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Travel Tips

Last major update December 2012

On Track On Line - Amtrak Tips - Amtrak People



Amtrak People

Service and Train Crews: The Amtrak personnel are divided into Service Crew (also called OBS for On Board Service) and Train Crew.

  • The service crew includes Car Attendants (not called "porters" please), Snack Bar Attendant, Lead Service Attendant (LSA; head waiter in dining car, and in charge of all service crew members), Dining Car Chefs, and Dining Car Attendants (waiters). Service crew members generally ride the train from origin to destination.

  • Operating crew includes the Conductor, Assistant Conductors, and the engine crew. Train crew will change about every 6-8 hours on long distance routes. With very few exceptions all crew members are Amtrak employees. The Conductor is in overall charge of the train.

Station Personnel: The Amtrak personnel are divided into Ticket Agents, Lounge Attendants, Gate Agents, and Redcaps. Not all stations have employees in all positions and some stations are totally unstaffed.

  • Ticket Agents do exactly as implied by their name, they assist with making reservations and issuing eTickets/Tickets.

  • Lounge Attendants staff the Club Acela's and the Metropolitan lounges in some of Amtrak's busiest stations. In addition to granting access to the lounge to those entitled to enter, they are also fully trained ticket agents. This means that they can also assist with reservations and changes to reservations. Note: They are not setup to handle cash, so any needed payments must be made by credit card.

  • Gate Agents typically found only at the larger/busier stations control access to the tracks & platforms. They open the gate doors, reverse escalators, and check that you are ticketed for that train.

  • Redcaps assist with luggage, as well as those with special needs such as wheelchair service. One is not required to tip for their services, but it is generally accepted that one will indeed do so.


Tipping

General Guidelines: Tipping is NOT required, but is considered correct for the service crew personnel on the train. Recommendations: Snack bar attendant: roughly 10%. Dining car: 15% of menu prices (sleeping car passengers may want to note this when ordering their meals). Coaches: the consensus is that in most cases tips are not necessary, but if special service is given, the guidelines for a sleeping car attendant apply. Sleepers: See the next section. Operating crew is never to be tipped.

Tipping a Sleeping Car Attendant: The sleeping car attendant that will greet you when you board the train will be with you throughout your journey and will be changing your room configuration at least twice a day, and performing other services, so it behooves you to get on their best side -- and they on yours. Here are your options for tipping a Sleeping Car Attendant:
  1. Some people recommend tipping the attendant at the first opportunity -- say $20 for what will be a 2 night trip. The idea here is to "pay" for a good level of service up front, to possibly give you a leg up on other passengers, so to speak.
  2. Others say one should wait until the trip is over and tip according to the level of service provided -- if for example you hardly ever saw the attendant and they did nothing much for you beyond the absolute minimum, then no tip or a very small one is appropriate.
  3. Others suggest tipping the attendant in the morning if the service over the past day or part of day has been satisfactory or better. $5-$10 is appropriate.
  4. Others (yes. there are some) suggest that Amtrak Sleeping Car attendants are not at all badly paid for their hours of service and thus should not needed to be tipped at all.

You could pick any of the options above and not be "wrong".

Personally, we believe tipping is appropriate, and don't recommend the fourth option. We go with the second one -- tip at the end according to level of service. For reasonable service for (say) 2 nights for a couple in a Roomette, we would tip $20. This is probably the most popular option of those above -- though many people just never even think of tipping the attendant.

We also go out of our way to be friendly to the attendants and helpful to them in whatever way we can -- basically to treat them well. Our experience has been that a big smile and friendly greeting gets one that little extra without any need to promise compensation up front.


Photography and electricity Tips concerning photography on and from a train; information about electricity available to passengers on the train.

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