Q: I can’t get a refund from Amtrak for its inappropriate “handicapped” room on the Empire Builder from Chicago to Glacier National Park.
The room was not safe; there was no room for a wheelchair, no grab bars, and no safety bars on the toilet. There was no room for two people to sit and eat at the same time, and since my husband and I were downstairs and far from the dining car, this is where we had to have all meals. Also, there were sharp metal protrusions that injured both my husband and me.
After three months of e-mails to the CEO, chief operating officer and my travel agent, the only offer I got was a voucher on a future trip.
I would like at least a 50 percent refund. I can’t travel on Amtrak again because the room was not safe or comfortable for my disabled husband. I would accept a $500 check, but not a voucher for travel that I can’t use.
A: I’m sorry about your unhappy experience on Amtrak. The Empire Builder is a 46-hour train ride through some of the most beautiful parts of the American West. In Amtrak’s promotional material, it invites you to “experience the rugged splendor of the American West” by traveling along major portions of the Lewis and Clark trail and following the footsteps of early pioneers.
OK, I have to admit, this one’s on my bucket list.
Alas, there’s no mention of handicapped facilities on Amtrak’s site. A little research will reveal that Amtrak offers a “Superliner Accessible Bedroom,” a lower-level room with enough space for a wheelchair. The room spans the entire width of the train and is designed for use by two adults: a passenger with a mobility impairment and a companion.
You should have reasonably expected facilities associated with a handicapped-accessible room, including grab bars and no sharp, protruding objects. Amtrak should be grateful that you pointed out these dangers and ought to fix them. But I’m not sure if anything can be done about the distance from the dining car. That may be a design limitation.
By the way, if you’re thinking of taking a lengthy train trip, you may want to check Amtrak’s 3-D tour feature on its website. You’ll get a pretty good idea of what to expect.
A brief e-mail or letter to Amtrak should have quickly addressed your problems. After your travel agent got involved, the company offered a $500 credit toward a future Amtrak trip, which was unacceptable. After your misadventures on the Empire Builder, why would you and your husband try Amtrak again? I would recommend driving in your own car next time.
I contacted Amtrak on your behalf, and your travel agent also worked hard for a resolution. After some negotiations, the carrier agreed to refund $500.