Suboptimal Seat Allocations in Acela First

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Anderson

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So, I've been in Acela First since Boston. We're at NYP, en route to WAS. The First car was shown as fully-occupied at some point (which I suspect will yet be the case)...but multiple seats have been empty all the way since BOS. I don't have a seating chart for what seats are occupied where, but it seems *very* likely that at least one or two seats will be vacant at all points (just not the same seats).

(One thing I would note in the midst of this nonsense is that I *would* happily swap seats around at NYP (in particular) or PHL to have a single, even if it isn't the *same* single...but no, can't fill a pair of "dead legs"...)
 

crescent-zephyr

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When I rode the Acela recently I chose BC over first because I was booking pretty close to departure and didn’t want to end up with an aisle seat.
 

Just-Thinking-51

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Everything has its plus and minus. If a group of four booked there would be a different set of plus and minus, than a single passenger. Can’t win every time, heck everything you could do, would cause issues with someone at some point.
 

Bex

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When I rode the Acela recently I chose BC over first because I was booking pretty close to departure and didn’t want to end up with an aisle seat.
Based on what I see in the Acela lounge, that is, business travelers switching their trains at the last minute because they finished earlier than scheduled, I'd actually imagine right before departure is the best time to snag the seat you want. Again anecdotally, I once missed my regional and switched to the Acela an hour before departure and was able to get a single seat.

OP, can you ask a conductor if there is an open option? It's possible someone was supposed to board who didn't, maybe? Although at this point you're probably halfway there.
 

Anderson

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Well, now I'm about 2/3 there and I've got a double to myself (I had a seatmate...PVD-NWK, I think).

Honestly, my view isn't just that I "don't win every time", but rather that I don't win much of the time at all. It is more...frankly, it's a botched implementation of what isn't a very good idea to begin with.
 

Thirdrail7

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frankly, it's a botched implementation of what isn't a very good idea to begin with.
That depends on who you ask. Additionally, that is one of the issues that we've constantly brought up. People can reserve seats and it can impact through seating. It also says nothing about the people that miss their trains, reschedule their trips or cancel. To that end:

OP, can you ask a conductor if there is an open option? It's possible someone was supposed to board who didn't, maybe? Although at this point you're probably halfway there.

Yes, you can ask the conductor or call the 1-800 and ask them what seats are opened.
 
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MARC Rider

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Apr 5, 2011
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So, I've been in Acela First since Boston. We're at NYP, en route to WAS. The First car was shown as fully-occupied at some point (which I suspect will yet be the case)...but multiple seats have been empty all the way since BOS. I don't have a seating chart for what seats are occupied where, but it seems *very* likely that at least one or two seats will be vacant at all points (just not the same seats).

(One thing I would note in the midst of this nonsense is that I *would* happily swap seats around at NYP (in particular) or PHL to have a single, even if it isn't the *same* single...but no, can't fill a pair of "dead legs"...)
I was on a train like that last year, and the conductor (or maybe it was the attendant) said, sure, we could sit in any open seat until the train got to New York, where it was going to fill up.
 

Anderson

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That depends on who you ask. Additionally, that is one of the issues that we've constantly brought up. People can reserve seats and it can impact through seating. It also says nothing about the people that miss their trains, reschedule their trips or cancel. To that end:

Yes, you can ask the conductor or call the 1-800 and ask them what seats are opened.
I recognize that this is, in theory, a solution. I say "in theory" because I couldn't do anything online with this reservation (which, as it turns out, the phone agent botched and I burned a second upgrade card to get into Business on the Regional...mainly because the card is expiring in under two weeks...) and the telephone wait times were pretty bad this weekend (I think I was waiting 7-8 minutes on the Select Executive line on Saturday). Having to burn 10-15 minutes (15 is probably the high end) to have an agent fiddle around with load checks and play a guessing game is no fun; also, when I did call in, I was simply told "Nope, sold out" when I asked (I didn't know the agents even could check where seats open up).

When I refer to a "botched implementation", basically the issues are that on the customer's end:
(1) There is no way to check loads before booking, only after, if using the website.
(2) When checking loads/seating availability, there is no way to check the in/out pattern of your seatmate(s) and/or where the neighboring seat(s) are occupied from/to.

Yes, this can be done on a phone call, but...honestly, I feel kinda bad if I'm spending half an hour with an agent trying to pick out a seat, and that's a suck on my time as well as theirs.

Honestly, if it wasn't for the added refundability/flexibility I'd ditch Regional BC at this point. The experience has just become aggravating ("I might get a seatmate in an otherwise empty car because the computer hates me or the algorithm is borked" is just plain obnoxious to think about).
 

Devil's Advocate

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Yeah, I don't understand why they still can't show seats before purchase. That seems to be a mind numbing oversight. I feel similarly about the decision to not save any unreserved seats for last minute travelers. Requiring staff to manually review and update seat checks and changes is bad for both customer and company.
 
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Bex

Service Attendant
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Dec 6, 2014
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I absolutely agree that you should be able to see seat availability before booking/upgrading. On planes I've definitely chosen one flight over another because all the window seats were sold out. As far as seeing when people are getting on and off around you, that seems a lot more to ask. What I've done is pretended I was switching seats on the app just before boarding so I could see if anyone was sitting next to me (this was on NER BC). If that had been the case, I really might have switched my seat if there were many empties.

I love the advanced knowledge aspect of assigned seating so much. My usual southbound procedure is to arrive at NYP at least 20-30 minutes before departure, sit in the lounge, make a beeline for the train as soon as it's announced and grab a seat I want. And of course, even then I can't be sure I'll have both to myself (not that I mind sitting next to someone, but my preference is to not). With assigned seating I can arrive five minutes before departure, go right to the track, and know exactly what I'm getting. I only wish they'd do it for the QC as well.
 

neroden

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Feb 23, 2014
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Yeah, I don't understand why they still can't show seats before purchase. That seems to be a mind numbing oversight.
Betcha it's a restriction of Amtrak's 1970s mainframe-assembly-language ticketing software ARROW. I haven't seen an update on Amtrak's IT migration project for several years. Last I checked, they had managed to get ARROW running in virtualization so they didn't need a physical mainframe, and they had pulled most of the auxiliary functionality of ARROW (fuel calculations, etc.) out into other systems leaving only the core functionality -- but they were still depending on it for all ticketing.
 

Thirdrail7

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Yeah, I don't understand why they still can't show seats before purchase. That seems to be a mind numbing oversight. I feel similarly about the decision to not save any unreserved seats for last minute travelers. Requiring staff to manually review and update seat checks and changes is bad for both customer and company.
If I gambled, I'd bet the farm it involves a runaround you mentioned before:

Dividing cabins into banks of reserved and unreserved seats could help alleviate some of this. For instance you could remove seat selection for shorter trips, set a maximum percentage of individually reserved seats by type (aisle/window/etc), and charge a selection fee to weed out indifferent passengers. It's not perfect but probably acceptable once the system is smart enough to reliably balance these factors.
I really believe this is what is happening and the system probably can't tell where you're booked until the reservation is confirmed. Once it sees where you're traveling, it shows you the available seats for that segment.
 
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