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Amtrak is not an airline. ..


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#41 jis

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Posted 11 April 2018 - 02:51 PM

 

Not really a rumor at this point.

http://thenational.i...dc-2ea888fa8ce8

attachicon.gifIMG_5587.jpg

 

It must have been a pretty soft launch, because I rode Acela Express first class on February 28 and March 6, and there was no assigned seating.

 

It is only on specific listed trains,not across the board at this time.



#42 MARC Rider

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Posted 11 April 2018 - 03:20 PM


 

 

 

 

However, wasn't the absence of various fees and restrictions one of the things that attracted people to Amtrak in the first place?

 

I'm sure it attracted a few... but free checked baggage surely can't be a huge deciding factor when choosing Amtrak vs. Airlines vs. Bus. 

 

 

When I take my annual ski trip to New England, I ride to/from Boston on the Acela, but I check my skis and and a large gear bag on the overnight NER 66/67.  I carry on a rollerbag and a small backpack.  If I flew, I would have to pay for all the baggage except the backpack, plus my CPAP as a second carry-on. (On the train, I just pack in in my roller-bag.)  The Amtrak baggage people at Baltimore charge me $10 to check the skis, the baggage people at Boston don't.  Go figure.  I think the Amtrak baggage policy wins in this case.


Edited by MARC Rider, 11 April 2018 - 03:21 PM.


#43 Northeastern292

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Posted 11 April 2018 - 03:54 PM

 

 

 

 
However, wasn't the absence of various fees and restrictions one of the things that attracted people to Amtrak in the first place?
 
I'm sure it attracted a few... but free checked baggage surely can't be a huge deciding factor when choosing Amtrak vs. Airlines vs. Bus. 
 
 
When I take my annual ski trip to New England, I ride to/from Boston on the Acela, but I check my skis and and a large gear bag on the overnight NER 66/67.  I carry on a rollerbag and a small backpack.  If I flew, I would have to pay for all the baggage except the backpack, plus my CPAP as a second carry-on. (On the train, I just pack in in my roller-bag.)  The Amtrak baggage people at Baltimore charge me $10 to check the skis, the baggage people at Boston don't.  Go figure.  I think the Amtrak baggage policy wins in this case.
Exactly. Amtrak doesn't have the speed advantage that the airlines have (except for NYP north and south, CHI-MKE/STL and LAX-SAN) so Amtrak's way of competing should be through a far better product than what the airlines can offer in those segments.

One way is through free bags and comfier seats.

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#44 crescent-zephyr

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Posted 11 April 2018 - 04:14 PM

The airlines, in general, offer a much better product when comparing class to class. It's not an apples to apples comparison of course but on a 4 hour flight even on Southwest I'm offered multiple free snacks and free soft drinks, coffee, etc. In amtrak business class on a 6 hour trek across Michigan I get no snacks and choice of 1 "non-premium" beverage. Oh yeah... and the cafe' attendant will probably snarl at me for asking for my free drink, or tell me that I somehow asked him for it wrong (this seems to be a Michigan thing in my experience, perhaps it's part of their culture).

 

Honestly it's amazing amtrak has succeeded as much as they have... and I feel like they have because rail travel actually does make sense in many markets. It's an enjoyable way of travel and connects city centers to city centers in ways that almost no airports can. The corridor trains can offer very little and still be quite successful because they make that much sense (and that's with limited frequencies and many times lower speeds than what they should have if the proper funding were available). 

 

I really hope a decent business plan comes out for the long distance trains. The appeal of long distance train travel, especially high priced sleepers HAS to be comfort, scenery, service. Otherwise... what's left?  So if you get on a train with dirty windows, and / or grumpy staff and have poor food options... what's left? The comfort of a roomette? That comfort only goes so far when a First Class airline ticket can be had for the same price.


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#45 Lonestar648

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Posted 11 April 2018 - 05:06 PM

I agree that Amtrak is offering less and less over the airlines, but the airlines have also their issues.  Security lines intermittent in length (2 min - 2+ hours), annoying to get through. Creating scenarios with small places where planes are almost always over 90% full, so it could be days if a flight is canceled before getting a flight.  Even with electronic baggage tracking, bags end up in the wrong location (granddaughter's dance team was on the west coast but the bags went east and didn't arrive until they were checking in to return home. People are so crammed into the planes, they are a perfect place for passing things like the flu or colds.  

 

Amtrak has a great opportunity to win over tourist travelers but also a lot of business travelers.  Reducing services, poor customer service , is not the way to compete with the airlines.


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#46 neroden

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Posted 11 April 2018 - 08:44 PM

There are many aspects of Amtrak's business that don't really make sense.. it's just how railroads have operated. Private Cars are a great example. Adding private cars en-route and delaying passenger trains is an odd business practice... it's just something that was always done.

 

That one was always done because it was always good money.  (Obviously you shouldn't be delaying the train, and if you are *your employees don't know their jobs*.  But private car moves were always extremely well-compensated.  Maybe Amtrak didn't raise the prices high enough, or maybe they just stopped teaching employees how to attach and detach cars.)

 

Let's be honest... does free checked baggage make sense? No. It is from an era when transportation companies offered free baggage as a service to passengers.

 

Let's be honest... yes, of course free checked baggage makes sense.  People like to carry craploads of stuff; it sells tickets.

 

The incremental cost of carrying more luggage on a train is negligible -- quite different from a plane where it adds *weight* and they have to be very careful about weight. High revenue, near-zero expense.

 

What doesn't make sense is a heavy-duty highly-employee-intensive baggage checking system. Amtrak piloted "conductor hands bags off the side of the train and picks up bags at trainside while people board" at a number of stops in the Midwest; bikes are handled by customers at many stations; and I am really surprised that this sort of thing isn't being used more places.  Where you have enough demand to have a full-time staff member at the station, obviously, they can handle baggage, but where you don't, the amount of baggage is also small enough that the conductor can handle it.

 

 

....I do agree with you, however that the AAA discount made no sense, and that non-reserved seating is merely a relic of Amtrak never managing to get their act together with reserved seating.  (We should be able to reserve our seats at time of reservation.  Why not?)


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#47 neroden

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Posted 11 April 2018 - 08:48 PM

Ideally, Amtrak would implement trainside baggage service systemwide, at least on the long distance routes. However, if they do so there's a time penalty for the quick load stops that don't currently account for time to load luggage. It's probably not much (a minute or two) but it is additional time and, if done without tweaking the timetable a bit, could result in cascading delays.

 

Well, then, instead of "every station", how about all the stations where a dozen people are getting on and off, where it *already takes minutes*.  which is most of the stations.  Generally the baggage handling is happening in parallel with the people getting on and off.  Only at stations where the number of people getting on and off is tiny can they really speed things up by not having baggage handling.


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#48 brianpmcdonnell17

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Posted 11 April 2018 - 10:16 PM

On the topic of checked baggage, it seems as though Amtrak is implementing airline style luggage checks with tracking. On my latest trip during the last week of March, Tampa and Boston still had the old-style tags whereas Washington and Chicago have adopted the new style. The attached photo with a destination of Whitefish is an old destination tag, while the Raleigh tag displays the old design for transfer tags. The new style lists both on one tag with Washington being the transfer point and Tampa being the final destination.

Attached Files


Routes Travelled: CL WAS-CHI, Card. CHI-WAS, Caro. CLT-RGH, CS SEA-LAX, CZ CHI-RIC, Cre. BAL-ATL, EB SEA-CHI, ES NYG/NYP-NFL, LSL BOS/NYP-CHI, ML ALB-NYP, NER FBG-RVR+WAS-BOS, PS LAX-ANA, Pen. NYP-PGH, Pie. RGH-CLT, SM ORL-NYP, SS MIA-NYP

#49 looshi

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Posted 11 April 2018 - 11:53 PM

This is part of a pilot project currently underway between Washington and Chicago. I'm not sure if it includes any of the intermediate stations but I know that is the only route current with electronic tags. It's supposed to cut down on the labor involved in finding lost bags (which I understand currently involves calling each station on the route until you find out where it got put off).
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#50 brianpmcdonnell17

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Posted 12 April 2018 - 04:38 AM

This is part of a pilot project currently underway between Washington and Chicago. I'm not sure if it includes any of the intermediate stations but I know that is the only route current with electronic tags. It's supposed to cut down on the labor involved in finding lost bags (which I understand currently involves calling each station on the route until you find out where it got put off).

Those may be the only stations, but the new tags aren't limited to checked bags along the route between Washington and Chicago. For example, the new tag that was applied to my bag at Washington was placed on 66 to Boston.
Routes Travelled: CL WAS-CHI, Card. CHI-WAS, Caro. CLT-RGH, CS SEA-LAX, CZ CHI-RIC, Cre. BAL-ATL, EB SEA-CHI, ES NYG/NYP-NFL, LSL BOS/NYP-CHI, ML ALB-NYP, NER FBG-RVR+WAS-BOS, PS LAX-ANA, Pen. NYP-PGH, Pie. RGH-CLT, SM ORL-NYP, SS MIA-NYP

#51 Palmetto

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Posted 12 April 2018 - 06:28 AM

 

 

 

 

However, wasn't the absence of various fees and restrictions one of the things that attracted people to Amtrak in the first place?

 

I'm sure it attracted a few... but free checked baggage surely can't be a huge deciding factor when choosing Amtrak vs. Airlines vs. Bus. 

 

 

When I take my annual ski trip to New England, I ride to/from Boston on the Acela, but I check my skis and and a large gear bag on the overnight NER 66/67.  I carry on a rollerbag and a small backpack.  If I flew, I would have to pay for all the baggage except the backpack, plus my CPAP as a second carry-on. (On the train, I just pack in in my roller-bag.)  The Amtrak baggage people at Baltimore charge me $10 to check the skis, the baggage people at Boston don't.  Go figure.  I think the Amtrak baggage policy wins in this case.

CPAP carriers do not count as a piece of carry-on, do they?  Oxygen concentrators certainly do not.



#52 AmtrakBlue

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Posted 12 April 2018 - 08:30 AM

 

 

 

 
However, wasn't the absence of various fees and restrictions one of the things that attracted people to Amtrak in the first place?
 
I'm sure it attracted a few... but free checked baggage surely can't be a huge deciding factor when choosing Amtrak vs. Airlines vs. Bus. 
 
 
When I take my annual ski trip to New England, I ride to/from Boston on the Acela, but I check my skis and and a large gear bag on the overnight NER 66/67.  I carry on a rollerbag and a small backpack.  If I flew, I would have to pay for all the baggage except the backpack, plus my CPAP as a second carry-on. (On the train, I just pack in in my roller-bag.)  The Amtrak baggage people at Baltimore charge me $10 to check the skis, the baggage people at Boston don't.  Go figure.  I think the Amtrak baggage policy wins in this case.
CPAP carriers do not count as a piece of carry-on, do they?  Oxygen concentrators certainly do not.
I think CPAP’s are considered medical devices and are exclude LD from the carry-on restrictions.


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#53 zephyr17

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Posted 12 April 2018 - 01:11 PM

CPAPs are not subject to carry on restrictions, but not everybody at TSA or the gates know that.


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#54 cirdan

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Posted 12 April 2018 - 01:41 PM

The airlines, in general, offer a much better product when comparing class to class. It's not an apples to apples comparison of course but on a 4 hour flight even on Southwest I'm offered multiple free snacks and free soft drinks, coffee, etc. I

 

I'm not sure that I would agree.

 

There is a difference between pandering and service. handing out free stuff is just pandering. we all know it isn't really free but the price is factored into the ticket. But the gesture of free stuff somehow switches off part of ouir brain and we think we're getting a good deal. Personally, I'd much rather airlines charged for stuff (and lowered fares). Charging for stuff gives them a real metric of customer appreciation and product quality.Nobody turns down a free snack but if you have to pay for it you can really test whether that snack has any value.

 

It's like comparing an all-you-can-eat eatery to a restaurant that has am itemized menu. On the itemized menu, the management has an incentive to up-sell stuff so they have to create some added value to entice you to select a more expensive item. Maybe they source some more exclusive ingredients (that cost money) or do something like that. In an all-ou-can-eat place there is much less incentive to do something that costs them extra. Thus there is a tendency to lower quality.

 

 But somehow, despite Amtrak charging for food, it's not causing that virtuous cycle. No idea why not.



#55 Devil's Advocate

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Posted 12 April 2018 - 02:05 PM

The point is that the ticket agent had no right to mouth off to a customer about his or her feelings about the job. Undermining the company that pays your salary is a particularly bad thing, in my view. Yes, be unhappy with your job, but confine that to friends, workmates, the company, the union, don't bad mouth to the public!


You seem to be confusing the USA with the UAE. In the US employees have the right to criticize their employers. It may not be a particularly wise or responsible course of action, and is likely to be punished any number of ways, but with very few exceptions it is well within their rights to do so.

 

Personally, I'd much rather airlines charged for stuff (and lowered fares). Charging for stuff gives them a real metric of customer appreciation and product quality. Nobody turns down a free snack but if you have to pay for it you can really test whether that snack has any value.

 

Now I'm confused. Isn't this what has already happened in most of the airline market for the last decade or two?  What airline are you flying that maintains most of the original legacy benefits without un-bundling everything into separate revenue streams?


Edited by Devil's Advocate, 13 April 2018 - 11:38 AM.

.


#56 Pere Flyer

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Posted 12 April 2018 - 02:54 PM

In amtrak business class on a 6 hour trek across Michigan I get no snacks and choice of 1 "non-premium" beverage. Oh yeah... and the cafe' attendant will probably snarl at me for asking for my free drink, or tell me that I somehow asked him for it wrong (this seems to be a Michigan thing in my experience, perhaps it's part of their culture).

I hope you mean, “perhaps it’s part of OBS culture on Amtrak Michigan Services.” Michigan culture is not monolithic. There are facets shared across peninsulas, but griping about a customer “asking for it wrong” is not part of Michigan culture.


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#57 crescent-zephyr

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Posted 12 April 2018 - 03:27 PM

Haha!!! Hopefully it's not a Michigan OBS thing either and just my bad luck.

The reason I ride the Michigan service so much is because I love visiting the Henry ford! They have AMAZING and friendly staff! Actually I very much enjoy all the people of Dearborn that I have come in cotact with.
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#58 Seaboard92

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Posted 12 April 2018 - 04:35 PM

From what I've seen VIA Rail does a far better job with checked baggage. The two rural Quebec services offer it. And from my understanding they just unload straight to the platform.

I'll report more in a few months.
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#59 Lonestar648

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Posted 13 April 2018 - 02:22 AM

The one thing that Amtrak gives its Coach Passengers is a roomy seat, leg room, and plenty of overhead space.  On the airlines, you can easily get a a middle seat with the seat in front of you jammed into your knees, the seat mates on either side encroaching on your less than acceptable space. Reclining your is very limited.  Your ability to get out of your seat to use the restroom is limited by the seat belt sign, the location of the drink cart, etc. To me, Amtrak Coach offers so much more than the airlines.  Flying long distance in a totally full Coach section for 5 hours in the standard Coach Seat because that is all that is left to buy, is pure hell.  



#60 LookingGlassTie

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Posted 13 April 2018 - 06:40 AM

It's true; Amtrak is not an airline.  Nor will it ever become one.

 

Planes fly in the air, while trains travel along rails on the ground.

 

Try as he might, Richard Anderson will never be able to make a train fly.   Nor any of his successors, for that matter.

 

:P


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