Growing millennial service demands bring Amtrak to a spending junction: invest in their capital infrastructure, or focus on service amenities to better align with the millennial demographics.
On several recent trips on Amtrak’s Northeast Regional train, it became apparent that while Amtrak has made great strides towards increasing its appeal, the company has yet to reposition itself for the next generation of travelers who will soon be deciding if it’s worth saving the few extra bucks by taking the train over faster options like air travel. Here are 4 ways Amtrak can better align its service delivery to delight and further attract millennial riders:
Better Food and Beverage Service
Millennials know what they want. It’s safe to say that microwaved cheeseburgers aren’t high on their list. Amtrak should take note of our friends across the pond. The Spanish national train company, Renfe, offers fresh baked breads, pastries, and sandwiches, including the famed jamon serano.
Often the Amtrak routes will be priced higher than airfares along the same routes. Amtrak has been known to be a price discriminator that nearly doubles or triples fare prices as the trip date comes closer. The high variability of prices and the uncertain amount of time needed to book a trip at the optimal price often leaves millennials searching for a less expensive option.
While the Northeast Corridor offers select WIFI service on many trains that travel along this route, not all of the train origination points offer WIFI service. Notably, trains that originate in Vermont, dubbed the Vermonter line, don’t offer WIFI options in the train cars. With airlines offering connectivity at 30,000 feet, it is hard to understand why Amtrak hasn’t yet equipped all of the cars with WIFI options. If the company fails to invest in its network offerings, many younger travelers may choose to fly, enjoying entertainment options such as JetBlue’s DirecTV offering.
More Loyalty Perks
Amtrak’s loyalty program, Amtrak Guest Rewards offers three unique tiers that require yearly qualification points. At major stations, none of these tier levels allow early boarding, which can be a bit of a hassle at the major hubs. Enhancing how the carrier identifies and treats its loyal guests will increase customer satisfaction and ease of travel. Much like purchasing extra leg-room on an airline, travelers appreciate the little things.
Millennials are known to marketers as expecting a higher service standard without having to pay for the upgrade. The younger generations, fueled by the increase in mobile technology, has created new demands and service requests surrounding travel.
My Two Cents: I would go as far as to guess that Gen Y’s would choose a slightly longer travel time in favor of increased WIFI and connectivity options onboard trains. It is now up to Amtrak, as well as other transportation giants to determine how they will focus their spending when upgrading their infrastructure. Whether this upgrade be to include more service options to meet customer demands, or to increase infrastructure such as bridges and tunnels to ensure business growth.
While these suggestions aren’t going to make or break Amtrak’s future success, they would further entice millennials to fall back in love with rail travel. With airfare cutting the travel time between some points by a third, there is heavy competition in the travel industry to capture the business of the Gen Y’s. Service delivery is important for all industries, including ones that are semi private (like Amtrak) and competing with other modes of transportation seeing heavy investment in en-route entertainment technology.
Garrett Meccariello is an aspiring brand manager based out of NYC. In his free time he can be found building the next great brand, exploring the city, and eating a lot of cured meat and cheese.