Amtrak was on the receiving end of some harsh words late last week in the form of a letter criticizing the company for eliminating their veteran’s benefit program.
Amtrak for years has given a 10-percent discount for active duty military personnel and a 15-percent discount for members of Veterans Advantage. Scott Higgins, co-founder of Veterans Advantage, was informed that the discount deal would end March 26.
“We were really stunned,” Higgins said, Stars & Stripes reported. “We’re struggling to understand why they are doing this.”
Veteran’s Advantage was founded by Higgins, a Vietnam veteran, and his wife in 2000 as a Public Benefit Corporation that created exclusive benefits and discounts for active, retired and veteran military members and their families.
In response to Amtrak’s plan to discontinue discounts, Stars & Stripes reported that Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, a former Marine, wrote to Amtrak CEO Richard Anderson and expressed his concerns with their decision.
“I urge you to cease these efforts and reaffirm that veterans will always be welcomed and encouraged to use the nation’s railroad with a discount program that recognizes and rewards their service to our country,” he wrote.
Blumenthal said the decision was “inexcusable.”
A spokeswoman for Amtrak confirmed to Stars & Stripes that the 10-percent discount for active duty military personnel remains in place for now.
However, the spokeswoman did not respond to requests for comment on Blumenthal’s letter or to questions regarding plans to end a discount program for veterans and their families offered through the membership-based program, Veterans Advantage.
This is not the first time this year Amtrak had made some unpopular decisions to their pricing.
Amtrak recently discontinued their discounts for students and for AAA members, and reduced the discount for disabled customers from 15 percent to 10 percent. The company also raised the age requirement for senior discounts to 65. Amtrak officials said that elimination of the discounts was part of a shift in the company’s strategy as it attempts to imitate pricing models used in other modes of transportation.
“Amtrak is moving passenger rail service to a more streamlined and efficient business model,” spokeswoman Kimberly Woods said, The Washington Post reported. “The goal is to improve overall revenue performance by expanding the use of tactical fare sales to generate ridership growth versus everyday discounts for certain consumer segments.”
Rather than standalone discounts, Amtrak will instead offer new sales every two to three weeks. They will also offer short “flash” sales for steep discounts. Woods also said passengers are able to save money by purchasing tickets at least 14 days in a advance.