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On WiFi, Upgrades, and More.

Assuming their long-distance trains will be with us for a while longer, Amtrak really needs to find a way to deal with something that is a serious issue for younger prospective customers. Many of them, probably most, can’t bear the thought of being two-and-a-half days without consistent, reliable and fast internet service. I suppose there is no easy solution, and I’m sure it will be expensive, but it needs to be done.
My flight to L.A. last night was on Alaska Airlines. They do a nice job and they have what appears to be a very a loyal customer base, but they fly mostly 737’s and on a five-hour flight, I would just feel more comfortable in a larger plane. And a newer one. There were little signs of wear and tear on the interior on last night’s flight.
One excellent policy Alaska has, and one that the other airlines would do well to emulate, is they way they sell upgrades to first class in the last 24-hours before departure. They do this at the more-or-less last minute and at substantially reduced prices.
Other airlines–and in my world that means American or Hawaiian–will upgrade you to a first class seat if one is available, but it’s at whatever the full price is, less the cost of the seat you’re holding.
And American has a weird restriction: if you used Aadvantage miles to buy your seat in Economy class, they will not sell you an upgrade into first class. No way. Not at any price, and–I find this truly amazing–not even if there is someone on stand-by who will gladly pay full freight for the seat you’re currently occupying. Please tell me how that makes any sense at all!
I’m on the Sunset Limited tonight, departing Los Angeles Union Station at 10:00 p.m. Dinner will be in the Traxx restaurant in that wonderful station. Next post probably from New Orleans (See paragraph #1 above).


  1. I remember America West Airlines many years ago having a first class upgrade much like the one you are describing with Alaska. It made sense then and it makes sense now, I believe.

  2. In Europe, wifi is becoming less of an issue, as most have a reasonably priced data subscription, and cover is improving. Not sure, but can’t Amtrak entice mobile operators to place more antennas near their railway lines? With a -much simpler and cheaper- repeater in stead of wifi (which would likely rely on the same antennas), people have internet if they so which.

    1. Your questions way outstrip my technical knowledhge. I’m afraid. I will see if one of my more knowledgable colleagues can shed some light.

  3. How are you going to get to Miami if you canceled your trip on the Crescent Jim? Hope everything goes well.

    1. I’m taking an extra day in New Orleans and flying direct to Miami. Rest of the itinerary remains (we hope).

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