One of the interesting quirks about the Amtrak trains in the USA is the inability to select seats when booking. Unlike most of the rest of the world, there is no seat map in the booking engine to allow you to select where to sit.

This isn’t particularly good, especially if you’re travelling on a scenic route and wish to be seated to get the best view. It makes it much more difficult for tourists for starters.

Seat Selection on European Trains

In Europe and other parts of the world, seat selection on long distance trains is quite standard. During the booking phase, you can select which carriage you want to be seated in plus the actual seat itself.

This means you can choose to face in the direction of travel or backwards as is your wish. More importantly you can choose which side of the train to sit on, and whether you want a window or an aisle seat.

Why Not On Amtrak?

According to some reading around the web, the Amtrak booking systems do have the ability to allow people to select seats. That would be expected considering they appear to have a modern system.

It appears seat selection was introduced on a trial basis but people just didn’t like it. Some would sit in others assigned seats and it all became a customer nightmare.

Seating Assignments But You Can’t Choose

Some services such as the Amtrak Cascades do have assigned seating. However you are only assigned your seat when you check-in at the station before boarding the service.

Therefore this becomes a bit luck of the draw on the day. Checking in early for the trains would be recommended in this case to have any chance of getting seats that you want.

Overall Thoughts

Clearly assigning seats on commuter trains is not what I mean here. I am specifically talking about long distance services where an assigned seat could be offered at the booking stage.

All the long distance trains in Ireland offer assigned seating and for the most part people adhere to the rules. There really is no reason not to. At the same time I can see the benefit of having no assigned seats, except when trying to find somewhere to sit on a full service.

What do you think? Should Amtrak assign seats or is the current system best? Thank you for reading and if you have any comments or questions, please leave them below.

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Featured image by Bruce Fingerhood via Wikimedia Commons.