Rail travel remains a choice for travelers journeying within the United States, despite the availability and convenience of low-cost domestic airlines. However, in an effort to up the capacity of passenger cars, Amtrak is considering emulating the airline industry by installing plane-like seating. The proposal comes as companies within the rail industry continue to post losses, and executives search for ways to reverse the trend and compete more effectively with airlines and rental car services.
While rail travel is slower and in some cases more expensive than air travel, trains have the distinct advantage of offering significantly more leg room than most airlines' economy seating provides.
However, Charles Moorman, a prominent executive with Amtrak, indicated that some in the passenger rail industry are considering trading in the more spacious seating for chairs similar to standard airline economy seats. Moorman told reporters at the National Press Club that, while no firm plan has been put forward, the idea is receiving serious consideration and research. The new chairs would have narrower seat pitch, which is the distance between the seat's back and the seat in front of it.
Moorman is set to be replaced by Richard Anderson, a one-time chief with Delta Air Lines. It's possible Anderson's history with the air travel industry may impact the rail company's potential adoption of tighter, airline-like seating. While the rail industry may at a glance appear to be in decline, Amtrak continues to post positive numbers, with over 30 million passengers riding with the company last year.
Additionally, the House approved 1.4 billion dollars worth of subsidies for Amtrak, as well as funds for a planned rail tunnel beneath the Hudson River in New York, one of the company's busiest hubs. Although the seating change would allow for increased passenger capacity, the move seems risky given the sheer fact that comfort is one of rail travels' main advantages over budget flights.