Booking City Night Line tickets – is 6 AM too early for a drink?

This may be a long post, so I apologize in advance. I am going to try to add a lot of detail since I had trouble finding information on the Internet.

When I first looked into the City Night Line trains I learned that to get the best fare you could book your ticket and reservation 92 days in advance.  But what I couldn’t figure out was why it seemed like certain sleeper cars were already sold out 92 days in advance.  Then I finally realized you could book a sleeper reservation around 180 days in advance and then purchase your ticket separately.  Since we are traveling with a 4.5 year old and a 7 year old I did not want to take a chance that we would be stuck in seats and I decided to reserve an economy four person sleeper.  When I made this reservation the UK booking agent told me there would be a cancellation penalty of 15 Euros per person if I needed to cancel it.  That was okay with me.

This morning (at 6 AM Eastern time) I needed to purchase the ticket portion of the night train from Berlin to Munich.  On the City Night Line website (they are a part of Deutsche Bahn) it showed a four person economy sleeper car plus tickets was 261 Euros.  I had previously paid 188 Euros for the sleeper reservation.  Actually…I had paid that equivalent in pounds since I made the reservation with the UK Booking Center.  But to make things easier to follow I’m converting everything to Euro’s using today’s exchange rate.  Anyway,  that is a difference of 73 Euros that I should have needed to pay for the tickets since the Saver Fare was available.

So early this morning I call the UK booking number and I ask to purchase the tickets with my reservation.  The operator seemed kind of confused.  My theory is that the only people who actually reserve the sleeper cars are those with Eurail passes or German Rail passes, etc.  For them they already have the tickets and don’t need to get those at a later date.  Anyway he proceeds to tell me that it will be an additional 343 euros to purchase the tickets and would I like to do that right now.  I tell him that does not make sense because I can purchase a reservation plus tickets for 261 euros online.  He tells me that the reservation I have is for a fully-flexible ticket and as a result I must pay the extra amount. I then asked him if I have a fully flexible ticket, then can’t I cancel that ticket?  He said, “one moment please”.  When he returned he told me that I could cancel the tickets but it would cost 15 euro per ticket to cancel.  I told him to cancel the reservation and I would rebook it, online.  It was much cheaper for me to cancel this reservation, lose the equivalent of 60 euros and book the saver fare on the internet.

Why would I bother making a reservation for a four person sleeper car you ask?  Well, today marks 91 days until our night train.  When I looked to see what was available there are no longer any four person sleeper cars available.  They don’t have as many of these as they have doubles or singles.  So those go pretty fast.  I was lucky that I got one on a saver fare.  We could have probably done two doubles if necessary, but this is our first overnight train and I want to share the experience as a family.  I also wasn’t sure what would be available 92 days out.  We are traveling to Europe in the summer when lots of other people travel.  I felt much more comfortable knowing I had a four person sleeper reserved than taking a risk that one would not be available when it was time to book.   Additionally, if I had not been able to purchase the saver fare then at this point it might have made sense to purchase a German Rail pass since we’ll be on multiple train trips throughout our trip.  But as long as I can buy all of those tickets on a saver fare the rail passes are not worth it.

I am thankful to have this reservation done with..though I am still waiting for the credit to show back on my credit card!  Worse case I can dispute it with my credit card company if it never appears.  All of our future reservations can be done on the Internet.  Hopefully no complications will occur with those.  To add to the complication of these reservations I had to constantly convert euro’s to pounds to dollars.  Not fun.  The man is quoting me prices in pounds but on the Deutsche Bahn website train prices are in euros and I am used to dealing with dollars.

Finally – as a side note – when I went to book our new reservations and tickets the first credit card I used did not go through due to a fraud alert.  I called that credit card company after making my purchase with another card and told them as a result I used another credit card provider. My credit card company provided me with a $25 credit without me even asking!  So it makes that 60 cancellation fee I paid feel like a smaller cancellation fee.

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Categories: Berlin, City Night Line, Deutsche Bahn, Financial, Munich, Trains | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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