VIA Canadian and the Canadians

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This sounds a lot like The Canadian, where the views are indeed gorgeous but glowing reviews tend to gloss over questionable service standards.
As a somewhat regular rider (annually) of the Canadian, I take issue with "questionable service standards". The onboard service on the Canadian is both much better and much more consistent than Amtrak. I have never run into a surly OBS crew member on the Canadian, and have run into many on Amtrak. The Service Managers and Assistant Service Managers generally run a tight ship. My only complaint is they stretched out their sleeping car attendant responsibilities so there is 1 for 1 1/2 cars instead of one in each car, so they are not as available as they once were.

I cannot speak to current ARR OBS as it has been decades since I rode it.
 
The onboard service on the Canadian is both much better and much more consistent than Amtrak.
You’ve ridden the Canadian more than me, but my experience had plenty of flaws in the service department. Including a server who refused to assist my table mates in French which I thought was illegal from a crown corporation but I’m not sure. Illegal or not she was extremely rude to him.

And that’s my point, Amtrak, VIA and ARR all have extremely inconsistent service levels in the dining and lounge cars - I think it’s just a train thing! Haha.

I’ve had truly excellent service on many Amtrak dining cars and even my recent experience with flex was very impressive service wise. (Still terrible flex food… the poor crew can’t fix that!)
 
As a somewhat regular rider (annually) of the Canadian, I take issue with "questionable service standards". The onboard service on the Canadian is both much better and much more consistent than Amtrak.
I do not consider everything that's better than Amtrak to be good service. The Canadian costs as much as intercontinental Business Class on a full service Asian carrier so that's what I judge it against. Routine encounters with poor service do influence what I expect but do not influence how I judge what I get.

I have never run into a surly OBS crew member on the Canadian, and have run into many on Amtrak.
I ran into gruff staff in VAC and on the train itself. It was not bad enough to say never again but it certainly did not live up to the reviews I've seen. On Amtrak I rarely have problems because I know what to expect, but on The Canadian I thought I'd be getting top tier service and that was incorrect.

The Service Managers and Assistant Service Managers generally run a tight ship.
I found average everyday Canadians to be exceptionally kind and friendly but it was a Service Manager that snapped at me for whatever that's worth.
 
Well, @Devil's Advocate sorry you ran into bad apples on your trip. My experience as a regular rider is they are few and far between, though.

As to cost, Vancouver to Toronto is $1972 CAD in a roomette discount class off-season currently, including taxes. That is $1459.33 USD at current exchange rates. That compares quite favorably with Amtrak for 4 nights onboard. 3 nights in a roomette Seattle to New York is $1,331 at middle bucket. On VIA you get better equipment, a better bed, better meals, dome cars, and, in my experience, better and more consistent customer service. I will say it is not Asian carrier business class level or cruise ship level, though. But the average is much better than Amtrak and far less variable.

It really is not ridiculously expensive. If VIA costs as much as a business class flight to Asia, Amtrak is in the same general league with the poorest customer service.

I count myself lucky that I am geographically in a position that it is a realistic alternative for rail travel to the East Coast, albeit at some extra time and expense (overnight in Toronto and a long day on the quite unspectacular Maple Leaf). It isn't a special trip I really have to go that far out of my way for. Perhaps I have forgotten some incidents, but nothing on VIA really stands out. On the other hand, I have quite a few very clear memories of really bad service on Amtrak over the years. Good, too, but my point is Amtrak is wildly variable in a way that my experiences on VIA are not.
 
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BTW, while not involving sleepers, the difference between Amtrak and VIA is simply illustrated in my view by an experience on my latest ride on the Maple Leaf. The restroom in the BC/Cafe car was in perfect working order leaving Toronto. Upon reboarding at Niagara Falls after US inspection, it was locked up. I asked the LSA about it and he said it was broken. I actually mentioned it to the (quite nice) conductor that it had been working until we crossed the border. He gave a little nod, a little smile, and rolled his eyes.
 
Why would you compare discount class, off-season to middle bucket? Wouldn't it be low-bucket to be a fair comparison?
I am comparing what would be most commonly available and relatively easy to get. VIA pretty much does not do yield management except in very limited ways.

VIA has 3 travel seasons, peak, shoulder, and off-peak with different fares for each, off-peak is about 30% or so lower than peak.
There are 2 fare classes, discount, which has some change restrictions, and regular (or non-discount) which does not. Discount class fares are about in the neighborhood of 15% off regular. Note that "discount" is due to more restrictive fare rules, not primarily yield management algorithms. Fare rules are the same for all Amtrak buckets.

The only real yield management VIA does is the amount of inventory available in the "discount" class is limited.

I am comparing off season to middle, because a middle bucket would be relatively easily available in the off-season. Discount class is likewise readily available if purchased in advance.

Had I been comparing peak season rates, I would have used Amtrak's high buckets.

The only thing I would use low bucket as a comparison would be against VIA's distressed inventory "Sleeper Plus Sale" page offers. Which are only offered on specific dates, endpoints, and accommodations. The general scarcity of low buckets and (relatively) low prices make those a rough equivalent in my book.

VIA and Amtrak fare structures are radically different and there really are not apples to apples comparisons available. I used more common availability of buckets in a season rather than labels, since VIA's fares vary by season, not day to day as Amtrak's can. You can get a discount class fare easily by booking in advance. Low buckets can be elusive even in the off season. Middle bucket is generally more available.

In short, my rough equivalency is:
VIA Peak Season = Amtrak high bucket
VIA Off-Peak = Amtrak middle bucket
VIA Sleeper Plus Sale = Amtrak low bucket

I think it is a reasonable methodology for radically different fare structures where there are really no direct equivalents. You are free to disagree.
 
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You’ve ridden the Canadian more than me, but my experience had plenty of flaws in the service department. Including a server who refused to assist my table mates in French which I thought was illegal from a crown corporation but I’m not sure. Illegal or not she was extremely rude t
I'm surprised, you'd think tht would be a firing offense and for all you know that could be a Member of Parliment or civil servant.
 
Could it be that the mandatory French language option only applies in the Province of Quebec?
 
I know not all VIA OBS personnel on the Canadian are fluent in French. IIRC, their name tags show if an individual speaks French.

The SM's generally are bilingual and all announcements are made in both English and French.

That does not excuse rudeness, the server should have found a French speaking staffer to help.

While Canada is officially bilingual nationwide, French is not commonly used in Western Canada and many do not speak it, or speak it well.
 
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We had a parallel situation when we rode the Canadian when one of the dining car staff whose first language was clearly French did not take our order, but passed along to the next table. The staffer who did take our lunch order told us that all customer-facing staff were required by Via to be bilingual to some degree, but the reality is that some of the 'bilingual' staff are less than comfortable in their second language, and when they can, will defer to someone with better skills in that language. Didn't bother us at all, but I can see how some customers might find it rude or even offensive to be passed over in that situation.
 
Unless something has changed recently, Canada is generally bi-lingual everywhere, not just Quebec.
I think the main difference with Quebec is that French is the primary language and for example all store signs are required to be in French e.g. "Poulet Frites a la Kentucky". Note that there are other parts of Canada where French is the primary language besides Quebec, such as Western New Brunswick (Edmundston area).
 
Unless something has changed recently, Canada is generally bi-lingual everywhere, not just Quebec.

It's a little more nuanced than that. The Official Languages Act covers the use of official languages by Crown Corporations. VIA Rail is a Crown Corporation.

The short version of the law is that customers have a right to receive services either in English or French. There must be no preference given to one language over the other.

If you want to see how seriously this law is applied to Crown Corporations, take a look at this article that talks about some trouble Air Canada got into: Air Canada Fined For Not Being French Enough - Live and Let's Fly

As you can see, the standard is quite high.
 
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It's a little more nuanced than that. The Official Languages Act covers the use of official languages by Crown Corporations. VIA Rail is a Crown Corporation.

The short version of the law is that customers have a right to receive services either in English or French. There must be no preference given to one language over the other.

If you want to see how seriously this law is applied to Crown Corporations, take a look at this article that talks about some trouble Air Canada got into: Air Canada Fined For Not Being French Enough - Live and Let's Fly

As you can see, the standard is quite high.
I read that linked article, and it appears that this isn't the first time that same couple has sued Air Canada. Air Canada seems to regard them as nuisance litigants, but this time a judge agreed with the couple. I can only imagine how even more difficult it would be for foreign visitors who speak neither English nor French to travel on Air Canada or VIA Rail.
 
Just so everyone is aware, the menus on the Canadian are printed in both English and French, and all announcements on the train are made in both languages as well. In my experience that I mentioned, the waitress was visbily annoyed that the man across from me ordered in French and she refused to speak French to him and did not offer to get a server who could speak French. (Sound like Amtrak style of service? exactly.)
 
Just so everyone is aware, the menus on the Canadian are printed in both English and French, and all announcements on the train are made in both languages as well. In my experience that I mentioned, the waitress was visbily annoyed that the man across from me ordered in French and she refused to speak French to him and did not offer to get a server who could speak French. (Sound like Amtrak style of service? exactly.)
Unless he was being rude in French this sounds completely unprovoked and uncalled for...so yeah, very similar. 😅
 
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I was a passenger on a Vancouver to Toronto Canadian a couple of years ago and encountered a similar situation. As a consequence of table-lotto at one mealtime I was seated across from a man/woman couple who turned out to be Francophone Canadians, as well as a monolingual solo bloke (like moi) from Chicago.

The couple excused my monolinguality because I was an Aussie, and you can't expect much from them, eh? And likewise the Chicagoan, because he was a Yank. But they bristled as much as my avatar when they encountered the diningcar crewmember who could not speak French with them when taking their order.

I understood their chagrin (........ if only there was an equivalent French word which I could use). I had assumed the crew would be bilingual.
 
The expectations for linguistic ability have changed over the years, as Canadian languages evolve. In a 1977 trip on the Super Continental from Montreal to Edmonton the dining cars and crews were swapped at Winnipeg. The specialty/spécialité Quiche was replaced with Perogies and I don't think the new crew had many who could carry on a conversation in French.

At about that time the Canadian middle-class began to realize that being bilingual was going to be a ticket for good jobs and so today there are far more people able to work in both languages. In 1984-85 school year I was transport supervisor for Edmonton Public Schools and we offered immersion programs (not just bilingual) in French, German, Ukrainian, Hebrew, and Cree. The French program went all the way through high school and could get a good student into a Quebec university.

Not everyone liked this, including some school district old-timers. When I took the simple night course in French for parents of immersion kids, some of the hard-nosed school secretaries who tended to run the district told me of their disapproval.
 
The expectations for linguistic ability have changed over the years, as Canadian languages evolve. In a 1977 trip on the Super Continental from Montreal to Edmonton the dining cars and crews were swapped at Winnipeg. The specialty/spécialité Quiche was replaced with Perogies and I don't think the new crew had many who could carry on a conversation in French.

At about that time the Canadian middle-class began to realize that being bilingual was going to be a ticket for good jobs and so today there are far more people able to work in both languages. In 1984-85 school year I was transport supervisor for Edmonton Public Schools and we offered immersion programs (not just bilingual) in French, German, Ukrainian, Hebrew, and Cree. The French program went all the way through high school and could get a good student into a Quebec university.

Not everyone liked this, including some school district old-timers. When I took the simple night course in French for parents of immersion kids, some of the hard-nosed school secretaries who tended to run the district told me of their disapproval.
I took high school Franch in Saskatchewan but managed to pass having learned very little and have retained even less. When I drove cab in Saskatoon the language I heard the most other than English was probably Cree and then maybe Dakota or Dene, followed by Ukrainian. But it's possible I mistook one language for another related one fairly often, I rarely heard French which I could tell from anything else and never had to use it.
 
My brother learned French in high school, but I was tired of listening to Dad (French-Canadian on his mom's side, from upstate New York) tease us in a quasi-French accent at home, so I took Spanish all through high school. (And college, and grad school . . ., plus a few Scandinavian languages.) I still get a kick out of overhearing waitstaff or other customers in fast-food places chatter away in Spanish. I don't usually ever need to respond to them in Spanish (they always assume the "sen~ora gringa" is a monophonic English speaker), but it's rather fun trying to follow their conversations.
For French I'd have to resort to a phrase book, and butchering the pronunciation in a few memorized phrases. (Which is about what I did when visiting a Swedish cousin who was studying English -- in Montreal, of all places! -- back when I was in grad school.)
 
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