Flying vs. Train Travel
Traveling Amtrak in the Northeast Corridor of the United States can be a blessing compared to the hassles of air travel, and in many cases, Train Travel beats flying every time. Amtrak is often forgotten, and pushed to the side, in favor of more reliable services such as the US Airways or Delta Shuttle.
While those services are convenient, they come with a hefty price tag, both in monetary value, and productivity.
Is flying better?
Flying from Washington Reagan airport to either La Guardia or JFK in New York City takes about an hour, wheels up to wheels down, depending on the direction and conditions. Though you do need to go through security, Shuttle flights typically allow boarding right up until departure, and ticket purchases via kiosks at the departures terminal. The hourly schedule allows you to arrive in New York fairly quickly, but you still need to get into the city itself after that, either by subway, railroad or cab. Fares range from about $200-800 for a round-trip on the sub-500 mile route, though you can save money by flying into JFK (keep in mind that less regional flights fly here, though), and by purchasing far in advance. Inflight amenities include complimentary drinks as well as a paid wifi service if you subscribe.
Check-In and Security: 25 minutes
Boarding: 30 minutes
Flight Time, include taxiing: 1.75 hours
Travel into the city: 45 minutes
Total travel time: 3 hours, 25 minutes
Is train travel better?
Amtrak’s high-speed service, the Acela Express, gets you from Washington Union Station to New York Penn Station in 2 hours, 45 minutes, door to door. Their regional service gets you there in about 3.25 hours. The Acela costs about $100-300 each-way, and their regional, slower service can sometimes cost as little as $30–a fare which you can find several times throughout the year, or on extremely early morning morning departures.
The major benefit of the train is that there’s no security or check-in process. Simply download your ticket onto your Smartphone or print it at a kiosk and you’re all set. You keep your bags with you so there’s no checked bag process and you board directly from the gate or station platform. Trains are equipped with free wi-fi, too, so you can stay productive and entertained throughout your journey. Plus, you can use your cell phone the whole time.
The train puts you right in the center of the city upon arrival, whereas flying drops you at an airport outside the city. Plus, flying has many moving parts that could delay your journey and put you in major traffic. Trains don’t go through an air traffic control process, so there are less “on the ground delays”. If you’re traveling between Washington and New York, Amtrak owns the tracks, so trains aren’t usually delayed by passing freighter trains, which can be an issue in other parts of the country.
If staying productive is important to you, you’ll actually find traveling by train better, since you can stay connected throughout the trip for free – which is important to both leisure and business travelers alike. With city center to city center routing, you don’t have to worry about fighting rush-hour traffic escaping the airport, and the potential for endless security lines, sometimes even for passengers lucky enough to have Pre-Check.
Jamie Larounis is an avid traveler, blogger and miles/points educator. Traveling well over 100,000 miles a year and staying in hotels for over 100 nights, he leverages miles, points and other deals to fly in first class cabins, and stay in 5-star hotels. His blog, The Forward Cabin, shares his experiences, musings, reviews, tips, tricks, resources and industry news with you, the fellow traveler. Today, in addition to writing The Forward Cabin, Jamie also supports the Frequent Traveler University, a Frequent Traveler Education Foundation project, as a member of their organizing staff where he’s spoken in-depth on the loyalty programs and operations of Amtrak and American Airlines. You’ll also find Jamie as an expert award trip booker with Award Magic, helping clients to redeem frequent flyer miles across a wide variety of reward programs and airlines. Among several media spotlights, he’s spoken at the New York Times Travel Show, written for InsideFlyer, Road Warrior Voices/USA Today, 1000TravelTips.com, the official content platform for the Travel and Adventure Shows, and makes regular guest appearances as a featured expert discussing the travel industry on FOX News.