Sleepers: Costing More, Getting Less.
When I travel, I fly to the west coast and take one of Amtrak’s long-distance trains to my mainland destination. I have the time. I can afford it. I like the slower pace and, yes, there’s the scenery. Most particularly, however, I enjoy the experience of meeting some of my fellow passengers over a nice meal in the relaxed atmosphere of the dining car.
An overnight ride in an Amtrak sleeping car is not simply transportation; it’s a travel experience. Or at least it should be. The trouble is, in its relentless cost-cutting, Amtrak has eliminated the little “perks” that have made sleeping car travel a special experience: the welcome-aboard toiletry packs, the wine tastings, the Parlour car on the Coast Starlight, and the trade-down of full-service dining cars for microwaved meals in Café Cars on the Lake Shore Limited and the Cardinal and the City of New Orleans and the Silver Star.
In ten days I’m leaving here to attend the Rail Passengers Association’s annual Spring meeting in Washington, DC. From Seattle I’m taking the Empire Builder to Chicago, where I’ll connect with the Capitol Limited for the ride to Washington. Three months ago, I paid almost $1100 for a roomette on both trains. Yesterday I learned that Amtrak may be taking the dining car off the Capitol Limited, too.
This morning I checked the American Airlines website. I could have purchased an economy seat from Seattle to Washington, DC, for $306. In fact, I could have flown first class for $746.
I wonder if Richard Anderson, Amtrak’s new president and CEO, knows that he’s on the way to losing at least some of my business. I wonder if he cares.