Jul 25, 2017 - 3:51 PM
That's indeed unfortunate! For train passes, an 85% refund applies if cancelled. I don't think I've come across other percentages yet, apart from situations where companies may waive the fee on a case by case basis as Lucas explained.
There is a manual process involved in cancelling and issuing passes, so that might be another reason one has to pay for that. It is common in most of the travel industry to charge for changes to be made, whether it is airline tickets, train tickets or complete holiday packages. There are train tickets (not passes) that can be changed for free, but those are the higher priced tickets often referred to as "flexible". So again this "service" comes with a price.
I can only hope that cancellation and changes become cheaper as more of the purchase and issuing process gets automated. But I don't know as that's up to the retailers and particularly the Swiss Railways.
As for why passes have a start date: I think, and this is just a guess based on my experience, that open dated passes and flexible passes cause issues too. E.g. when people forget to fill out a date and board trains anyway, or fill it out the wrong way.
Enjoy your trip in any case!