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Seat reservaton for Renfe Confort Premium

  • 13 February 2023
  • 5 replies
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I am looking to travel on AVE from Zaragoza to Madrid. I hold a Interrail Global Pass in first class and would like to travel in first class with lounge access and meal service, the so-called Confort Prémium. This special seat reservation should cost around 23€ as opposed to the 10€ for “basic” first class where the only advantage is a wider seat. My sources are Seat61 and this brochure.

However, I am having a hard time booking this:

  • I won’t arrive in Spain till the very day I’m travelling, and since it’s a Sunday evening, I fear my train may be sold out by then, so buying it at a Renfe ticket office is hardly an option.
     
  • The employee at the Renfe call centre eagerly promoted the pre-booking option where you can call and book a seat, then pick it up at a Renfe ticket office within 72 hours. There is a “24 hour before departure” limit - on the internet it seems pre-bookings cannot be initiated after this time, but she gave me the impression that pre-bookings cannot be picked up after this time, which makes this option irrelevant for me. 
     
  • I also asked the Renfe call centre if I could pre-book it over the phone and then have a friend pick it up for me in Spain, but that couldn’t be allowed since the traveller’s Interrail Pass needs to be shown when collecting.
     
  • Finally I asked the Renfe call centre if I could purchase a 10€ reservation elsewhere, then upgrade at a Renfe ticket office to a 23€ meal fare; but the employee wouldn’t even acknowledge that there are other ways to get hold of 10€ seat reservation than Renfe.
     
  • I called DB to check what they could do, but they only seem to sell the 10€ reservations. I tried to text them on Twitter to get written confirmation that they don’t do the 23€ reservation (maybe the employee I spoke to just didn’t know how), but I was told they could only help me on the phone or in a DB Reisezentrum.
     
  • I contacted Andy at Rail Travel Centre, he told me they also only do the 10€ reservations.
     
  • I even called SBB where they apparently couldn’t sell either fare - although I suspect this was owing to the employee not knowing her way around the confusing tariff codes etc. since SBB sold me a second class seat reservation on AVE Madrid-Alicante last year.

 

So I am running out of ideas... Do any of you have some experience or advice? Any help would be hugely appreciated :)

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Best answer by rvdborgt 13 February 2023, 15:30

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Userlevel 7
Badge +9

I'm afraid you have tried all options and it looks like you can only book on arrival in Spain.

What is your travel date? You could check on a few Sundays, whether the premium class sells out, e.g. on the RENFE website or the more user-friendly www.raileurope.com. There are no pass holder quota, so if it's available, then it's also available to pass holders.

The other question is whether Premium class with a meal is available during weekends.

Userlevel 6
Badge +4

The other question is whether Premium class with a meal is available during weekends.

It is, meals are nowadays also served on Saturdays too. 

Unfortunately, as far as I know, Spanish ticket offices are the only place where one can get a premium reservation.

Are you arriving very shortly before its departure? I was surprised by Iryo that when changing trains less than 24 hours before departure they weren't able to provide a meal (I was travelling in Infinita bistró), but no idea how that is with Renfe. 

Thank you both for your answers, it’s highly appreciated!

After posting here, I stumbled upon a list of Renfe international agencies and decided to give that a try. It took some time…

  • They have no agencies in Denmark where I live, or in Scandinavia for that matter
  • In NL, they have TREINREISWINKEL BV, but they won’t help if you didn’t buy your Interrail pass through them
  • In Belgium, they are supposed to have SNCB EUROPE, but the email provided does not work, and I did not try calling
  • In Germany, they have BAHNAGENTUR GLEISNOST, but I found them bureaucratic to deal with, and they demanded my acceptance of a 15€ fee on top of shipping costs before they would even tell me if they could help, which I refused
  • In the UK, they have three agencies:
    • FFESTINIOG TRAVEL has the DB system, so obviously can’t help
    • TRAINSEUROPE LTD. said they could not sell these tickets (unclear why)
    • INTERNATIONAL RAIL initially claimed Interrailers couldn’t travelled in Confort Prémium, but I asked them to double-check - they realised their mistake and ended up selling me my seat reservation!

It cost me £22.50 for the ticket itself (converted from 23.50€) + a 15£ handling fee. Surprisingly, I got the reservation e-ticketed, which saved me shipping and customs - and hassle. The fee is somewhat hefty, but I am happy, especially considering the alternatives of:

  • booking on the day
    • having to queue at a ticket office
    • too late to order a meal with specific dietary requirements
    • risking that first class is sold out and thus having to downgrade
    • risking that the train is sold out entirely, delaying my travel to later that same day
    • even risking stranding in Zaragoza overnight
    • seat preferences may not be accomodated
       
  • booking basic first class through DB
    • not getting a meal onboard
    • no lounge access
    • having to pay for shipping from Germany
    • accepting the risk of the ticket getting lost in the mail (DB assumes no liability if this happens)
    • cannot specify seat preferences
    • may get hold of an employee who doesn’t know how to deal with the system

 

So for future reference if anyone wants hassle-free e-ticketed seat reservations, email sales@internationalrail.com :)

Userlevel 7
Badge +9

After posting here, I stumbled upon a list of Renfe international agencies and decided to give that a try. It took some time…

Interesting, thanks!

  • They have no agencies in Denmark where I live, or in Scandinavia for that matter
  • In NL, they have TREINREISWINKEL BV, but they won’t help if you didn’t buy your Interrail pass through them

I also think they would use the DB system to issue reservations.

  • In Belgium, they are supposed to have SNCB EUROPE, but the email provided does not work, and I did not try calling

NMBS/SNCB currently can’t sell domestic Spanish tickets, probably because they currently have no way of issuing them as e-tickets/reservations.

The fee is somewhat hefty, but I am happy, especially considering the alternatives of:

  • booking basic first class through DB
    • not getting a meal onboard
    • no lounge access
    • having to pay for shipping from Germany

That's €5.90.

    • accepting the risk of the ticket getting lost in the mail (DB assumes no liability if this happens)

Did they say that? AFAIK, in the EU the sender is responsible until post is delivered.

 

    • accepting the risk of the ticket getting lost in the mail (DB assumes no liability if this happens)

Did they say that? AFAIK, in the EU the sender is responsible until post is delivered.

 

I suppose Deutsche Bahn would be liable as a last resort if the ticket never shows up. I think the risk of the ticket getting lost in the mail was highlighted to me because the system does not allow duplicates in this case - a lost ticket cannot simply be printed again, so even if DB is willing to offer a replacement, this is dependant on seat availability. Also, I believe tickets are sent out in an untraceable second class letter, which is typically only considered lost when the recipient still have not gotten it weeks after dispatchment.

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