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Steve4031

Amtrak is not an airline. ..

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JetBlue policy changed. Their lowest fare level no longer offers free bags, There second lowest is now 1 bag, highest level 2 free. Mint, only available on select routes is also 2 free.

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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.

 

There's also the question of cost. Sure, there'd probably be a lot of angry comments in the railfan community if Amtrak started charging for checked baggage. However, if we want to implement it systemwide, station stops could get much longer if everyone tries to check their bags. It might make sense to put a monetary amount on it to dissuade people from checking luggage "just because" while keeping the option available for those that need it. Now, that being said, the only way I'd be happy with such a change is if checked baggage is implemented systemwide and the carry-on allotment stays the same. (It's currently quite generous, which means most travelers can fit their baggage easily within the current carry-on allotment if they wanted to avoid checked baggage fees.)

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They could also add a box when making the reservation for checking baggage and how many. This could alert the Conductor before the stop that bags are being checked and if Coach, Sleeper or both.

If they know ahead it might be possible to shave a few minutes off the baggage handling time. Also, if the Conductor knows a passengers getting off has baggage, they can already have it ready in the baggage car before arriving the station. Use the computer system to expedite the process. No matter how efficient, the process still adds time to a stop. Do you charge per bag to have a baggage handler as part of the OBS crew?

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From the OP's description it appears that the ticket agent was way out of line. But of course that is the impression based on just one description of the situation.

 

 

Exactly. There seems to be a lot missing from this post for everyone to exclaim how out of line the agent was.

 

I guess I should be tarred and feathered for some of the posts I've made around here. I mean if the OP approached the ticket counter and said "May I have a ticket to CHI and the agent started ranting "This is not an airline and they've stolen you discounts. RAAAARRR!!! There's no food on the Silver Star damn it!!!! GRAAAA....."

 

That's one thing.

 

 

But if you approached the same agent engaged them and asked their opinion or thoughts...and they gave it to you, so be it. You can disagree with a direction and voice your thoughts without bashing the company.

 

I also agree, Amtrak is not an airline. Attempting to run it like an airline got us the fixed Acelas, with aaaaalllll of that wasted space (that we knew was wasted) and costs us MILLIONS upon Millions after they instituted the failed "bistro" concept.

 

Then, they left.

 

As for luggage, someone needs to get on the good foot and push this train side luggage. I know there are stations where this is not feasible but there are plenty that are. There are some things afoot with the baggage in the future and I'm sure fees will be included.

 

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

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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.

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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.

 

 

By itself...no. Added to other fees, restrictions, loss of discounts, limited schedules, degradation of services and (possibly) high costs, cancelled trains before the first snowflake has fallen and a lot of the competitive edge starts to dissipate...particularly if you're on a fixed income such as a student.

 

Cumulatively, these things may sway someone into another mode of transportation and Amtrak was quite successful at attracting disaffected airline passengers.

 

Hopefully, they still can.

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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.

 

Are you HONESTLY suggesting that Amtrak should charge for bags?

 

I'll be blunt here, I disagree with you on a few things in regards to how Amtrak should run.

Are you honestly suggesting it's a smart business move to offer baggage service for free? The baggage cars themselves, baggage handling equipment and staff, and extra ticket agents all cost money to offer a free service. If you have a money losing company, and you want to lose less money, charging for baggage surely makes sense.

 

And if you follow the airline model, Business Class, First Class, and those with certain status or credit cards may be offered free luggage. Another smart business move.

 

 

I have no problem paying for CHECKED baggage, which will almost always be too large for carry-on. But don't try to outmaneuver me with carry-on limitations so long as I only have a couple, they fit in the rack, and I can lift them.

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They could also add a box when making the reservation for checking baggage and how many. This could alert the Conductor before the stop that bags are being checked and if Coach, Sleeper or both.

If they know ahead it might be possible to shave a few minutes off the baggage handling time. Also, if the Conductor knows a passengers getting off has baggage, they can already have it ready in the baggage car before arriving the station. Use the computer system to expedite the process. No matter how efficient, the process still adds time to a stop. Do you charge per bag to have a baggage handler as part of the OBS crew?

Baggageman was once actually a T&E job that has been abolished, so it would have to go back to them, not OBS. And you can imagine they're not cheap either.

 

Sent from my SM-G955U using Amtrak Forum mobile app

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As an T&E job, they would demand high wages, but how would the Baggage Person be operational, governed by hour of work rules. I just thought as an OBS they might be available in support when stops are far apart, or catch some rest, and if tipped they could accept the offer.

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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.

 

Are you HONESTLY suggesting that Amtrak should charge for bags?

 

I'll be blunt here, I disagree with you on a few things in regards to how Amtrak should run.

Are you honestly suggesting it's a smart business move to offer baggage service for free? The baggage cars themselves, baggage handling equipment and staff, and extra ticket agents all cost money to offer a free service. If you have a money losing company, and you want to lose less money, charging for baggage surely makes sense.

 

And if you follow the airline model, Business Class, First Class, and those with certain status or credit cards may be offered free luggage. Another smart business move.

 

You can easily make the argument that charging for checked bags is going to deter people from checking bags, which means literally 50 -200 more suitcases stored in coaches/sleepers...but where? And also the time and safety issues required in loading and unloading these (usually) large bags that quite often have to be handled up and down vestibule stairs......

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They could also add a box when making the reservation for checking baggage and how many. This could alert the Conductor before the stop that bags are being checked and if Coach, Sleeper or both.

If they know ahead it might be possible to shave a few minutes off the baggage handling time. Also, if the Conductor knows a passengers getting off has baggage, they can already have it ready in the baggage car before arriving the station. Use the computer system to expedite the process. No matter how efficient, the process still adds time to a stop. Do you charge per bag to have a baggage handler as part of the OBS crew?

I find that many crews actually already do this to some extent, at least when there is easy access to the baggage car from the rest of the train (i.e. not baggage-to-regular-Superliner connection, but all other cases). Agents will make a note of what bags are going where and add it to the train status/OS notes in Arrow (at least, they did a few years ago, I’m guessing they still do), and one of the conductors, assuming not overly busy with other stuff, will get the bags for a given stop ready to unload prior to the wheels stopping.

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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.

 

 

The lack of ANY sort of checked baggage at an increasing number of stations is surely a deciding factor for a good many passengers. Especially for folks traveling long distance with young children, and the less-able-bodied among us.

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Are you honestly suggesting it's a smart business move to offer baggage service for free? The baggage cars themselves, baggage handling equipment and staff, and extra ticket agents all cost money to offer a free service. If you have a money losing company, and you want to lose less money, charging for baggage surely makes sense.

 

If the cost to handle checked bags is less than the extra revenue brought in from higher ridership or fares, then yes, it does make fiscal sense to provide free checked bags.

 

If it costs Amtrak $5 to handle one bag, and they charge an extra $10 for a ticket, it makes fiscal sense. If checked baggage increases total operating costs by 1%, but brings in 10% more ridership, then it makes financial sense.

Edited by cpotisch

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

 

Sent from my Moto Z2 Play using Amtrak Forum mobile app

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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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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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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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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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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.

post-11836-0-80661200-1523502612_thumb.jpg

post-11836-0-95781800-1523502641_thumb.jpg

post-11836-0-20115500-1523502651_thumb.jpg

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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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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.

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