Wednesday, January 03, 2007

How Terrorists Saved Amtrak

I have tried for years to support trains in the US usually with abysmal results. I was on a train that was 23 hours late, I had a friend get a concussion from the rough ride over the tracks on the supposedly successful route from New York to Philadelphia. Thus, Amtrak did not come to mind for a trek from Chicago to Indianapolis. Until the airlines went a step too far.

I am still an American. I have a blue passport. I talk midwestern standard. I move faster than Europeans and require more interpersonal distance, and so I thought I understood Americans. I thought it would be simple to flight from Chicago to Indianapolis. My blue passport, midwestern standard dialect, and American bank account were scunnered by a foreign billing address.

Travelocity, American Airlines on phone and online, and United Airlines online all refuse to accept a card that has a billing address outside the United States. After many annoying conversations and frustrating gaps in responses, I turned to Amtrak. They have an automated operator whose artificial intelligence worked better than that of the carbon-based life forms. The conversations with the carbon units reminded me of two of my most annoying phrases:

1. This is really for your protection...
2. I even asked a supervisor if there was anything we could do.
Now I could have used someone else's charge card or gone to the counter and paid in cash. But on top of not being able to cope with a foreign mailing address, the airlines required me to be at the airport an hour and a half in advance of my one-hour flight and charged me $10 extra per ticket for the privilege of talking to a human who told me my tickets were confirmed and then left me hanging in limbo waiting for e tickets that did not arrive. On top of that the tickets would have cost nearly $400.
And on Amtrak I can knitting needles on board with me.


At 4:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

And we're so surprised that the airlines don't make money!

And we have to be so very careful of people with knitting needles on airplanes....

But take the train first and then report whether Amtrak has improved any.

At 7:01 PM, Blogger landgirl said...

Oh, yes, Amtrak may yet live up to its old (unfortunate) reputation. we may not have time to check out Billy Goats on this trip, but I have heard from a friend of mine in Indy who does jazz guitar that he is playing at a nice restaurant while we are there. That will be a mellow Hoosier equivalent.
I do love Chicago. I'm sure if I lived here it would get on my nerves but as a visitor I have had a great time.

At 10:23 PM, Blogger ZACL said...

Oh boy, I thought my journey to London UK was testing enough this time round from the Highland of Scotland. Just a wee while after you left home as a matter of fact. At least I wasn't worrying about where my credit worthiness lay or making reservations for a bus. (I left the arrangements for the bus trip from the Midlands of England up to air operator when the plane couldn't get to the original airport destination.)

You might need to arrange two credit card networks, one inside the USA as well as the one in the land where you are domiciled. I thought credit card arrangements operated under international agreements -obviously I was wrong!


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