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For many Amtrak passengers, comfortable, spacious seating tends to be one of the main reasons for choosing rail travel over air, especially in the wake of shrinking airline seats to accommodate more passengers and improve profitability. That, however, may soon be changing.
Taking a leaf out of the airlines’ books, outgoing Amtrak co-Chief Executive Wick Moorman revealed that the rail system is considering a less comfortable economy class that will enable it to increase train capacity. “We are looking at doing some creative things in terms of creating an economy class,” Moorman said at the National Press Club talk in Washington on Wednesday.
Some of these “creative things” include reducing its current 39-inch seat pitch — the distance from the back of your seat to the back of the seat in front — to be in line with the airline industry’s 30 to 33 inches. The co-CEO, who steps down this December, also hinted at changes to “other things that just don’t make it quite as comfortable.” It’s still anybody’s guess as to what that may be, but it wouldn’t be a big surprise to see the 23-inch seat width shrink to the 17 to 18.5-inch width that many flyers are familiar with.
This news comes, coincidentally, on the heels of the recent appointment of former Delta Chief Richard Anderson as its new CEO. Mr. Anderson is an experienced airline insider who knows exactly how to bring these airline-style seating plans to fruition. In his nine years with Delta, Anderson helped to transform Delta into the very profitable carrier it is today — exactly what the less-than-profitable Amtrak, with an unaudited operating loss of $227 million last year, needs to remain relevant.
While no final decisions have been made yet, this is definitely not welcoming news to the many passengers who depend on Amtrak for their regular commutes. It also remains to be seen if this will materialize in the near future as the problem-laden rail network battles more pressing issues of infrastructure upgrades and network delays.
Featured Image courtesy of Mardis Coers via Getty Images.
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