Things You Don’t Want To Hear Your Amtrak Conductor Say…

Filed Under: Travel

I take Amtrak quite a bit between Los Angeles and San Diego. And it’s never boring. Ever.

About a week ago I had the singing cafe car attendant, who at first drove me bonkers, but after thinking about it for a few minutes, I really appreciated him. He clearly loves what he does, and that’s sort of endearing. I find that’s generally true of those working on the Amtrak trains up and down the coast — they’re simply huge train nerds. As a fellow transportation enthusiast, I’m not in a position to judge. 😉

Today there was a bit of a delay pulling out of Union Station in Los Angeles. One minute past the scheduled departure time the conductor came on the PA and made the following announcement:

Sorry for the delay, folks. Just like an airplane, we have data recorders, and this train was involved in an, um… um… incident last night. So we just need that data recorder. We’re working on recording over the data, and should be underway shortly. Thanks for your patience.

Not surprisingly, a bunch of passengers looked around confused and concerned and said “wait, what was the ‘incident?'”

I’m much more used to flying than “training,” though truth be told I really can’t fault pilots who are intentionally vague about the reasons for delays. It’s one thing if you have a rolling mechanical delay which could take hours to fix (in which case passengers may make decisions based on that information). But in instances where you know a delay will just be a few minutes, sometimes less is more. 😉

  1. Took that once just to try. But fight connections to SAN usually aren’t long, unless United gets out of wack. In which case usually rent a car rather than wait the 7 hours they wanted me to once. Not likely a train at that time, about 10pm.
    They use to bus us down, but haven’t seen that in awhile.

  2. I used to commute from Del Mar to Irvine for work (yes, back in the day). Every couple of months there was an incident on the tracks (either suicide or accident). The train is required to wait for police/coroner. Make sure you RUN for the bar car before it’s all sold out!

  3. @Lucky, unrelated question. I don’t remember you mentioned Emirates’
    complimentary chauffeur-driven service to and from the airport in your trip report where you traveled with your dad. If you and your dad did use their chauffeur-driven service, how did you request for it and how did you choose your Emirates seats, on the phone with the AS’ agent when you booked your trip?

    I wonder what’s your take on this error clearly made by an AS agent, my wife and I used 140k AS miles to fly from a South-east Asian country to LAX, the agent told me that we’d need an additional 25k miles each to fly first class from LAX to PDX. At that time, we did not know better. Later, I wrote AS about this error, initially, they only offered to compensate us (2 persons) a total of $75 credit on our next AS flight! When I called up to speak to a supervisor – after a lot of stress-inducing talk – the supervisor finally agreed to make us her best ever compensation offer… a total of 25k miles + that $75 credit (I think). Personally, I’m thinking 25k miles x 2 since the two of us unnecessarily wasted nearly $500 on TWO one-way first class tickets from LAX to PDX. What do you think, Lucky? Speaking from experience, do you think the compensation we got is fair or good enough?

  4. Our family of 8 just got back from an Amtrak trip on the California Zephyr to Denver. It was a blast but the problems (including a 13 hour delay) mean that I’m unlikely ever to travel Amtrak again…

  5. @ Silver — We reserved the chauffeur and seats directly through Emirates’ website using their confirmation code. However, keep in mind that Emirates has cut chauffeur service from partner award tickets in many instances:

    As far as the second question goes, hmmm, they should be willing to reprice it if it was incorrect. Do they claim the price is correct? If so, on what grounds?

  6. I like Amtrak, but the first time I did the sleeper service on the California Zephyr from Denver, the train was delayed. I wasn’t surprised, but that changed when the cabin attendant blocked us from climbing aboard my car and told me that we couldn’t get to our cabin yet because there was a dead body in the aisle, blocking access to us. He suggested we leave our bags and go have breakfast while we waited for the coroner to remove the body. He handled it well, and we were eventually off on a great trip, but it was pretty classic Amtrak with mysterious dead body delays…. I think in the end the person died of natural causes, but it was certainly weird.

  7. It’s not just Amtrak. Years ago I was very late for a dinner with friends in Manhattan after my Metro North train from Connecticut into Grand Central hit someone on the tracks. Lamb vindaloo, by the way.

  8. Lucky, I’m not sure if you’ve commented on this publically, but I assume your personal life is a little more active than its been recently. Congrats!

  9. I take that same train to work from LA to Irvine on days I don’t feel like driving. One train I took either caused such an incident, or was right behind a train that did. The conductor referred to the person who was killed as “trespasser”, probably for legal reasons. Pretty sad.

  10. @BenT

    1) Was this LAX to PDX leg on AS or another carrier? If the AS agent had given us the correct info, it would have been this leg would have been on AS metal. But since it was a paid ticket, we choose Delta due to better departure time.

    2) Had you already used up your two stopovers on this trip? No.

    @Lucky, “as far as the second question goes, hmmm, they should be willing to reprice it if it was incorrect. Do they claim the price is correct? If so, on what grounds?”

    The thing is, we bought those two LAX-PDX tickets a day or two AFTER we got the incorrect info from that AS agent. And we only realized 70k AS miles would include that LAX-PDX leg about a week after getting the wrong info.

    My main concern is, if we continue to fight AS for better compensation than the those lousy 25k miles they have agreed to, I wonder if they would ban us from buying AS miles. Anyway, in your personal opinion, what do you think a fair compensation is?

  11. @ Silver — To be honest I’d probably take what you were offered and go with it, because it seems more than fair, in my opinion. I doubt they’ll ban you from buying Alaska miles, though.

  12. @Lucky – is the Amtrak route to SD short enough to make using award miles worth it? I just noticed a few of my cc have Amtrak as an awards transfer partner.

  13. Oh, how I miss that train, I used to have a SAN and LAX customer base, the most productive I’d be all week was going back and forth on that train. Plenty of leg room, power for the laptop, and frankly, I oddly liked the food from the cafe car.

  14. @ Reed — If I’m not mistaken they charge 1,500 Ultimate Rewards points when a ticket would cost $35. So I’d say it’s marginally worth it.

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