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Old May 4, 12, 5:22 am   #1
 
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Why doesn't Amtrak offer pay-by-service options?

As a frequent flyer, I see airlines increasingly offering individual extra services, for a fee, many of which can paid for when you buy your ticket or check in. Why doesn't Amtrak offer these things, which would probably be at least a small addition to its revenues?

* Prepaid meals
* Extra AGR points (US Airways allows you to double, triple, etc. your points if you pay a small fee)
* Personalized assistance at a station (at Penn Station, this could be helpful)
* Priority boarding (why not let coach passengers pay a few dollars to be able to board along first class passengers at Penn Station)
* Etc..
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Old May 4, 12, 7:38 am   #2
 
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I think Amtrak will slowly transition towards that model, as time progresses. For example, something like e-ticketing, which we take for granted with airlines nowadays, is going to be rolled out on Amtrak within the next few months. On the same token, as other members noted in posts yesterday, this finally complies with the NTSB recommendation to have a real-time passenger manifest, which makes me feel a lot better as an EMT. God forbid there's ever an accident, at least they would have real-time counts for the FD and EMS crews.

Essentially, I personally think that Amtrak will certainly move towards that offering in the next couple of years, and I embrace the change. Hopefully none of said changes will reduce service for or hurt existing travelers; that's my only hope.

Regarding points 3 and 4, however, by the way, don't the Red Caps accomplish just that? They help you out, you can walk down to the platform with them earlier, and it's a tip in the end for their help...
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Old May 4, 12, 8:35 am   #3
 
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Originally Posted by NYCommuter View Post
As a frequent flyer, I see airlines increasingly offering individual extra services, for a fee, many of which can paid for when you buy your ticket or check in. Why doesn't Amtrak offer these things, which would probably be at least a small addition to its revenues?

* Prepaid meals
Why bother offering prepaid meals when Amtrak charges for food anyway? Amtrak is already getting revenue from food service.
* Extra AGR points (US Airways allows you to double, triple, etc. your points if you pay a small fee)
From my anecdotal surveys of friends/colleagues who ride Amtrak regularly, not too many of them are even AGR members. Sure, Amtrak could offer it, but if it earned them any more than a few thousand dollars a year I'd be surprised.
* Personalized assistance at a station (at Penn Station, this could be helpful)
This is already available, and paid for, in the form of redcaps.
* Priority boarding (why not let coach passengers pay a few dollars to be able to board along first class passengers at Penn Station)
First class passengers don't get priority boarding at Penn Station. The only place I know of where this does happen is WAS, and for that you have to be in the Acela lounge. Given how crowded the lounges are already, I doubt very much that they'd allow coach passengers in there.
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Old May 5, 12, 7:40 am   #4
 
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At most large stations (WAS, Seattle, and even Charlotte), Amtrak seems to line up people for boarding, and at least at WAS, I've been able to board first by being in business class, despite not being in the Acela lounge. I cannot stand lines and would be willing to pay a few dollars not to have to wait in them to board.

For prepaid meals- if you could just pay for dining car meals (say, a set $15 or whatever) when buying your ticket, perhaps that could be stamped on your ticket; dining car staff wouldn't have to mess with payment on board; and perhaps some people wouldn't end up eating anyway. Wouldn't that be a win-win for Amtrak?

For Penn Station, if an Amtrak staff member could meet a traveler at the 7th Avenue entrance and guide the person through the station, that would be great. I didn't know that redcaps would do that; when my out-of-town relatives come through Penn Station, since there is no map online, I have to go there to meet them and nagivate the station with them. Surely some people would pay for that type of service; American Airlines offers it.
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Old May 5, 12, 1:27 pm   #5
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NYCommuter View Post
For prepaid meals- if you could just pay for dining car meals (say, a set $15 or whatever) when buying your ticket, perhaps that could be stamped on your ticket; dining car staff wouldn't have to mess with payment on board; and perhaps some people wouldn't end up eating anyway. Wouldn't that be a win-win for Amtrak?
I think you're certainly on to something here. Less payment issues on board, lower cash-reserves on the trains, and as you said, some folks would pass on the food. Not a bad idea by any means...
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Old May 5, 12, 1:33 pm   #6
 
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First of all, the technology for this could be quite expensive. For the most part, airlines don't offer "pay in advance" meals (with the exception of the former NW and they only allowed you to order in advance; IIRC, you still had to pay on board).
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Old May 5, 12, 1:39 pm   #7
 
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Originally Posted by NYCommuter View Post
For prepaid meals- if you could just pay for dining car meals (say, a set $15 or whatever) when buying your ticket, perhaps that could be stamped on your ticket; dining car staff wouldn't have to mess with payment on board; and perhaps some people wouldn't end up eating anyway. Wouldn't that be a win-win for Amtrak?
I don't really understand the point of this. Either you make prepayment for food mandatory, or it just confuses the issue for the dining car staff by having some people pay cash and others use vouchers. If it's mandatory to choose and pay for your food in advance (presumably, at least a day in advance so the food can be loaded on the train like it is on a plane), I can tell you that there would be a lot of furious passengers who got hungry mid-trip and then discovered that they couldn't buy food on the train. (I would be one of them.) And surely the costs of setting up and administering the system of pre-loading customized food for every passenger would more than offset the revenue benefit of the few people who order their food and then don't pick it up. Amtrak would still have to pay for the cost of that food, right? So all they would gain is the few bucks' difference between the food cost and the price to the passenger.
For Penn Station, if an Amtrak staff member could meet a traveler at the 7th Avenue entrance and guide the person through the station, that would be great. I didn't know that redcaps would do that; when my out-of-town relatives come through Penn Station, since there is no map online, I have to go there to meet them and nagivate the station with them. Surely some people would pay for that type of service; American Airlines offers it.
Or people could just read the signs in the station telling them where to go. Or ask other travelers, like a few people did with me when I was standing at Penn last week.
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Old May 5, 12, 4:40 pm   #8
 
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First of all, the technology for this could be quite expensive. For the most part, airlines don't offer "pay in advance" meals (with the exception of the former NW and they only allowed you to order in advance; IIRC, you still had to pay on board).
A note could just be stamped on your ticket, and it could just appear when you print it at a kiosk (or online) or when Amtrak prints it for you. It could be punched (or scanned), just like tickets are regularly punched/scanned.

I'm not saying that you order specific food in advance- you just prepay $15 or whatever- kind of like buying a gift card. The dining car staff would just punch or scan where it says "Prepaid Dinner" or "Lunch" to show that it's been used.

JOHN SMITH TRAIN 20 5 MAY 2012
*PREPAID DINNER 1__
* PREPAID LUNCH 1 __

For Penn Station- it's a confusing mess for out of towners. If American Airlines offers a one-on-one guide through airports (how hard is that?), surely there's some kind of a market for that at NYP. AA's service also offers lounge access, priority boarding, car service help, etc. Wouldn't Acela passengers go for this? See below.

http://www.aa.com/i18n/urls/fivestar...ivestarservice

Last edited by NYCommuter; May 5, 12 at 4:51 pm.
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Old May 5, 12, 8:33 pm   #9
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Originally Posted by NYCommuter View Post
A note could just be stamped on your ticket, and it could just appear when you print it at a kiosk (or online) or when Amtrak prints it for you. It could be punched (or scanned), just like tickets are regularly punched/scanned.

I'm not saying that you order specific food in advance- you just prepay $15 or whatever- kind of like buying a gift card. The dining car staff would just punch or scan where it says "Prepaid Dinner" or "Lunch" to show that it's been used.

JOHN SMITH TRAIN 20 5 MAY 2012
*PREPAID DINNER 1__
* PREPAID LUNCH 1 __

For Penn Station- it's a confusing mess for out of towners. If American Airlines offers a one-on-one guide through airports (how hard is that?), surely there's some kind of a market for that at NYP. AA's service also offers lounge access, priority boarding, car service help, etc. Wouldn't Acela passengers go for this? See below.

http://www.aa.com/i18n/urls/fivestar...ivestarservice
No real reason for this. Why prepay when you can simply prepay onboard? I doubt that there would be significant market for this and it would be a nightmare in a system which basically allows no-fee changes.
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Old May 6, 12, 9:49 am   #10
 
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Originally Posted by NYCommuter View Post
As a frequent flyer, I see airlines increasingly offering individual extra services, for a fee, many of which can paid for when you buy your ticket or check in. Why doesn't Amtrak offer these things, which would probably be at least a small addition to its revenues?

* Prepaid meals
* Extra AGR points (US Airways allows you to double, triple, etc. your points if you pay a small fee)
* Personalized assistance at a station (at Penn Station, this could be helpful)
* Priority boarding (why not let coach passengers pay a few dollars to be able to board along first class passengers at Penn Station)
* Etc..
The only service mentioned here that I would be willing to pay for is priority boarding, but again, they already offer this to sleeper/FC pax at originating stations. It would be impossible to offer at midpoint stations along the NEC. How would it be administrated in a place like PVD or PHL where the train just pulls up to the platform and pax are already waiting there? There is no dwell time to speak of in those cities.

And at Penn Station, FC/Sleeper pax don't board ahead of coach pax unless they have a redcap. If you are waiting in the club acela, they just announce your platform. Now about 80% of the time the announcement comes before the track is announced outside, but you still have to go over to the escalator and wait in line with the coach pax. Generally you are at the front of the line, but its not priority boarding unless you have engaged a redcap.
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Old May 6, 12, 10:54 am   #11
 
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Why doesn't Amtrak offer pay-by-service options?

Regarding prepay food, Air Canada offers just that at booking, at a discount versus BoB. Any food due pax will be noted on their BP. It's a win-win-win: Revenue enhancement for AC, discount and convenience for the pax, and easier, more efficient service flow for the FAs.

Besides eTicketing, Amtrak is also moving to an electronic Point of Sale system for all food service, which will streamline inventory, reduce paperwork, and open up the possibility for new service models (such as prepay). This is not something we should dismiss.
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Old May 6, 12, 2:33 pm   #12
 
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Originally Posted by GoAmtrak View Post
Besides eTicketing, Amtrak is also moving to an electronic Point of Sale system for all food service, which will streamline inventory, reduce paperwork, and open up the possibility for new service models (such as prepay). This is not something we should dismiss.
Very good step in the right direction, IMHO
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Old May 7, 12, 10:29 am   #13
 
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Anyone has the ability to preboard for a fee, regardless of class of service, and even at NYP. All you have to do is find a redcap, ask for help with your bags, and tip them a few bucks per bag.
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Old May 9, 12, 8:49 pm   #14
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Originally Posted by NYCommuter View Post
For Penn Station, if an Amtrak staff member could meet a traveler at the 7th Avenue entrance and guide the person through the station, that would be great. I didn't know that redcaps would do that; when my out-of-town relatives come through Penn Station, since there is no map online, I have to go there to meet them and nagivate the station with them. Surely some people would pay for that type of service; American Airlines offers it.
Well the best thing is as others have mentioned to get a Redcap for those cases and tip them, giving over your few bucks for the privilege.

However, should you be unable to find a Redcap or not wish to engage one, the perhaps this map of Penn Station may help to give you some idea of the lay of the land and certainly where the elevators are.
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