Amtrak dining service

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zephyr17

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I don’t disagree with the consistency thing and as I said Amtrak’s most common issue is definitely that of consistency.
Which is my primary point in my comparisons with VIA. The differences in the official offerings in their respective soft products is slim to none. The difference lies in the attitude and efficiency of how those similar products are provided.
 

zephyr17

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Once you factored in the cost (for a family, for example) Amtrak looked a lot better.
With Amtrak’s current self-inflicted car shortage and aggressive yield management, sleeper fares are a lot closer now, with VIA often now having an edge against Amtrak’s higher buckets for equivalent length journeys.
 

jis

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I see no reason at all that Amtrak would be unable to implement the Train Service Manager position to bring consistency and quality to OBS. They are on all VIA trains, including Corridor services, not just the Canadian.
Amtrak used to have an Onboard Service Supervisor until about 2001/2002. Then, from what I have heard, the "Union" members did not like to be managed on board by a management person and they wanted a Union person. An argument ensued, which finally led to removal of the Onboard Supervisor, and everyone, except the poor Customer was happy I suppose. That is where it stands at present. Apparently someone has to come up with a way of doing it that is acceptable to the relevant Unions on this one and most appear to feel their time is better spent elsewhere. As usual, the Customer suffers. :(
 

zephyr17

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Amtrak used to have an Onboard Service Supervisor until about 2001/2002. Then, from what I have heard, the "Union" members did not like to be managed on board by a management person and they wanted a Union person. An argument ensued, which finally led to removal of the Onboard Supervisor, and everyone, except the poor Customer was happy I suppose. That is where it stands at present. Apparently someone has to come up with a way of doing it that is acceptable to the relevant Unions on this one and most appear to feel their time is better spent elsewhere. As usual, the Customer suffers. :(
Well, VIA is fully unionized and they managed it.

I remember the Chief OBS position and it did make a difference, IMHO.

All is subject to labor contract negotiations. There is nothing that inherently forbids management personnel onboard trains. If Amtrak wanted to do it, they'd need to press for it, hard, during the next round of contract talks. There'd have to be a specification of duties and responsibilities (like the manager being forbidden from providing services themselves), but it can be done. IF Amtrak executive management decided it was a priority.
 

jis

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Well, VIA is fully unionized and they managed it.

I remember the Chief OBS position and it did make a difference, IMHO.

All is subject to labor contract negotiations. There is nothing that inherently forbids management personnel onboard trains. If Amtrak wanted to do it, they'd need to press for it, hard, during the next round of contract talks. There'd have to be a specification of duties and responsibilities (like the manager being forbidden from providing services themselves), but it can be done. IF Amtrak executive management decided it was a priority.
Oh I do agree with you. I was just mentioning the history since all here may not be aware of it.
 
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Well, VIA is fully unionized and they managed it.

I remember the Chief OBS position and it did make a difference, IMHO.

All is subject to labor contract negotiations. There is nothing that inherently forbids management personnel onboard trains. If Amtrak wanted to do it, they'd need to press for it, hard, during the next round of contract talks. There'd have to be a specification of duties and responsibilities (like the manager being forbidden from providing services themselves), but it can be done. IF Amtrak executive management decided it was a priority.
Interestingly the auto train still has a Chief on occasion. Are their contracts different?

As far as the VIA comparisons I tend to be a little sensitive to those for the reasons I mentioned. I’m sure as you mentioned there are areas where Amtrak could take some lessons from their methods as far as OBS quality - but again for the reasons I mentioned I’m hesitant to really point to the Canadian or ocean as models we should really be striving for. We shouldn’t forget that when we were all angry over tri weekly service and western flexible dining on the western trains VIA completely suspended service 100% on both routes for several months and I recall a number of concerns in people that were observing VIA whether either route would ever return to service. Don’t want Amtrak to get too many ideas from VIA on how to operate.
 
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jis

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Interestingly the auto train still has a Chief on occasion. Are their contracts different?
Yes. The Auto Train contracts are completely separate from the rest of Amtrak. It came in with a lot of stuff grandfathered from Auto Train operations as part of the deal, and those have remained as is. Auto Trains staff are multi-functional also by contract and able to cross lines of craft. It would be ideal if Amtrak could apply the same rules to rest of Amtrak, but they can't because the Unions are adamently opposed.
 

zephyr17

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Your "...can have...", of course, leaves room for the (perhaps remote) possibility of no impact or negative impact on OBS consistency.
Well, it's Amtrak. There's always the possibility if they implement it, the new Train Service Managers just go along to get along. Especially since Amtrak upper management had been wholly uninterested in the quality and consistency of onboard service for years if not decades.

It really would take making customer service a priority by all levels of management and Board, with the concomitant focus and attention. If they just stuck them out there without support, always a possibility at Amtrak, they'd fail.
 

pennyk

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MODERATOR NOTE: several posts related to VIA dining service were moved to a new thread in the VIA Rail forum.


Please post any comments relating to VIA dining service in that thread and please keep comments in this thread on the topic of Amtrak dining service.

Thank you for your cooperation, understanding and participation.
 

railiner

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Amtrak used to have an Onboard Service Supervisor until about 2001/2002. Then, from what I have heard, the "Union" members did not like to be managed on board by a management person and they wanted a Union person. An argument ensued, which finally led to removal of the Onboard Supervisor, and everyone, except the poor Customer was happy I suppose. That is where it stands at present. Apparently someone has to come up with a way of doing it that is acceptable to the relevant Unions on this one and most appear to feel their time is better spent elsewhere. As usual, the Customer suffers. :(
If you are referring to the position titled: “Chief - On Board Services”, which indeed supervised on board service personnel on long distance trains, but was subordinate to the Conductor and Assistant Conductors; that was a so-called “partially exempted” union position, represented by the ARASA—American Railway and Airway Supervisors Association,division of TCU, now part of IAM.

The “Chief” rode trains such as the CZ the entire way with the crew, and reported to that train’s “Train Manager”, at the home crew base of the train…in this case, Chicago. The Train Manager, which was a full management position, spent about half the time at the base, and the other half on the train, or maybe turn around halfway, to monitor the Chief’s performance.
“ Partially exempted”, in contract terms, meant management could selectively fill the position based on merit, without regard to seniority. Chief’s were usually chosen from the best train or service attendants by management.
 

railiner

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Prior to Amtrak, principal trains had Pullman Conductor’s to supervise Sleeping Car Porter’s; and Dining Car Stewards, in charge of cooks, waiters, bar and lounge attendants, etc. Some trains had a Passenger Service Agent in charge of chair car attendants. All of these were subordinate to the train conductor…
 
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