I’m an Amtrak regular (or was pre-Covid) mainly because flying absolutely terrifies me but I also do appreciate seeing scenery and new places that I wouldn’t see otherwise.The discussion of full service dining on Long Distance trains got me thinking about who's riding today's Sleeper Cars. Amtrak probably made some assumptions about who's traveling and those decisions informed the demise of dining. I figured I'd ask here to see if my assumptions are aligning with everyone else's.
Over the past 12 months, I've completed 5 trips on the California Zephyr (CHI<>RNO) and one on the Southwest Chief (CHI<>ABQ). One of these trips was in July, while COVID was in full swing.
While I haven't gone to the lengths to interview every passenger I come into contact with, the folks I have interacted with seem to fall into these buckets:
I would consider myself a rail fan, but on the rare times I need to head somewhere else in the country, I intend to do it in a sleeper car. I would expect that this particular segment can grow, since it enables you to travel the country and cut down the number of people you come into contact with from hundreds to dozens. I also really enjoy the experience (even with TV Dinner Dining).
- The Bucket Lister/"One and Done" - These passengers are riding for their first time and it's a novelty experience for them. They appear to mostly go into the experience without ever intending to do it again. Many are just trying it out to see if it works. Foreign travelers or those who speak very little English fall into this category a lot
- Rail Fans - The radio scanner gives them away. In non-pandemic times, you can find them in the observation lounge giving pointers. (Note: I didn't see any on my COVID trip)
- Families with Kids - If not in one family room, they split roomettes. The odd thing I've noticed is that kids just skip the diner altogether and go straight to the cafe car if they need anything. They seem to mostly be families that are sick of road trips.
- Couples or others traveling between big cities, but not the whole way - These couples only have a one night stay if that and go from Chicago to Denver, or Denver to Salt Lake.
- People who cannot/will not fly - They can afford to fly, but choose not to.
If you have traveled in the sleepers, what kind of passengers have you noticed? Is there a class of passenger I'm forgetting?
The routes I've taken are:Me too. My managers got a deal from me, as they would reimburse coach fare, and I did the sleeper part out of pocket. Considering that the Amtrak coach fare was usually a lot less than airline coach fare, they got a deal from me. But I'd only do it for 1-night trips.
While I have flown a few times, I am really quite uncomfortable flying. Flying leaves me arriving at my destination with my nerves shot, and doesn't make for a pleasant experience, for numerous compounding reasons.I’m an Amtrak regular (or was pre-Covid) mainly because flying absolutely terrifies me but I also do appreciate seeing scenery and new places that I wouldn’t see otherwise.
At least three times in the past few years I have been in coach on the Lake Shore leaving Boston and seen solo travelers who presented two tickets so they could keep the seat next to them open, and the train crew respected that and would not allow anyone else to occupy the second seat. So there are at least some trains where they allow this. In one case, the solo traveler parked a cello case in the second seat.I just wish there was a way to keep the other seat open without paying full price for another seat. I actually asked if I could do that and they said no.
The fact that they had disclaimers on their website and in the employee handbook indicates that they did think about it and simply chose not to allow it.Hmmm, seems like Amtrak is missing out on a source of revenue. They should think about it, once this COVID business is over.
According to Amtrak's website and handbook you had to claim a disability to purchase two valid coach seats for yourself. Otherwise they reserved the right to ignore or cancel one of them. I tried to find confirmation that this was still the case but it looks like the new Amtrak.com no longer addresses this.At least three times in the past few years I have been in coach on the Lake Shore leaving Boston and seen solo travelers who presented two tickets so they could keep the seat next to them open, and the train crew respected that and would not allow anyone else to occupy the second seat. So there are at least some trains where they allow this. In one case, the solo traveler parked a cello case in the second seat.
You are like me. I am terrified of flying and have been even before the TSA hyper security era. However, being seated with a stranger is a necessary part of those who need to travel coach in the Northeastern Corridor to travel to New York or DC or Albany to connect with a sleeper. Strangers generally are not the real problem. The most common type of problem strangers are people who are bad with social cues -- realizing their seatmate would like to dig into that 400 page novel in her lap or catch a snooze! Fortunately a polite, "excuse me but I'd like to ... "worksI’m an Amtrak regular (or was pre-Covid) mainly because flying absolutely terrifies me but I also do appreciate seeing scenery and new places that I wouldn’t see otherwise.
My Amtrak preference would always be a roomette because I’m very introverted and the thought of having a stranger seated next to me for an entire trip (again, pre-Covid) just makes me rather uncomfortable and I enjoy having my own little private space with the added bonus of having meals included. That being said, I haven’t yet decided if it’s still worth the extra cost with the Flexible dining.
As stated before, I take my cooler on wheels and thus have food I like to replace the preprepared stuff. If you look at the menus, you might like what is presented, the fare is heavy on veggies and the sort of stuff which does not suit me. You MIGHT like it, as it appears typical of what menu writers seem to think is popular.I'm old enough to remember the great "liners" the extinct railroads had plying the country. I never traveled on one, but vowed I would take a long distance train some day. By the time I finally did, Amtrak had arrived. I have gone cross country from coast to coast several times over the past decades. I have not done so since the food service went downhill (there seems to be so little vegetarian fare currently that that in itself would pose a problem for a three-day trip). But I have collected so many Amtrak points that I'd like to use them up before I'm finished traveling. I was once upgraded from a roommette to a bedroom and--another vow--I will choose a bedroom on that probably last trip. I dislike flying and enjoy looking out at the countryside, even if I've taken the same routes multiple times. It's the romance of the rails and so much easier to do when one has his or her own compartment.
HaHa, in the "good old days," we used to complain bitterly about the lousy quality of airline food (in coach, at least) and the cramped seating. Little did we know what was in store for us...And to be honest, I miss air travel the way it was in the "good old days", just as I miss the "good old days" of rail travel.