What I would like to know is how the Airlines are able to get a reasonably similar product over various routes, aircraft types, and operators in their system? I've long wondered about how they manage that because it is hard to get a standardly consistent product with one or two variables but when you have multiple companies involved it gets very complicated.I generally agree with most everything that's been said so far. The airlines have very little trouble standardizing their FC/BC services as much as they reasonably can with various regional operators. However, the one thing I will mention that's different is that most airlines aren't getting their funding from the state. Some services don't really require a business class or first class service on their routes, like the Shuttle.
That being said, a standardized business class/first class service really shouldn't be that hard to do. It goes back to the unified branding I've been preaching about for a while. It gives your customers a seamless, universal experience. They know what to expect. They know what's offered and what isn't. Understandably not every state is going to pay for BC/FC service but for the ones that do, there's really no good excuse for not having a universal product available. The one exception would be differing fleet types (i.e., swapping Horizons for Superliners due to weather conditions or California using dual-level cars instead of single level). The layout may be different, but the same basic services should be offered.
Amtrak would do well to recruit some marketing and corporate image folks from the airline industry, preferably Delta. From my experience, these guys know what they're doing. No stone is unturned, they ensure that every. single. piece. matches.
You are exactly there are routes that don't need business class even with Amtrak namely the Keystones, Hiawatha, or Capitol Corridor. I think even with the various types of equipment Amtrak has it makes no sense to not have a unified hard product. Airlines I understand why you can't have a single unified product because different planes have different dimensions and they serve different markets. But for the most part on the rails every car is a standard 850 sq ft. Now that isn't all usable when you factor in restrooms, and vestibules but it's consistent.
I agree some of the airline corporate image folks are needed in the worst way. I think a lot of problems could be fixed with that.