Amtrak/United Airlines partnership: why not expand it?

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Amtrak/United Airlines partnership: why not expand it?

Postby SouthernRailway » Mon Jul 18, 2016 9:14 am

Two questions re: Amtrak's partnership with United Airlines, which apparently allows United passengers to book part of their trips (from Newark Airport) on Amtrak, with a United ticket, and allowing Amtrak Select members access to United lounges:

1. Is this partnership economically beneficial for Amtrak and United? I assume so, but if so:

2. Why doesn't Amtrak expand this partnership to cover other airports (in addition to Newark) that have rail stations? Milwaukee, BWI, Philadelphia (somewhat) and surely other airports are accessible via rail. Is the United partnership exclusive, or does Amtrak not generate enough revenues from it to make Amtrak want to expand it to additional airlines and/or airports?

I don't really care for PHL-LGA flights and would prefer to take Amtrak, but booking flights from PHL, an American hub, usually is much more expensive than from other cities, so I just fly out of LGA.

Thanks.
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Re: Amtrak/United Airlines partnership: why not expand it?

Postby STrRedWolf » Mon Jul 18, 2016 6:44 pm

Out of all the Amtrak rail accessible (or easily shuttled) airports, which ones are United hubs?

Here's the list of United hubs from Wikipedia:
  • Antonio B. Won Pat International Airport (Guam)
  • Denver International Airport
  • George Bush Intercontinental Airport (Houston)
  • Los Angeles International Airport
  • Narita International Airport (Tokyo)
  • Newark Liberty International Airport
  • O'Hare International Airport (Chicago)
  • San Francisco International Airport
  • Washington Dulles International Airport

The only one with regular frequency and rail accessible is... Newark Liberty International, which is a short rail ride to the airport (been there, took the train, small convention there that got moved to Dulles this year) and it's off of the NEC, with a ton of frequency. So it makes sense that United would hook up with Amtrak for some cross-honoring opportunities.

What about the other United hubs? Well, there's no close Amtrak service. You'd have to transfer to another train and/or bus to get there (in Dulles' case, it is currently two subway trains and a bus) and pay for the privilege.

Milwaukee? Not a hub to any airline. BWI? Southwest hub, no lounge. Philly? Gotta transfer to SEPTA (although there are plans to run Amtrak through the airport), and it's an American Airlines hub.
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Re: Amtrak/United Airlines partnership: why not expand it?

Postby jamesinclair » Tue Jul 19, 2016 2:18 pm

SouthernRailway wrote: Is the United partnership exclusive, or does Amtrak not generate enough revenues from it to make Amtrak want to expand it to additional airlines and/or airports?
.


I would wager its a case of the people who created the system no longer working at United and Amtrak and nobody else giving half a damn.

The program is actually from Continental, and United simply continued it. They also have a United ticket desk at NY Penn Station, another relic (and a flight operated by a bus between Allentown and Newark)

The program has seen no improvements or additions in over a decade, and is not user friendly. Getting your Amtrak ticket from the quick ticket machines can be difficult without an instruction manual, and most Amtrak employees arent trained on the matter. Also, if your ticket isnt scanned on the train, it will cause issues down the line as United can cancel your entire itinerary. You are also burdened with transfer time rules set for airplanes that dont make sense for trains.

Id love to see the program expanded or improved. Whoever, Im sure if you called Amtrak or United and asked to speak to the person in charge of the program youd be passed along 50 times without anyone actually knowing who is responsible
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Re: Amtrak/United Airlines partnership: why not expand it?

Postby John_Perkowski » Tue Jul 19, 2016 3:21 pm

WRT to O'Hare, it's a 1 hour 15 minute run on CTA. $5 fare.

If Amtrak wanted to do this, it COULD be done. That said, we are talking a lot of 1/day services, not multiple per day. That means you miss a run, both sides may have re-booking to do.
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Re: Amtrak/United Airlines partnership: why not expand it?

Postby Jishnu » Tue Jul 19, 2016 4:50 pm

One other possibility is Denver with the new Airport service. But only one train a day each way with relatively unreliable arrivals and departures does not make for a happy situation.
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Re: Amtrak/United Airlines partnership: why not expand it?

Postby David Benton » Tue Jul 19, 2016 7:44 pm

I would think the main advantage to amtrak would to be to make package deals for LD services. For e.g , Fly to Denver , take CZ to Salt lake city, Fly home.
Or other such variants with more train travel . Fly one way , return by train or vv
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Re: Amtrak/United Airlines partnership: why not expand it?

Postby John_Perkowski » Tue Jul 19, 2016 8:59 pm

David: WRT to the Rio Grande portion of several routes (remember Missouri Pacific had a transcontinental partnership until 1949...) Amtrak has to sell the view, really hard. The D&RGW used to do that really well. If Amtrak cannot do that, then a partnership is useless.
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Re: Amtrak/United Airlines partnership: why not expand it?

Postby Tom M » Wed Jul 20, 2016 10:31 am

A long time ago, when the United/Amtrak fly one way, ride the other was fairly new, I tried it. The Amtrak crew was totally bewildered by my tickets. Apparently, no one had communicated to the on board crews that there was such a program.
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Re: Amtrak/United Airlines partnership: why not expand it?

Postby Gilbert B Norman » Wed Jul 20, 2016 11:49 am

Mr.Tom M, can you blame an Amtrak Conductor for looking at a piece of airline ticket stock and seeing "2V" on the coupon he was to lift?

Lest anyone wonder "2V" is Amtrak’s IATA Code, their Accounting Code is 557. This compares with UA and 016.
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Re: Amtrak/United Airlines partnership: why not expand it?

Postby Tom M » Wed Jul 20, 2016 1:55 pm

At least the city pair codes made sense... I think.
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Re: Amtrak/United Airlines partnership: why not expand it?

Postby jobtraklite » Wed Jul 20, 2016 6:25 pm

SouthernRailway wrote: ... and allowing Amtrak Select members access to United lounges:

This wouldn't be a misprint, would it? If it's true, then AGR select might have some value out here in flyover country. Do you have a source?
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Re: Amtrak/United Airlines partnership: why not expand it?

Postby David Benton » Wed Jul 20, 2016 8:16 pm

John_Perkowski wrote:David: WRT to the Rio Grande portion of several routes (remember Missouri Pacific had a transcontinental partnership until 1949...) Amtrak has to sell the view, really hard. The D&RGW used to do that really well. If Amtrak cannot do that, then a partnership is useless.

I would rate this as one of the most scenic railways in the world, and I've seen a few.
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However , I do think it would be better for this market to be targeted by a private operator than by Amtrak. Perhaps PV's on the back of the CZ that spend the nite with the passengers on board at SLC.
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Re: Amtrak/United Airlines partnership: why not expand it?

Postby hi55us » Wed Jul 20, 2016 9:17 pm

jobtraklite wrote:
SouthernRailway wrote: ... and allowing Amtrak Select members access to United lounges:

This wouldn't be a misprint, would it? If it's true, then AGR select might have some value out here in flyover country. Do you have a source?


It's true, a lot of people talk about it over on the Amtrak Flyer Talk forum. Some info here about how they honor memberships in Acela Lounges and United Clubs.
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Re: Amtrak/United Airlines partnership: why not expand it?

Postby Bob Roberts » Wed Jul 20, 2016 9:28 pm

Technically its only for Select Plus and Select Exec members (not for the more peon-like "Select"). https://www.amtrakguestrewards.com/info
Last edited by Bob Roberts on Wed Jul 20, 2016 9:55 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Amtrak/United Airlines partnership: why not expand it?

Postby jobtraklite » Wed Jul 20, 2016 9:47 pm

Thanks for the clarification. An example of the old adage: if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
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