Amtrak Is Cutting The Dining Car, Blames Millennials

by Chris Dong

While we’re all about flying here at Point Me, there’s still something wonderful about train travel. This is especially true in places where train infrastructure is modern and efficient. While Amtrak in the US often does not fall in this category, it’s still a nostalgic experience and sometimes a viable transportation option.

The dining car onboard Amtrak was one of the experiences that defined train travel for decades. However, last month, Amtrak announced that they were eliminating dining cars on long-distance routes east of the Mississippi.

Routes with dining car eliminated as of October 1, 2019:

Why Amtrak Is Eliminating Dining Cars

amtrak dining car

Amtrak Dining Car

Cost savings, of course. Amtrak is seriously in the red to begin with, and they estimate they would save about $2 million per year by getting rid of the dining car.

Amtrak is also quick to say this isn’t a service cut, but actually the company adapting to the shifting needs of passengers and in particular, millennials.

Some people really like [the dining car] and view it as sort of a nostalgic train experience,” Peter Wilander, who leads Amtrak’s customer experience, told the Post. “Some people, especially our new millennial customers, don’t like it so much. They want more privacy, they don’t want to feel uncomfortable sitting next to [strangers].”

Yes, Amtrak is blaming its cost cutting on millennials not wanting to talk to strangers.

Amtrak’s New Enhanced Flexible Dining

amtrak dining car

New pre-assembled Amtrak dining options

Instead of a true dining car, Amtrak will be offering pre-assembled meals for its premium customers in sleeper cars. They are calling the initiative “Enhanced Flexible Dining.” The routes listed above, along with the Silver Star train from NY to Miami (this train currently has cafe car service only), get the flexible dining treatment.

  • A new dining menu with hot, ready-to-serve choices for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
  • Complimentary room service provided by the Sleeping Car attendant.
  • Onboard lounge space for Sleeping Car customers to dine and socialize throughout the trip
  • Flexible dining times without the need for reservations

For coach customers, they will be able to make select food purchases in the cafe car. However, it will be the end of freshly prepared meals aboard. Say goodbye to white linen tablecloths and a steak prepared to your liking.

The Petition To Save The Amtrak Dining Car

A Change.org petition with over 13,000 signatures and counting was started by Gene Arenson, a member of the National Association of Railroad Passengers (NARP). The petition is asking Amtrak and Congress to save the dining car experience on long-distance trains.

Some comments from the campaign:

“We have had amazing trips on Amtrak and one of the best things is the dining car. You get to know America while seeing America! It breaks my heart that they want to phase out this beautiful institution.” – Hadley Northrop from San Francisco, California.  

“Nothing could be finer than dinner in the diner! Please continue this once-proud service.” – Temple Whitson from Alexandria, Virginia.

“Don’t take away another beautiful tradition.” – Terry Walking from Pinellas Park, Florida.

“Railways and dining cars are part of America’s history. Please don’t take that away.” – Laura Leach from Albuquerque, New Mexico.

The Upshot

Passenger rail advocates aren’t going down without a fight to save the train dining tradition.

While Amtrak is making cuts to dining, the company is planning to still invest in the overnight experience with updated cushions, bedding, sheets, and new sleeper cars.

The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

7 comments
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7 comments

ghostrider5408 October 9, 2019 - 11:20 am

Well “Tricky Dick Anderson” strikes again ! Anyone notice what an improvement since he left Delta.

Reply
Christian October 9, 2019 - 12:56 pm

Those pesky millennial whippersnappers, always causing problems. They need to get jobs, maybe at Blockbuster.

Reply
Henry October 9, 2019 - 3:08 pm

As a boomer, it is ridiculous to blame this change on millennials and it is a unjustifiable rationalization for management to do do. Sadly the same nonsense about needs for change were lodged at boomers back in the not-so-distant day. Instead of using stereotypes to justify change, Amtrak management needs to just tell the truth

Reply
747 Braniff Place October 9, 2019 - 3:49 pm

I have always enjoyed my sleeping car experiences (Roomette, Bedroom) on the Coast Starlight, except for the forced
seating with strangers at meal time. I am no means a millennial, and the premise of being forced to sit with strangers has always bothered me. I try to make reservations for the last sitting time at breakfast, lunch and dinner, and usually, I end up with maybe one other person, sometimes none – and the cabin attendant is aghast when I tell him/her that I am fine dining by myself!

The rest of the service experience is great – and have had fantastic levels of service from the cabin attendants in the private sleeping car section of the train. So for me, I am glad the forced seating concept is being done away with, if it is in fact extended to all sleeping car routes in the west – I will be very happy. Any improvements that allow me to dine if I choose to do so in my sleeping car for lunch and dinner – there is plenty of room to do so – would be great, without me having to go to the dining car to get the food. Hopefully, Amtrak is offering the option to have meals delivered to your sleeping car – similar to what is done on Acela in first and business class (with Acela, meals are brought to your seat).

747 Braniff Place

Reply
steve gorrill October 13, 2019 - 6:06 pm

My wife and I have always enjoyed “forced seating with stangers” in the dining car. Amtrak has always had the option of bringing meals to to the sleeping cars. I don’t why you didn’t know about it on previous Amtrak trips.

Reply
Billy Bob October 9, 2019 - 5:25 pm

The truth is they’re broke and on life-support.

Reply
Gene Arenson October 19, 2019 - 2:26 pm

As the author and sponsor of the petition to Amtrak I appreciate your comments.
Some may prefer the Contemporary Dining model that was instituted on October 1st, and that’s fine, let them have it. By the way, the service currently only available to sleeping car passengers, allows for delivery of meals to ones lounge seat or private compartment.
Others, like me prefer the traditionally prepared meals onboard and served in the dining car.
Both models can coexist on the same train, since it caters to different clientele.

Reply

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