If you have taken Amtrak for any longer distance trip, you may have noticed something: People bring baggage.
Some people bring a lot of baggage, in comparison to what you might see on an airplane. So much baggage, in fact, that Amtrak is going to actually start enforcing some limits — and some fees.
On Thursday, Amtrak will start charging $20 for passengers who exceed limits for carry-on and personal items.
But don’t worry: the fee isn’t close to what airlines are introducing. Customers are allowed two personal items weighing up to 25 pounds and two carry-on bags weighing no more than 50 pounds each for free. Personal items might include things like a backpack, laptop, purse or other small bags. Passengers with children under the age of 2 also can bring onboard an additional item like a stroller or diaper bag. The fee applies to each item above those limits.
Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said the fees will help preserve space on crowded trains and reduce safety concerns created by items that are too heavy.
U.S. airlines, by contrast, started introducing bag fees in 2008 and now charge a standard fee of $25 for the first checked suitcase. Some airlines have even introduced fees for carry-on bags. Those fees generated $1.6 billion for the airlines in the first quarter of this year.
But the airline charges also are more extensive than what Amtrak plans, and Magliari said the train operator didn’t start its fees to make more money.
“It is simply a space and safety initiative,” he said.
But considering Amtrak’s consistent financial losses year after year, maybe some baggage fees wouldn’t be the worst idea.
Magliari said the fee was aimed at a small percentage of the company’s 31 million passengers who exceed limits for what they can bring onboard for free.
Passengers can avoid the fee by checking their bags through to the final destination, if that service is available on their train. So on longer trips — like the nearly cross-country Empire Builder — even those bringing lots of luggage will not be impacted.
Additional reporting by the Associated Press