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Seat assignments (Acela pilot Feb 2018)

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MODERATOR NOTE: a 2018 thread regarding seat assignments on Acela was merged with this existing thread

 

This is always a sore subject. Last week I took the Capitol Limited to Pittsburgh from Chicago. Of course I was hoping for two seats to myself or an attractive friendly woman as a seatmate,but both of these never seem to happen. My seatmate was a rather gross individual with significant body odor. It was obvious he had been drinking. First thing he does is hit me up for money and then wants to engage in loud conversation. You know the type. I just put on my headsets and made the best of a bad situation. Of course everybody in my car was going to Pittsburgh,so there was no break.

 

My question is..I understand the different coaches for different destinations. Especially,when Pittsburgh arrives at 5AM,it's good to have all the Pittsburgh bound travelers in one car. Why can't we just pick our own seats in the assigned car? Yes, i know there are a few arranged for two or more people traveling together,but possibly they can be designated "couples only" before we leave? It would be nice to pick your own seat, and if worst comes to worst,you'll have my situation.

 

When traveling by plane, you really don't mind because it's rarely more than a five hour flight,but on a cross country train in coach you could be sitting next to someone for three days! At least, the Capitol Limited has The sightseer car to escape to, No such luck on the other Eastern trains.

 

I did survive the night having spent most of it in the Sightseer Car.

Edited by pennyk

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Depends on the train. I wasn't able to take a planned EMY-RNO trip due to the entire family coming down with illness, but I understand that's typically where the car is assigned but the seat is not early on. Then they probably start writing down seat numbers and shift passengers as cars begin to fill. However, I've heard what happens is often a matter of the preference of the crew.

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The crew as a matter of "Unofficial" policy tries to avoid seating unrelated members of the opposite sexes next to each other when they do seat assignments.

 

Two examples:

-Getting seat assignments for the Sunset Limited at the obnoxious information window in coach. I noticed the agent marking (M) or (W) on the adjoining seats for the second person to get their seat assignment.

 

-I got on the Southwest Chief once for a quick overnight ride from KCY to La Junta. I boarded right at the end (the ticket agent was furious for reclaiming my left-luggage only about 20 minutes before departure) and the conductors and train attended were completely overwelmed by boy scouts. I and a girl I was talking to getting on were directed to the sightseerer lounge and had a seat there after leaving my backpack in the lower-level baggage area of the Coach/Baggage Car. The attendant soon came and at first pointed out an aisle seat next to a tiny women who was fast asleep and I thought I might be able to get some sleep here. I went back to grab my luggage and bring it upstairs to the attendant saying "Girls need to Sleep next to girls" and assigning the other women to the seat. I instead got stuck next to a perfectly nice man with the big problem of the seat directly across from the stairs (meaning tons of light). I ended up being a Lounge lizard that night sprawling across 3 seats.

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One of the worst seating assignment processes I ever went through was when the conductor (or attendant, I don't remember) handed out seat numbers at the gate (at CHI) that were sequential. So it turned out no matter where you were in line you had a 50% chance of getting an Aisle seat next. I think Amtrak should be able to do advance seating at least on longer distance trains. It would really suck for example to be stuck in the Aisle next to a sleeping person for a cross-country journey. Certainly, I think depending on the situation discussing the problem with the conductor in the event that a seatmate is really bad (a thief, belligerent, really smelly or drunk) can be worthwhile.

 

Even charging $10-15 might be worthwhile for passengers who really want a window seat and could make the difference for them in the future when considering traveling.

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Excellent idea! ( one of the few where Amtrak would do well to follow the airlines model)

 

It would be an excellent source of revenue and allow passengers that prefer certain seats to reserve said seats in advance! ( ie, avoiding the Seats across from the Stairs on a Supetliner Coach and by the end doors is worth a surcharge)

 

A $5-$10 fee for this would be OK IMHO!

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Even charging $10-15 might be worthwhile for passengers who really want a window seat and could make the difference for them in the future when considering traveling.

 

Indeed, this is a good idea and would produce badly needed additional revenue (MegaBus uses a similar pricing model). However, you would have to be aware of how many "guaranteed window seats" could be sold; For each one sold you also need a single traveler (or one member of an odd-numbered party) to occupy the aisle seat, else you would displace parties of two from being able to sit together (maybe also offer guaranteed aisle seats, or seats near the restroom, etc.).

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Tipping the coach attendant has sometimes worked for me in getting a nice seat for an overnight trip on the CZ when I joined the train halfway into its trip.

Edited by chakk

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Couple months ago, on Swiss Rail, they offer guaranteed seat assignment for 5 Francs which is about 5 USD. You can select your own seat and when you board, there is a small LCD sign above your seat, same location that Amtrak puts those colored seat checks, that says it is "Reserved." In the UK, there was no extra charge for reserving an assigned seat but what they do is put a "reserved" seat check with starting and ending destination on your seat.

 

I'd love to see something like this on the corridor services as well. It can be a big source of extra revenue per train especially busy ones. The current hurry up and wait system just makes the system less pleasing.

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Tipping the coach attendant has sometimes worked for me in getting a nice seat for an overnight trip on the CZ when I joined the train halfway into its trip.

Yep.

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This is the reason that I have promised myself that I will,never travel overnight by Amtrak Coach ever again. I stick to this rule for myself so firmly that when due to misconnect in Chicago Amtrak proposed to put me on Coach the next day, I arm wrestled them into refunding me the cash for that portion (not voucher) and flew that segment.

 

For a relatively short day ride it is fine. Worst case I can be a lounge lizard. But overnight - forget about it.

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Seat assignments are supposedly coming within the next couple years. But whether that includes LD's or just Regionals remains to be seen.

 

As to Megabus's model - it doesn't work too well unattended. I bought one of those premium seats once. There were plaques next to the seat that explain the situation, but nobody knew about it and people just took the seat anyway.

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In the US I have found that almost any rule can be broken feigning ignorance without fear of any significant consequences.

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In the US I have found that almost any rule can be broken feigning ignorance without fear of any significant consequences.

I do like the German / Swiss model much better. You pay the fine and hope you learned your lessen. Ignorance is fined and hope you don't do it next time.

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Seat assignments are supposedly coming within the next couple years. But whether that includes LD's or just Regionals remains to be seen.

 

 

You can count on the latter and the premium trains. The rest are still up in the air. I guarantee there will be issues.

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Well, seat assignments would certainly help make sure I can get a pair of seats together. (I am rarely travelling alone.) It would save the attendants a lot of effort. And it would help me get in the *car I want*, i.e. next to the cafe when possible.

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This is always a sore subject. Last week I took the Capitol Limited to Pittsburgh from Chicago. Of course I was hoping for two seats to myself or an attractive friendly woman as a seatmate,but both of these never seem to happen.

 

Good. I thought I was the only one with this fantasy.

 

 

The crew as a matter of "Unofficial" policy tries to avoid seating unrelated members of the opposite sexes next to each other when they do seat assignments.

 

Two examples:

-Getting seat assignments for the Sunset Limited at the obnoxious information window in coach. I noticed the agent marking (M) or (W) on the adjoining seats for the second person to get their seat assignment.

 

-I got on the Southwest Chief once for a quick overnight ride from KCY to La Junta. I boarded right at the end (the ticket agent was furious for reclaiming my left-luggage only about 20 minutes before departure) and the conductors and train attended were completely overwelmed by boy scouts. I and a girl I was talking to getting on were directed to the sightseerer lounge and had a seat there after leaving my backpack in the lower-level baggage area of the Coach/Baggage Car. The attendant soon came and at first pointed out an aisle seat next to a tiny women who was fast asleep and I thought I might be able to get some sleep here. I went back to grab my luggage and bring it upstairs to the attendant saying "Girls need to Sleep next to girls" and assigning the other women to the seat. I instead got stuck next to a perfectly nice man with the big problem of the seat directly across from the stairs (meaning tons of light). I ended up being a Lounge lizard that night sprawling across 3 seats.

 

I don't think I've ever had the guts to do it myself but if you're at least somewhat attractive to women you can always find an attractive woman waiting in line and try to talk to her and suggest if the two of you can sit together for the train (assuming you are going to the same location).

 

I believe many of my LD experiences they have assigned seating although some did not. I do like the idea as to saving some seats to couples in each car and letting the others pick their own seats. They ought to be able to figure out roughly what percentage of passengers are couples or even numbered traveling parties. Or assigned seating like the planes. I believe at least from an LD perspective people would be more likely to plan ahead. Honestly the way Amtrak assigns seats is a turnoff.

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Advance seat assignments are available on many UK trains too, and elsewhere in Europe aside from short-haul, commuter, suburban trains etc.

 

The German implementation is especially nice because ICE cars have a small computer display above each seat that shows the cities between which the seat is reserved. When you board without a reservation, you know not to sit in a seat that is reserved between those cities. The displays are refreshed when there is seat turnover. UK trains with reserved seating depend on printed cards to mark reserved seats.

 

Boarding a European train at peak travel without a seat reservation means you may have to stand for long periods... like Amtrak NEC in the U.S. before it went all-reserved. Deutsche Bahn now includes a seat reservation in the price of each first-class ticket, but in second-class a ticket and a seat reservation remain separate.

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Couple months ago, on Swiss Rail, they offer guaranteed seat assignment for 5 Francs which is about 5 USD. You can select your own seat and when you board, there is a small LCD sign above your seat, same location that Amtrak puts those colored seat checks, that says it is "Reserved." In the UK, there was no extra charge for reserving an assigned seat but what they do is put a "reserved" seat check with starting and ending destination on your seat.

 

I'd love to see something like this on the corridor services as well. It can be a big source of extra revenue per train especially busy ones. The current hurry up and wait system just makes the system less pleasing.

 

While the idea of seat assignments has merit, actually permitting passengers to select their own seats won't work on Amtrak without (perhaps severely) reducing the capacity of the train. There is far too much traffic to/from intermediate points for this to ever be practical; You would end up with situations where there are plenty of empty seats available, but no one single seat for the entire duration of the passengers' trip. Of course, you could permit people to make a 'forced choice' of several available seats, taking into consideration already existing reservations

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One can always use a quota system to make self-selection seat inventories available. After the quota runs out one would have to go through an agent. This seems to work everywhere else in the world with lots of intermediate traffic. No reason it wouldn't work in the US with relatively low usage of trains.

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Seat assignments are supposedly coming within the next couple years. But whether that includes LD's or just Regionals remains to be seen.

 

As to Megabus's model - it doesn't work too well unattended. I bought one of those premium seats once. There were plaques next to the seat that explain the situation, but nobody knew about it and people just took the seat anyway.

 

Wait what? Can you link me on this? That'd be amazing and frankly, long overdue.

 

I have no idea why I can't pick my seat when making a reservation online.

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Couple months ago, on Swiss Rail, they offer guaranteed seat assignment for 5 Francs which is about 5 USD. You can select your own seat and when you board, there is a small LCD sign above your seat, same location that Amtrak puts those colored seat checks, that says it is "Reserved." In the UK, there was no extra charge for reserving an assigned seat but what they do is put a "reserved" seat check with starting and ending destination on your seat.

 

I'd love to see something like this on the corridor services as well. It can be a big source of extra revenue per train especially busy ones. The current hurry up and wait system just makes the system less pleasing.

 

While the idea of seat assignments has merit, actually permitting passengers to select their own seats won't work on Amtrak without (perhaps severely) reducing the capacity of the train. There is far too much traffic to/from intermediate points for this to ever be practical; You would end up with situations where there are plenty of empty seats available, but no one single seat for the entire duration of the passengers' trip. Of course, you could permit people to make a 'forced choice' of several available seats, taking into consideration already existing reservations

 

Not understanding how it won't work? The majority of the trains already have reserved coach seating. Unless they are overselling, which is Amtrak's problem, in theory your guaranteed a seat, meaning there is a seat already somewhere on the train designated for you. Even if you buy a ticket somewhere intermediate, in theory they are only selling you a ticket for an available seat between where you are getting on and the final destination.

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Consider an oversimplification and a three seat, three stop train with four potential riders.

 

Today: Rider AC1 buys a ticket. Rider AB buys a ticket. Rider BC buys a ticket. When AC2 comes along, he is able to buy a ticket.

 

In an alternate universe:

 

AC1 buys a ticket for seat 1.

AB buys a ticket for seat 2.

BC buys a ticket for seat 3.

What happens to AC2? There are no seats available for his desired grip from A to C.

 

Obviously, there are workarounds, like presenting him or her with the seat but forcing them to change seats.

 

It gets a lot more complicated, but that's the gist of it.

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One can always use a quota system to make self-selection seat inventories available. After the quota runs out one would have to go through an agent. This seems to work everywhere else in the world with lots of intermediate traffic. No reason it wouldn't work in the US with relatively low usage of trains.

Post of the Day! Ditto!

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This is always a sore subject. Last week I took the Capitol Limited to Pittsburgh from Chicago. Of course I was hoping for two seats to myself or an attractive friendly woman as a seatmate,but both of these never seem to happen.

 

Good. I thought I was the only one with this fantasy.

 

 

You aren't, and this is one of the reasons why 1) some women prefer to sit next to other women and 2) some car attendants will seat women with other women.

 

I'm not a prude by any means, but I also don't like sleeping hip-to-hip with a strange man; it is outside of my comfort limits. The one time I was seated next to a man, I spent the entire night (awake) in the lounge car because it was a sold out train and I couldn't move to another seat.

 

He was a nice gentleman, and we had a wonderful chat about the southwest states, but I still didn't want to sleep practically snuggled up to him.

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