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Seat assignments (Acela pilot Feb 2018)

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Indeed. This is one of the reasons it wasn't implemented. If you recall, the Acela sets were supposed to have assigned seating. After the passengers started rebelling, it was quickly shelved. Same goes for a few "medium" long distance trains. People didn't like being assigned to seats. A great deal of passengers consider open seating to be one of the marketable differences between the airlines and the rails.

There's something confused about this statement.

 

Nobody likes "being assigned to seats" by an arbitrary, unaccountable bureaucracy. Which is one form of assigned seating.

 

Everyone likes *picking their own seat*. Which is another form of assigned seating. This is what many airlines have done for a long time, with neat little diagrams of the airliner layout, so you can pick the exact seats you want. It incidentally encourages people to book earlier -- you get more choice of seats!

 

I would absolutely advise Amtrak to go with the *second* form of assigned seating. The first form is unwise.

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I would absolutely advise Amtrak to go with the *second* form of assigned seating. The first form is unwise.

 

 

But assigned seating tends to have the effect of making harder for groups of 2 or more to sit together. and it also introduces a way for rail companies to charge extra for something. and since trains have stops en route, you can not simple have an assigned seating system, it has to be a tiered system, which makes a simple operation very complicated.

 

 

In all the times I travelled on european trains, I never picked my own seats.

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Indeed. This is one of the reasons it wasn't implemented. If you recall, the Acela sets were supposed to have assigned seating. After the passengers started rebelling, it was quickly shelved. Same goes for a few "medium" long distance trains. People didn't like being assigned to seats. A great deal of passengers consider open seating to be one of the marketable differences between the airlines and the rails.

There's something confused about this statement.

 

Nobody likes "being assigned to seats" by an arbitrary, unaccountable bureaucracy. Which is one form of assigned seating.

 

Everyone likes *picking their own seat*. Which is another form of assigned seating. This is what many airlines have done for a long time, with neat little diagrams of the airliner layout, so you can pick the exact seats you want. It incidentally encourages people to book earlier -- you get more choice of seats!

 

I would absolutely advise Amtrak to go with the *second* form of assigned seating. The first form is unwise.

I am waiting at the airport right now for a flight and there is no assigned seating. I get to pick my own seat on the plane. Southwest seems to do quite well with their system. And I never see any unfilled seats.

 

 

Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk

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Indeed. This is one of the reasons it wasn't implemented. If you recall, the Acela sets were supposed to have assigned seating. After the passengers started rebelling, it was quickly shelved. Same goes for a few "medium" long distance trains. People didn't like being assigned to seats. A great deal of passengers consider open seating to be one of the marketable differences between the airlines and the rails.

There's something confused about this statement.

 

Nobody likes "being assigned to seats" by an arbitrary, unaccountable bureaucracy. Which is one form of assigned seating.

 

Everyone likes *picking their own seat*. Which is another form of assigned seating. This is what many airlines have done for a long time, with neat little diagrams of the airliner layout, so you can pick the exact seats you want. It incidentally encourages people to book earlier -- you get more choice of seats!

 

I would absolutely advise Amtrak to go with the *second* form of assigned seating. The first form is unwise.

 

 

The airlines have also unnecessarily complicated things by charging a premium for window/aisle/exit-row seats. It gets to the point where people start asking for trades with others who paid a premium to secure their seats.

 

Of course that's a matter of airlines having three seats across. I wouldn't expect that Amtrak would charge a premium, although perhaps a charge for a selection.

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Everyone likes *picking their own seat*. Which is another form of assigned seating. This is what many airlines have done for a long time, with neat little diagrams of the airliner layout, so you can pick the exact seats you want. It incidentally encourages people to book earlier -- you get more choice of seats!

Are all of these suggestions simply moving the coach seating problem around?

 

Plan "A" has the conductor assign people to seats upon boarding. Plan "B" has the ticket agent assign people to seats upon sale. Plan "A" and plan "B" do nothing but change the location of seat assignment; they are still being assigned. If a passenger is unhappy because they need 8 seats all together, they simply have a different person to blame or argue with.

 

Plan "X" has the passenger choose their seats from those still available from a diagram upon booking. Plan "Y" has the passenger choose their seats from those still available upon entering the train. Plan "X" and plan "Y" do nothing to create additional available seats (in clumps of 8?) for the passenger who is unhappy because they need 8 seats together and such isn't currently available. Yea, with plan "X" they can book early, before others, but with plan "Y" they can arrive at the station early, before the others, too. Same problem just changing the time/when of seat assignment/selection.

Edited by Cho Cho Charlie

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Most people accept that the early reservation gets priority, which is why plan "X" creates the least complaint. All the others involve early reservation holders potentially getting shafted in favor of later reservers.

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Neroden is correct. Most reservation systems allow selection based on earlier gets first choice. Sometimes priority levels or fees apply to certain locations. That is their business model. Even open seating airlines like Southwest allow you to pay a fee to be in an earlier boarding group. And airlines have plans in place to deal with plane swaps, the aviation equivalent of swapping for a bad ordered car. Was on a twin aisle 767 that returned to airport after takeoff, substituted a single aisle 757. Life went on.

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It is not the job of a transportation carrier to make everyone happy. Every system will have some scenario where one group or another is put out. The trick is to minimize the inconvenience as often as possible, recognizing that it is not reasonable to think you can please everyone all the time. If you show up at the last minute with a group of 4-5, don't expect the other 50 people in a car to be pleased with getting re arranged to accomodate. Now you may be pleased, but someone else is not, even if they begrudgingly accept it and don't speak out and tolerate it.

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In my experience as a private car attendant. One of which was a former LD coach. I think it's better for the TA-C to do the assignments. We get our manifest in the morning and we can best assign our seats that way. Like we had two 8 person groups. Then a two and then two singles. In our dome. And downstairs we had three six groups several fours and almost no singles. And everyone wanted a window seat. But we're able to manage it better

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Neroden is correct. Most reservation systems allow selection based on earlier gets first choice. Sometimes priority levels or fees apply to certain locations. That is their business model. Even open seating airlines like Southwest allow you to pay a fee to be in an earlier boarding group. And airlines have plans in place to deal with plane swaps, the aviation equivalent of swapping for a bad ordered car. Was on a twin aisle 767 that returned to airport after takeoff, substituted a single aisle 757. Life went on.

While that's the case now, I've flown international where many airlines charge extra for seat selection. The result is that most passengers don't get seats until checkin. I've also been on the same plane as large student group, and it's crazy with 60 kids and chaperones on a 747.

 

The traditional airline model was that one got a seat assignment at checkin, and of course that was before online or even automated kiosk options were available. If you wanted a better selection, you showed up at the airport early. That's not much different than some trains if you board at the origin. I got in line early for the CS and was one of the to get assigned a seat in my assigned car.

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Singles will always get the shaft if it's left up to the assignments being done onboard the train. If I am organized enough to get online and select and book my window seat early, then I'm happy. If I am traveling at the last minute, and see that my preferred choices are not available I can change dates or trains to get what I want. If that's still not possible, I am going to go with the flow. The same applies to dealing with a reservation agent or ticket agent ahead of time.

 

Nothing aggravates me more as a single than when I get to the station early, I am near the front of the line, spend 30 minutes standing and then get to door of the car and am assigned an aisle seat so the attendant can placate groups when there is a large selection of window seats. The same applies to talgo services where the conductor assigns seats. They do the same thing.

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Singles will always get the shaft if it's left up to the assignments being done onboard the train. If I am organized enough to get online and select and book my window seat early, then I'm happy. If I am traveling at the last minute, and see that my preferred choices are not available I can change dates or trains to get what I want. If that's still not possible, I am going to go with the flow. The same applies to dealing with a reservation agent or ticket agent ahead of time.

 

Nothing aggravates me more as a single than when I get to the station early, I am near the front of the line, spend 30 minutes standing and then get to door of the car and am assigned an aisle seat so the attendant can placate groups when there is a large selection of window seats. The same applies to talgo services where the conductor assigns seats. They do the same thing.

However, you're not dealing with a large group of unhappy passengers. They're not making the assignments for your benefit but to make their jobs easier. They have a much different philosophy.

 

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I would absolutely advise Amtrak to go with the *second* form of assigned seating. The first form is unwise.

 

 

But assigned seating tends to have the effect of making harder for groups of 2 or more to sit together. and it also introduces a way for rail companies to charge extra for something. and since trains have stops en route, you can not simple have an assigned seating system, it has to be a tiered system, which makes a simple operation very complicated.

 

 

In all the times I travelled on european trains, I never picked my own seats.

 

Ok, so how is it harder for a group to sit together? You login in see the seat map pick the two seats next to each other, reserve it, show up and sit in those seats. I was in Europe in September, and on all reserved trains, I was given a seat map, got to pick the seats in the car I wanted and had the car and the seat numbers printed on my ticket. We were a group of four so we picked and reserved a table. Did this in England, France and Switzerland. On some of the trains, it even showed the direction of travel so people who have a problem sitting backwards pick the correct seat.

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It seems to me that many proffering opinions here may have relatively limited experience actually using various systems that allow either self-assigned seats or seats selected with the help of an agent at the time of reservation or at some point between the ticket purchase and the actual journey. Travel companies that have implemented such have generally not faced the corner cases brought up here all that often because they have work arounds in place. In general they apparently have reasonably happy customers since apparently a vast majority of them now allow such. Of course we know that the US is exceptional, and this may be another example of such specially for intercity trains in the US.

 

As I write this I am traveling by Virgin Trains on one of its Edinburgh - Euston service in a specific seat reserved with the help of a nice lady agent at Euston station a couple of days back for no charge using a Britrail Pass. There is a group of six and many couples some even boarding en route who all are sitting together in seats they reserved with the help of agents or on the web. They knew exactly which car they were in and where that car platforms at each station so no mad rush after the train arrives. They were allowed to be on the platform way before the train arrived. On the whole an amazingly different and better experience than on Amtrak any day.

 

Actually overall I find Virgin Trains to be better than Amtrak on day trains in almost every way, even more so in first class.

Edited by jis

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It seems to me that many proffering opinions here may have relatively limited experience actually using various systems that allow either self-assigned seats or seats selected with the help of an agent at the time of reservation or at some point between the ticket purchase and the actual journey. Travel companies that have implemented such have generally not faced the corner cases brought up here all that often because they have work arounds in place. In general they apparently have reasonably happy customers since apparently a vast majority of them now allow such. Of course we know that the US is exceptional, and this may be another example of such specially for intercity trains in the US.

 

As I write this I am traveling by Virgin Trains on one of its Edinburgh - Euston service in a specific seat reserved with the help of a nice lady agent at Euston station a couple of days back for no charge using a Britrail Pass. There is a group of six and many couples some even boarding en route who all are sitting together in seats they reserved with the help of agents or on the web. They knew exactly which car they were in and where that car platforms at each station so no mad rush after the train arrives. They were allowed to be on the platform way before the train arrived. On the whole an amazingly different and better experience than on Amtrak any day.

 

Actually overall I find Virgin Trains to be better than Amtrak on day trains in almost every way, even more so in first class.

Did they have those pre printed "reserved" tags sticking out of the head rest when you boarded? I thought it was much "classier" than the Amtrak, folds, tears, punches or whatever other combination they use with the colored seat checks.

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Ok, so how is it harder for a group to sit together? You login in see the seat map pick the two seats next to each other, reserve it, show up and sit in those seats. I was in Europe in September, and on all reserved trains, I was given a seat map, got to pick the seats in the car I wanted and had the car and the seat numbers printed on my ticket. We were a group of four so we picked and reserved a table. Did this in England, France and Switzerland. On some of the trains, it even showed the direction of travel so people who have a problem sitting backwards pick the correct seat.

No doubt it's possible from a technical standpoint, but then again it might get interesting if Arrow could handle it. I'm pretty sure that adding seat selection to airline websites required a lot of work.

 

Of course you could end up with the same issue as other carriers, which may include charges for seat selection as well as a premium for certain seat types. Add on top of that the discretion to force people out of seats that they paid extra to "secure", such as when families with small children are split up.

 

Be careful what you ask for, since you might just get it.

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Anybody can create a poor set of policies. Fear of such should not prevent us from enabling good set of policies. So yeah, I have no fear of asking for a good set of policies and kibitzing about bad ones.

 

Seat38, this is on a Virgin Pendolino. They have electronic displays on top of each seat showing what stations they are reserved upto and where they are free. I am told this detail is not on all trains yet though. In the older system it simply identifies a seat as reserved or free. As long as a reserved seat is actually not occupied by someone holding a reservation ticket for it, it is fair game. So no seat goes to waste in case of no shows either.

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Anybody can create a poor set of policies. Fear of such should not prevent us from enabling good set of policies. So yeah, I have no fear of asking for a good set of policies and kibitzing about bad ones.

 

Seat38, this is on a Virgin Pendolino. They have electronic displays on top of each seat showing what stations they are reserved upto and where they are free. I am told this detail is not on all trains yet though. In the older system it simply identifies a seat as reserved or free. As long as a reserved seat is actually not occupied by someone holding a reservation ticket for it, it is fair game. So no seat goes to waste in case of no shows either.

Got it. I was on a Intercity 125 of First Great Western and used the tag on the headrest method. In Switzerland they used the electronic display on the Zentralbahn trains.

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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

 

 

I may be possible. It's not necessarily the same thing, but hotels manage to book guests to stays with varying and overlapping dates. To some degree that's the same as having many intermediate stops. I've even stayed at some hotels or B&Bs where the specific room has to be selected. I suppose what Amtrak's reservation system does is to make sure that there is capacity but without necessarily assuming that everyone would stay in the same seat for the duration of their trip without moving.

 

Of course I've ended up with a suite at no extra cost because someone messed up giving the last regular room, and I came in late.

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And somehow a mix of pre-assigned seats with passengers' consent and unreserved seats works on the train that I am on which has 16 stops on its route from Edinburgh Waverley to London Euston and there are many runs per day, even more so on weekdays with bigger crowds.

 

I am not suggesting that Amtrak in its present state can handle it, evidently not. But to claim it is impossible is plain BS. I just need to provide one counter example and there are many that can be produced.

Edited by jis

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Adding seat selection to the airline websites wasn't that bad because the seat selection process already existed within their reservation systems. It used to be accessed primarily by travel agent or internal reservation systems, so the front ending needed to be created, but the functionality pre dated web access. What has made things more complex, but certainly not overwhelming to program, are the matching of fare types, prority levels and fee payers, to the appropriate inventories. And the time and date where certain inventories like exit rows open..

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The main benefit of choosing your seats when you book online is that you and any travelers with you can ensure that you sit together. It's a hassle getting on a crowded train and scrambling to find more than one seat available together.

 

Seat assignments work just fine in Europe, there's no reason why Amtrak can't do it.

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And somehow a mix of pre-assigned seats with passengers' consent and unreserved seats works on the train that I am on which has 16 stops on its route from Edinburgh Waverley to London Euston and there are many runs per day, even more so on weekdays with bigger crowds.

 

I am not suggesting that Amtrak in its present state can handle it, evidently not. But to claim it is impossible is plain BS. I just need to provide one counter example and there are many that can be produced.

There are not assigned seats because Amtrak has not wanted to assign seats. Certainly Amtrak could assign seats if they wanted to. They have not wanted to. That does not mean they won't change that in the future.

 

As far as the diagrams like the airlines I think that is likely beyond the capabilities of Arrow, but that should be a capability of the next reservation system.

 

 

Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk

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Arrow can assign reserved space to a reservation, it already does it for sleeping cars. Whether or not it should be extended to seats and what issues that might bring about has been the source of some healthy discussion.

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No doubt it's possible from a technical standpoint, but then again it might get interesting if Arrow could handle it.

ARROW has to be replaced anyway. The replacement will undoubtedly be able to handle self-assigned seats with diagrams like the airlines (unless idiots are involved in the design).

 

The replacement of ARROW is... taking a while and costing a lot of money. They are doing it the right way, biting off the elephant one piece at a time. But any time you're replacing a non-modular system written in assembly language, and you *can't afford to shut the system down* for a month, it's going to be horribly slow and expensive.

 

ARROW could keep track of assigned seats, but I bet it would risk running up against hardcoded system limitations in the data storage. The sort of thing which new systems don't have.

 

So IMHO Amtrak isn't going to change seat assignment procedure until the associated modules of ARROW are replaced.

Edited by neroden

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