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I know this has been discussed for airlines. But on Amtrak (the American passenger rail system), I was traveling Cascades from Portland to Seattle, and the woman in front of me had purchased two tickets to have her own row. They said absolutely not, and it was not at all a busy train. She had paid for it, but could not get two seat cards.

Is this an administrative issue, because it's the same name on both, or a security issue, or what? I kind of felt sorry for her (in the end, she had almost an entire car for herself the whole duration)? Is there an alternative to it, like on airlines, if I wanted to pay for two seats?

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    I can't speak to Amtrak specifically, so this is only a comment - but in the UK, the convention is that any marked-as-reserved seat is considered open for use by a no-reservation passenger if the 'owner' has not turned up - which isn't really something you need to consider with airlines, when you control the number of people who gets on. If Amtrak allow no-reservation travel (I think they usually do?) then the same approach would seem to make sense. – Andrew Apr 15 '16 at 21:03
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    I suspect it's that Amtrak view themselves as providing the service of transporting people, whereas airlines view themselves as trying to make a profit. From a profit point of view, you don't care whether a seat is empty or full, as long as it's been paid for (actually, empty is better because it means less weight to carry). From a service point of view, any unoccupied seat should be available for people to sit in and, if "somebody doesn't show up" then, great, they can provide the service of transporting somebody who does show up. (Plus what @Andrew just said.) – David Richerby Apr 15 '16 at 21:03
  • @DavidRicherby - you're probably right. I don't have a problem with it, I was just interested to know why. It might be the accepted answer if you or I can get a quote or something from their website. – Mikey Apr 15 '16 at 21:05
  • @Mikey Yeah, I was speculating so I didn't want to post as an answer. – David Richerby Apr 15 '16 at 22:00
  • @DavidRicherby - Yeah, I'm with you on that. We'll see what comes up. – Mikey Apr 15 '16 at 22:10
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The seating policy page in Amtrak's website says:

  • Each passenger paying a fare will be entitled to a seat, to the extent coach seats are available.
  • Passengers are entitled to one seat per fare, to ensure other paying passengers are not excluded.
  • .....

So, basically they do this to allow more passengers to board. In addition to that, they offer multi classes, one can simply by a ticket for a higher class to get a better seat. You can also upgrade after boarding if there's an empty seat in the higher classes.

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    That says "one seat per fare", though. It sounds like the woman in the question had purchased two tickets, which sounds like two fares to me. – Michael Seifert Apr 15 '16 at 22:01
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    That's not how I get it, but who am I to say, English is not my native language and I might be wrong. – Nean Der Thal Apr 15 '16 at 22:02
  • Yes, the woman in question had paid for two full seats, in advance, but was refused the second seat. But +1 for the research. – Mikey Jul 6 '16 at 2:07
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    The key is the first bullet. Each passenger who pays a fare is entitled to a seat, if seats are available. A passenger who pays two fares is therefore not entitled to two seats because she is still a single passenger. – Roddy of the Frozen Peas Sep 20 '16 at 21:01
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    My reading is that she should have been permitted the second seat until it conflicts with bullet one. If it is the only available seat, she would have to relinquish it to a fare-paying customer. – Andrew Lazarus Sep 21 '16 at 5:01

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