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Amtrak Deal Bulletin – Oct. 9

Amtrak's Cardinal has stopped to pick up and discharge passengers in Prince, West Virginia. Photo by jpmueller99 from Shenandoah Valley, Virginia via Wikimedia Commons Amtrak's Cardinal has stopped to pick up and discharge passengers in Prince, West Virginia. Photo by jpmueller99 from Shenandoah Valley, Virginia via Wikimedia Commons

General Conditions: Except where noted, all Amtrak promotions apply to coach travel only; discounts apply to full-fare tickets and can’t be combined with other discounts; most deals entail blackout dates; seats are limited; some promotions do not apply to all trains; most promotions make provisions for one or two children accompanying each adult traveler. Companion and most children’s deals require all travelers to travel together. Amtrak also offers other minor deals and promotions. In most cases, the Amtrak website automatically computes and displays eligible discounts for any trip you enter.Check amtrak.com/deals for details and booking.

News: Southwest Chief Operates through 2019

Amtrak announced that it would continue to operate the Southwest Chief on its regular route at least through the end of fiscal 2019, Sept. 30, 2019. Amtrak has threatened to eliminate or curtail that route for several years, mainly because the BNSF no longer needs to operate or maintain a key portion of the tracks between western Kansas and Albuquerque. That means BNSF doesn’t want to pay for track maintenance or installation of positive train control.

Earlier, Amtrak floated an absurd idea for the future: Split the route into two separate train segments: between Chicago and Dodge City and between Albuquerque and Los Angeles, with a bus “bridge” linking the two trains. That would almost certainly kill the train, which is apparently what Amtrak management wants. What nobody mentions is the possibility of rerouting the train on BNSF’s busy double-track route to the south of the current route.

At this point, we have no information on what Amtrak plans for fiscal 2020, starting in 11 months. It probably isn’t good.

Standard Ongoing Discounts

Amtrak routinely offers modest discounts to certain travelers. For the most part, these discounts apply only to coach travel and are generally not combinable. Most routine discounts do not apply to weekday Acela Express trains and many do not apply to some Thruway bus travel. When you enter itineraries and personal details, the Amtrak website automatically computes discounted fares. Discounts are subject to capacity control.

  • Senior: 10 percent discount for travelers age 65 or over except on cross-border travel with VIA Rail, where the minimum age is 60. Senior discount is not valid on Acela, Auto Train, Saver fares, or on business class or sleeper accommodations. 50 percent senior discount on Downeaster trains.
  • Disability:10 percent discount for travelers with disabilities and traveling companions, with appropriate ID. 50 percent discount on Downeaster trains.
  • Children: One child age 2-12 travels for 50 percent off with an adult age 18 or over.
  • Military: 10 percent discount for travelers on active duty and their spouses/dependents, including travel on Auto Train, excluding Canadian portion of transborder trains.
  • NARP: 10 percent discount for members of members of the National Association of Railroad Passengers with three-day advance purchase.

Discounts previously available to AAA, AARP, and Veterans Advantage members have been discontinued.

Advance-Purchase Discounts

  • Saver Fares discounts of 15 percent-25 percent are routinely offered on most long-distance Amtrak trains with 14-day advance purchase. Discounts are limited to coach class and to Saturday and select weeknight Acela trips.

Weekly SmartFares: 

Buy Tuesday-Friday, Oct. 9-12.

Travel Monday-Thursday and Saturday, varying dates, Oct. 20-Nov. 11.

Deal: 30 percent off regular coach fares.

Routes: Sale seats are available between endpoints or intermediate points of sale route; sale fares apply only in the direction noted.

  • Cardinal: Chicago-Connersville.
  • City of New Orleans: Chicago-Memphis, New Orleans-Marks.
  • Northeast Regional: various routes.
  • Southwest Chief: Topeka-Albuquerque.

Other Time-Limited Promotions

  • Adirondack, Empire Service, Ethan Allen Express and Maple Leaf: 15 percent discount for students age 13-25 for travel within New York State plus Montreal; requires student ID; buy by Dec. 28 with three-day advance purchase; travel through Dec. 31.
  • California: 15 percent Senior discount for travelers age 62 or over on “selected” Capitol Corridor, Pacific Surfliner and San Joaquin trips. Travel through Jan. 31, 2019. When booking, enter “adult” rather than “senior” and enter promotion code “V282.”
  • Capitol Corridor: 50 percent discounts on up to five companion tickets; ongoing. Also, 25 percent discount on trips to/from Oakland Coliseum station for A’s home games, through Nov. 1 and for Raider home games, through Dec. 24.
  • Downeaster: Free companion ticket. Buy three days in advance; travel through Dec. 31.
  • Heartland Flyer: $31 one-way fare to Dallas for Oklahoma-Texas football game Oct. 6. Buy by Oct. 7, travel Oct. 5-7.
  • San Joaquins: 50 percent discount on up to five companion tickets for travel through April 30, 2019.

Ed Perkins, editor

For more travel tips from Ed Perkins, see our companion site Ed on Travel

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