SCHUMER: NEW AMTRAK IDEA TO SHRINK SEATS IS RIGHT OUT OF THE AIRLINE PLAYBOOK & WOULD BECOME—YET ANOTHER—PAIN IN THE NECK FOR TRAVELERS; SENATOR SAYS RAILROAD SHOULD SKIP THE ‘STUDY’ & FIND OTHER WAYS TO SAVE MONEY; WHAT SETS AMTRAK APART FROM THE AIRLINES HAS ALWAYS BEEN THE COMFORT
Amtrak’s Just-Announced New Plan To Find “Creative” Ways To Pack In More Riders Would Make The Railroads Just Like The Airlines—But Worse—Because Time On A Train Can Be Even Longer Than A Plane
Senator Says Feds Must Fully Invest In Amtrak & Railroads Every Single Year And The Solution Cannot Be To Nickel-And-Dime Consumers
Schumer To Amtrak: Don’t Let The Airlines Be Your Conductor; Shrunk Seat "Economy Class" Is A Slippery Slope
Today, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer urged Amtrak to scrap a new idea that could cut inches off legroom of the seats on-board its Acela and Northeast Regional trains. According to the outgoing Amtrak Co-chief Executive, Wick Moorman, the railroad is looking at creating new 'economy' seating that would add more rows of seats in an effort to make more money.
“Airing the idea to create new economy seating and shrink seats, well, it is right out of the airline's playbook," said U.S. Senator Charles Schumer. "When it comes to money-making ideas, railroads shouldn’t let the airline industry play conductor, and travelers would agree. In fact, travelers choose Amtrak because it offers a more comfortable traveling experience, but if Amtrak starts on the slippery slope of shrunk seating, my view is that it could become the norm to pack people in like sardines. So, I’m urging Amtrak to scrap the shrinking seats idea and look at other ways to make money. One of those ways is my job: fighting hard so that the federal government fully invests in Amtrak, which it historically has not done. The solution is for the feds to fully invest in Amtrak and our national railroad system each and every year -- not to nickel-and-dime the consumer.”
Schumer said that this idea to create a new economy class that reduces legroom would likely make riding Amtrak more uncomfortable for passengers and he is urging Amtrak to find other ways to save money without burdening passengers. Moreover, Schumer said that the federal government should fully invest in Amtrak each year so they don’t have to resort to proposals that ultimately hurt the consumer.
Schumer pointed to statements that Amtrak CEO Moorman made at the recent National Press Club Talk in Washington regarding a new seat-pitch idea which would shrink legroom. Specifically, Moorman said that they are “…looking at doing some creative things in terms of creating an economy class…there will be some other things that just don’t make it quite as comfortable.”
Last year, Amtrak had a record 31.3 million passengers, with more than one-third of them in the Northeast Corridor. On an average day, nearly 85,700 passengers ride Amtrak trains. Amtrak operates 300 trains daily, connecting more than 500 destinations in 46 states, the District of Columbia and three Canadian Provinces.
Schumer explained that over the past few decades, seat pitch onboard airplanes has decreased considerably and that the airlines have largely gotten away with it at the expense of consumer comfort. For instance, Schumer explained that the average distance between rows of seats, referred to as seat pitch, which serves as a proxy for legroom, has dropped from 35 inches prior to airline deregulation in the 1970s to approximately 31 inches. Moreover, the average airline seat width has shrunk from 18.5 inches in the 1990s and 2000s to approximately 17 inches. Last year, Schumer pushed for language to be included in the FAA Reauthorization bill that would require the FAA to establish minimum seat size standards.
According to USA Today, Amtrak’s coach seat offers a seat pitch of 39 inches and width of 23 inches. Schumer said that if Amtrak goes down the same path as the airline industry, it’s possible that seats onboard railroads could decrease significantly over the next few years. Moreover, Schumer said that many passengers opt to travel via train as opposed to airplane because it offers a more comfortable and convenient experience. Schumer explained that Amtrak’s idea to shrink seats could hurt those travelers and it is a slippery slope with shrinking seats possibly expanding beyond 'economy'.