30AM ExpressJet flight. To do that, though, I needed to SDC my train to Saturday night, have a short stop at EWR, then change to the early morning CO flight. The ZFV flight was more than $1,000 cheaper than the same flight originating at EWR.

    I checked in at 10:19 on Saturday. Then, I called the PPlat line to make the change. They were unable to alter the train, and could not change my second segment until I completed or moved the train. I asked if I could go to the station now and take the train and was told yes.

    [​IMG]
    Philadelphia from the Train by marklyon, on Flickr

    I took the 1PM Saturday train from NYP to ZFV. The trip was uneventful and relaxing. Once I arrived, I went up to the quick ticket kiosk and entered my info. It didn't find me by my flight info, but did find me when I selected the train and destination. Only, it demanded I pay up.

    I went to the counter. They again looked it up and saw that it was reserved, but unpaid. The counter person said they always have problems with the CO tickets and that I should just pay and demand to be reimbursed.

    [​IMG]
    Philadelphia 30th St Train Station by marklyon, on Flickr

    I called CO. I talked to several people, all of whom were unable to do anything with the train. They insisted my travel agent owed Amtrak money, or that it was against the rules for me to take a different train (I intended to print tomorrow's ticket and take the next train with the same class of service back to EWR (actually, staying on to NYP or getting on NJT at EWR).

    I gave up and went looking for a supervisor at Amtrak. They all basically said nothing could be done, though someone did print out the record of my reservation (showing all the details and that it was unpaid). CO Pays $46 for that route.

    I called the PPlat line again and got someone who attempted to be helpful. She got the Amtrak reservation number (not my CO PNR) and I matched it to what they had printed out. She indicated that it might not be settled until the evening, but could not promise that if I did this trip again tomorrow that anything would be different when I went to pick up my ticket.

    I stressed the importance of getting to my destination on time, and told her I made a special trip to ZFV for this. She asked why I didn't book from EWR and I explained the cost difference. She then offered - as a one time courtesy - to remove the ZFV>EWR segment from my ticket if I would get myself to the airport. I also lost the extra 500 miles that would have come from that portion of the trip. But, everything is good and I didn't need to stay in Philadelphia (which my wife appreciates).

    [​IMG]
    Philadelphia Regional Train by marklyon, on Flickr

    On the way back, instead of buying a last minute $109 Amtrak ticket or waiting until a 5PM train with a $49 fare, I decided to take the SEPTA/NJ Transit route. This requires changing trains at Trenton, but was easy and comfortable. It was also significantly cheaper. There was, however, a significant time impact. Because of all the stops, this route took almost three hours instead of one and a half.

    I didn't get a chance to do my SDC, and probably won't. I'm back in NYC and need to run an errand or two before my flight tomorrow (since I didn't get back home in time).
     
    redwoman, mtbroxs, iolaire and 2 others like this.
  2. rggale
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    rggale Gold Member

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    Thanks for the great report. It seems that the IT system between CO and Amtrak is horrendous and has always been horrendous. More often than not, CO takes the ZFV segment off for me because it always screws up the reservation. If this codeshare sticks around post-merger, they will have to do something to make sure that everything goes smoothly (and they don't get ripped off).

    Here's to hoping it stays as is, as the devil we know is better than the devil we can't beat!
     
  3. EsquireFlyer

    EsquireFlyer Silver Member

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    Flyer1976, mht_flyer and unavaca like this.
  4. unavaca
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    unavaca Gold Member

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    All this boasting about trains from ZFV and NYC... Lipstick, EWR, pig, etc etc. :)
     
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  5. Morsel
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    Morsel Active Member

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    A tangential question: is the printing of the Amtrak ticket what triggers CO to think that you're moving along the itinerary?

    I'm booked XXX-EWR-ZVE (New Haven); ZVE-EWR-XXX. My parents live in NJ and might want to give me a ride and join me for the trip.

    If I go to the Amtrak kiosk at EWR, print the ticket, and then throw it away and drive to CT, and then on the return, go to the train station, print the ticket, throw it away, and drive to EWR, am I okay?

    (Not hugely concerned about the 500 points, but do they post weeks later when Amtrak goes through the paper tickets, or do they post upon printing?)
     
  6. dotorg
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    dotorg Silver Member

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    Printing the ticket is what marks it as moving along. Print before leaving EWR, then catch a ride.

    You can turn in the unused ticket at the station for credit at a later time. I've used the return ticket to buy my later trip to ZFV.
     
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  7. maksim

    maksim Silver Member

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    Here is the question, can I pick up the tickets for ZFV at any Amtrak Kiosk? say Princeton or Trenton and ride from there?
     
  8. ssullivan
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    ssullivan Gold Member

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    I don't think the kiosks can issue tickets that originate at other stations. However, I've heard reports of people being successful in getting a ticket agent at the window to print one like that.

    This is all probably going to change somewhat as Amtrak moves to electronic tickets later this year.
     
  9. redwoman

    redwoman Silver Member

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    dotorg, thanks for the heads up. I don't know if I'll try Amtrak from Philly anytime soon; I think I'll let the bugs work out after the electronic ticketing that ssullivan mentioned. OT, this brings back memories, thanks for the pics. The crossing wires over the yard of 30th St Station as viewed from the Schuykill, while ugly, always told me that I'd soon be away from the watchful eye of Mom and Dad and getting into trouble at school. The interior of 30th St. is beautiful, isn't it? Scary on the outside though, especially at night.
     
  10. maksim

    maksim Silver Member

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    Kiosks confirm no. Will ask the attendant tomorrow.
     

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