Amtrak announced Wednesday the suspension of a pricing policy that resulted in a $25,000 travel bill for a group of wheelchair-bound activists heading to Bloomington-Normal, Illinois from Chicago for a conference and rally on disability rights.
The passenger rail agency told Chicago-based Access Living its policy was to charge extra to reconfigure train cars to accommodate wheelchair users.
“It was never meant to be applied to this situation and we apologize for that mistake,” said the statement emailed by Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari. ”We are glad it has all worked out and we were able to accommodate our customers’ trip. We will do better next time. We are America’s Railroad and we want to provide more trips, not fewer.”
On Monday, Amtrak apologized to Access Living and agreed to accommodate everyone at the regular rate of $16 per person.,
Access Living spokeswoman Bridget Hayman says five members of the group got "royal treatment" on their trip Wednesday.
"Makes you wonder what the hubbub was about,” Hayman told the Chicago Sun-Times.
An Amtrak sales agent had informed Access Living of a new pricing policy meant they would be charged for seats that have to be removed to fit more wheelchairs, resulting in the $25,000 bill.
News of the policy sparked an outcry led by U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth, an Illinois Democrat who uses a wheelchair due to injuries suffered in combat in Iraq. She requested a meeting with Amtrak executives over the charge she said was "outrageous."