18 Jan 2010
Seat reservation snag
I have almost never sat in the seat that had been reserved for me when I made my booking. There is usually some snag. It may be that there is no space for my luggage behind the seat. It may be that the so-called "window seat" is not a window seat at all but is adjacent to a bit of plastic or a curtain. It may be that the seat is right outside the toilet. Or it may be broken, or the window has steamed up inside the double glazing, or the people in the adjacent seats may be playing their music loud or are just rowdy.
A lot of other passengers seem think to think the same on this train between Cologne and Hamburg. Although more comfortable than a British train, people seem to be constantly changing places, as they find one to their taste and then someone else gets on with the reservation ticket for that seat and they have to move.
Part of the problem is due to bad rolling stock design but it is not necessary to reserve passengers into particular seats on particular trains. At the very most, there is a need to regulate the number of passengers travelling on particular trains at busy times, but there are simpler ways of doing it than by applying a tight reservation system requiring complex computer software.
Tight reservation systems are in any case wasteful. Some passengers book for journeys they fail to make for one reason or another and the seats they would have occupied go empty. In the aviation industry, these are referred to as "no shows". All that is necessary is to issue tickets for certain trains, allowing say, 10% more tickets than seats, on the safe assumption that not everyone with a ticket will be able to travel.