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justinslot

Is Amtrak getting stricter with the carry on policy?

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Boarding at PHL today to take the 97 to Orlando. I, ummm, don't travel light, had four bags on a little cart with me, none full size (the largest was 26 x 16 x 14, plus two smaller duffel bags and a computer case.) I have never been hassled about taking this much stuff on the train before, but when I asked the red cap to let me on the elevator up to the lounge (PHL's lounge is on the second floor and it's either the elevator or lug my stuff up the stairs) she said I had too much stuff and I needed to check two bags. I quoted the policy that's still on the website to her--two bags, two personal items--and she still said I had too many bags. Only when a supervisor came over was a red cap allowed to take me to the lounge, and she made it sound like I could only take my four bags aboard because I was in a bedroom.

 

Like....what's the deal? I'm dreading having to constantly argue with staff at less busy stations than PHL. The supervisor made me think they were changing the carry on policy but it wasn't on the website yet. But if they were changing the policy then, like, I thought we would have gotten a heads up here. Maybe I missed it.

 

Also I was assessed a "special item" fee for checking my folding bike packed in its specially designed case. I can't believe that's the right policy either but it was only $10 and I didn't feel like arguing over it. This is the case, for the record:

 

https://www.b-w-international.com/product/foldon-case/

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Perhaps this is the start of going to the Airline Model of Paying to Check Stuff and Limiting the Carryon Allowance????

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Sounds to me like some employee's personal carry-on policy, which differs from the real policy.

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Hot and Cold running staff is normal. Make up the rules as they go along, normal. Charging you a fee for not buying a bike box from them? Priceless.

What gets me is that if I had followed my usual practice of checking the bike without the case I would have only paid $20 for the bike fee. Instead I'm out $30 because this was my third checked bag.

 

I mean I'm not going to argue over ten bucks this time but it's maddening how inconsistent Amtrak staff is regarding their own policies.

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Do these carry on policies matter if you're in a sleeping car? I mean, should you not be allowed to carry on whatever you can carry without assistance and can fit into the room, or would they still restrict you, "just to be fair to everyone ..." <_<

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I think you just had a one off experience. As with most things regarding Amtrak, baggage policies can vary a fair bit depending on the employee enforcing them.

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Do these carry on policies matter if you're in a sleeping car? I mean, should you not be allowed to carry on whatever you can carry without assistance and can fit into the room, or would they still restrict you, "just to be fair to everyone ..." <_<

Amtrak's baggage policies apply to all "classes" of travel. Whether you're in a sleeper or in coach, it's fair for Amtrak to wants its passengers to have sane amounts of baggage.

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I’d be interested to know who the Red Cap was. Considering PHL is my home station and I see quite a few of them routinely. But you quoted Amtrak’s policy. Which he or she did not honor. I would suggest that you call Amtrak and address this with Customer Relations. People making up their own rules is one of Amtrak’s biggest issues. There is one lounge attendant in Boston who made up her own rules all the time. It got to the point where each time I saw her it was something new. And each time I called Customer Relations and addressed it with them. As well as her supervisor during a visit to the lounge. Since the conversation with her supervisor I haven’t seen her in the lounge.

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Do these carry on policies matter if you're in a sleeping car? I mean, should you not be allowed to carry on whatever you can carry without assistance and can fit into the room, or would they still restrict you, "just to be fair to everyone ..." <_<

Like I said they relented when they figured out I was in a bedroom. Maybe the changes are more for coach passengers (if these are actual changes and not just weird staff today.)

 

This whole thing with making Amtrak more like the airlines, when everyone hates the airlines, is so dumb.

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Id be interested to know who the Red Cap was. Considering PHL is my home station and I see quite a few of them routinely. But you quoted Amtraks policy. Which he or she did not honor. I would suggest that you call Amtrak and address this with Customer Relations. People making up their own rules is one of Amtraks biggest issues. There is one lounge attendant in Boston who made up her own rules all the time. It got to the point where each time I saw her it was something new. And each time I called Customer Relations and addressed it with them. As well as her supervisor during a visit to the lounge. Since the conversation with her supervisor I havent seen her in the lounge.

It wasn't just the red cap though, the supervisor also seemed to think it was only because I was in a bedroom that I could take my bags plus my foldable cart on.

 

Anyway I'm on my train now, with my bags. I just hope I don't have to argue with staff every time I travel this way.

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OK. Was the intention to bring as carry on two personal and two standard carry on? From the description it sounds like 3 pieces of Amtrak-sized carry on and a computer bag as a personal item unless one of the duffels meets Amtrak's personal size.

 

The folding bike case would seem to meet Amtrak's 75 linear inch requirement and unless there's special handling I'd think it's considered just another checked in piece.

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Do these carry on policies matter if you're in a sleeping car? I mean, should you not be allowed to carry on whatever you can carry without assistance and can fit into the room, or would they still restrict you, "just to be fair to everyone ..." <_<

This whole thing with making Amtrak more like the airlines, when everyone hates the airlines, is so dumb.

 

 

Keep in mind what industry the current CEO came from. ;)

 

I have noticed some things that makes it seem like Amtrak is becoming more "Airline like".

 

I was at a local cheesesteak place about a month ago or so and a Conductor was in there as well, and we talked about the direction that Amtrak is heading. They agreed that things seemed like it's heading in an Airline Direction. I do have some concerns about the current direction of Amtrak, but that's what NARP or RPA is for. And I honestly can't remember if I paid my membership fees.

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Do these carry on policies matter if you're in a sleeping car? I mean, should you not be allowed to carry on whatever you can carry without assistance and can fit into the room, or would they still restrict you, "just to be fair to everyone ..." <_<

This whole thing with making Amtrak more like the airlines, when everyone hates the airlines, is so dumb.

 

 

Keep in mind what industry the current CEO came from. ;)

 

I have noticed some things that makes it seem like Amtrak is becoming more "Airline like".

 

I was at a local cheesesteak place about a month ago or so and a Conductor was in there as well, and we talked about the direction that Amtrak is heading. They agreed that things seemed like it's heading in an Airline Direction. I do have some concerns about the current direction of Amtrak, but that's what NARP or RPA is for. And I honestly can't remember if I paid my membership fees.

One thing I will say about the whole "Amtrak is turning into an airline" shtick is that at least there haven't been any steps towards reducing legroom/headroom/seat pitch or making accommodations less comfortable. You still have just as much space as you had 15 years ago, and that's something I can appreciate. The soft product has definitely been degraded, but the hard product is still there.

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The website seems to indicate $10 is correct. There is no different baggage allotment for accommodations, but they are rarely enforced as long as it fits in the compartment. Viewliners pose a particular challenge since they lack the downstairs luggage rack of a SL car. As more stations lose checked bag service the carry-on problem will get worse. NEC trains have a problem with people bringing lots of stuff on board and piling it up in the wheel chair spaces, maybe complaints have come in and word has come down to enforce the rules a little better. The Amtrak baggage rules are pretty generous, if the more like an airline thing means enforcing the rules consistently, that' shouldn't be a problem, if it means starting to charge for things they presently don't, that is another ballgame.

Edited by PVD

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OK. Was the intention to bring as carry on two personal and two standard carry on? From the description it sounds like 3 pieces of Amtrak-sized carry on and a computer bag as a personal item unless one of the duffels meets Amtrak's personal size.

 

The folding bike case would seem to meet Amtrak's 75 linear inch requirement and unless there's special handling I'd think it's considered just another checked in piece.

 

Yeah, that was the intention. I cannot claim I weighed and measured all four of them, though, but I think at least two of of them are more in the personal item category. I cannot claim that because I've never had an issue taking identical loads to this on board before, and so I did not weigh and measure them.

 

The folding bike case is not an oversized item per Amtrak standards. I don't think there's any one item that Amtrak staff are less aware of what the policies are governing them than folding bikes. As soon as the checked baggage attendant heard "bicycle" she thought it needed an extra charge when in that suitcase it does not--never mind that the rules governing bicycles and folding bicycles are different (and staff are rarely aware of the difference, I have discovered continually. I was shocked when a conductor actually knew the policy during my last trip with my Dahon.)

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The website seems to indicate $10 is correct. There is no different baggage allotment for accommodations, but they are rarely enforced as long as it fits in the compartment. Viewliners pose a particular challenge since they lack the downstairs luggage rack of a SL car. As more stations lose checked bag service the carry-on problem will get worse. NEC trains have a problem with people bringing lots of stuff on board and piling it up in the wheel chair spaces, maybe complaints have come in and word has come down to enforce the rules a little better.

 

The policy says:

 

  • Bicycles/bicycle trailers may be checked in a bicycle container for $10, in lieu of a piece of baggage. Bicycle boxes are sold at most staffed locations for $15 per box. Customers may supply their own bicycle container. Recumbent, tandem and special bicycles over the standard bicycle dimensions and will not fit in a standard bicycle box are prohibited.
  • Folding bicycles under the dimensions of 34" x 15" x 48" will be allowed onboard all trains in lieu of a piece of carry-on baggage. They must be considered a true folding bicycle.

 

So there's some grey area in here...a folding bike does not need a bike box, and this is a Brompton, one of the smallest folding bikes. I think if I had a different attendant today, who didn't care what was inside my oddly shaped but Amtrak legal case, I would not have been charged the extra ten bucks.

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Whether or not they charged you doesn't change the fact that the $10 charge for checking the bike was legit. Inconsistency in applying rules and delivering services is a major problem across the board at Amtrak.

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Do these carry on policies matter if you're in a sleeping car? I mean, should you not be allowed to carry on whatever you can carry without assistance and can fit into the room, or would they still restrict you, "just to be fair to everyone ..." <_<

Amtrak's baggage policies apply to all "classes" of travel. Whether you're in a sleeper or in coach, it's fair for Amtrak to wants its passengers to have sane amounts of baggage.

 

 

I fear you are correct. I will have to disagree with this policy, then. Not that I really want to bring a bunch of stuff with me, but there are just some things I want to keep under my control. And I want enough clothes to last the journey (3 day max like EB or CZ). The rest I can put in checked baggage. And I can respect checked baggage policies applying to everyone, but I think maybe those who pay for a sleeping accommodation ought to be a bit more "accommodated...:"

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Whether or not they charged you doesn't change the fact that the $10 charge for checking the bike was legit. Inconsistency in applying rules and delivering services is a major problem across the board at Amtrak.

 

Re: your first sentence; I agree. It's just weird that checking a bike without a case costs less than checking a bike with a case.

 

Re: your second sentence: I 100% agree.

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Do these carry on policies matter if you're in a sleeping car? I mean, should you not be allowed to carry on whatever you can carry without assistance and can fit into the room, or would they still restrict you, "just to be fair to everyone ..." <_<

Amtrak's baggage policies apply to all "classes" of travel. Whether you're in a sleeper or in coach, it's fair for Amtrak to wants its passengers to have sane amounts of baggage.

 

I fear you are correct. I will have to disagree with this policy, then. Not that I really want to bring a bunch of stuff with me, but there are just some things I want to keep under my control. And I want enough clothes to last the journey (3 day max like EB or CZ). The rest I can put in checked baggage. And I can respect checked baggage policies applying to everyone, but I think maybe those who pay for a sleeping accommodation ought to be a bit more "accommodated...:"

Firstly, I can easily pack for a two week trip with one reasonably sized suitcase and one backpack. So a long trip really does not necessitate much baggage.

 

Secondly, let's say that Amtrak didn't have any baggage restrictions. What would you do if you have on or two people in a Viewliner roomette, who bring maybe five huge bags onboard. Where do you put them? You can't fit all those bags in the room. There isn't a luggage area in the car. If something like that happens, you're screwed. So just because you pay a bunch of money for sleeper accommodations does not mean that you don't need at least some restrictions in place. And I would also note that it is a pretty loose system as is. The unwritten Amtrak baggage rule is basically that if you can carry it all onboard without assistance, you can bring it. I just think that if you have a sane amount of stuff, you'll basically always be fine.

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For the record I would like to state:

 

1. That I could never travel anywhere for two weeks with a suitcase and a backpack. What if I need a more casual look? And an evening look? And of course I need at least five blazers to get through the week...(I am a horrible overpacker, in other words.)

 

2. That I do not think I presented myself today with an insane amount of baggage. Two of my bags are resting in the upper luggage area by the top bunk; one is in the top bunk; and the fourth could be in the other luggage area (above the bathroom) if I didn't need its contents at the moment. I agree that baggage restrictions are necessary; I disagree that I had too many bags, per policy, today.

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Thanks for the link -- there's some cool stuff on that site.

 

They're not supposed to be charging you an extra $10 for a folding bicycle. A folding bicycle, whether it's packed in a box/container or not, is supposed to be treated as one of your allowed pieces of luggage. In my experience, unboxed folders are carried on, but the folder rules don't distinguish between carry on and checked.

 

I've had the same problem with airlines. My Friday fits in a normal looking suitcase, but even so I've been asked what's in it a couple of times (it rattles conspicuously). The first time I unwisely said "bicycle" and they tried to charge me for it, which led to a protracted argument. After that, I just said "bicycle parts" and it seemed to work. Or maybe they didn't care. Usually they don't ask, though.

 

PaulM called it right: bicycle derangement syndrome.

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2. That I do not think I presented myself today with an insane amount of baggage. Two of my bags are resting in the upper luggage area by the top bunk; one is in the top bunk; and the fourth could be in the other luggage area (above the bathroom) if I didn't need its contents at the moment. I agree that baggage restrictions are necessary; I disagree that I had too many bags, per policy, today.

I don't think that you brought too many bags either. I was just pointing out to AutoTrainDvr that there are cases where baggage restrictions are necessary, even in sleeper). When there aren't any restrictions, people can bring too much stuff, and that can cause big issues.

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For the record I would like to state:

 

1. That I could never travel anywhere for two weeks with a suitcase and a backpack. What if I need a more casual look? And an evening look? And of course I need at least five blazers to get through the week...(I am a horrible overpacker, in other words.)

 

2. That I do not think I presented myself today with an insane amount of baggage. Two of my bags are resting in the upper luggage area by the top bunk; one is in the top bunk; and the fourth could be in the other luggage area (above the bathroom) if I didn't need its contents at the moment. I agree that baggage restrictions are necessary; I disagree that I had too many bags, per policy, today.

I too could not make two weeks. I do travel with a backpack and one carry-on airline suitcase and can do 6 days. I go from west coast to se coast each summer with a stop over for a day in Chicago. I could not do that with several blazers however. My casual wear is Tommy Bahama shorts and a shirt and evening wear is a different pair of shorts and a long sleeved polo type shirt. A pair of jeans in reserve in case of cool weather in Chicago or on the train:)

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