Former Delta CEO Out As Head Of Amtrak

The New York Times first reported that former Delta Air Lines CEO Richard Anderson will step down as Amtrak CEO in favor of William Flynn, the former CEO of cargo and charter airline Atlas Air. Subsequently Amtrak confirmed the news.

The national railroad’s board of directors is expected to announce this week that William J. Flynn, the chairman and former chief executive of Atlas Air Worldwide, will succeed Richard Anderson as chief executive of Amtrak, according to people familiar with the decision.

Anderson brought changes to Amtrak aligning it more with airlines (in generally passenger-unfriendly ways).

Changes have been in service of a new strategy, focusing more on short trips rather than long ones that are better served by air and focusing on travel between large population centers. The ultimate goal has been to stem losses at the government train operator.

However most of the readouts on Anderson’s tenure will repeat the falsehood that Amtrak is covering almost all of its operatings costs and will be profitable in 2020. To accomplish this chicanery Amtrak counts government subsidies from states as ‘passenger revenue’ and excludes depreciation expenses (20% of total expenses).

In fact Amtrak’s 2019 losses are about 35 times greater than reported. In other words they inflate Amtrak’s revenue and ignore costs in a creative accounting scheme to make Amtrak look like a financially responsible operation.

Amtrak says that Anderson ‘completed his three year commitment’ to the train service made in July 2017, that Flynn will take over April 15, but that Anderson will remain as an advisor through end of year.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Well “tricky Dick” got it ! Gene is correct maybe AA will hire him now or better yet Greyhound

  2. Great news now we can only hope AA dumps their CEO liability
    and any new president Republican or Democrat even Mr Magoo

  3. So first Amtrak goes with airline ceo Richard Anderson and now they want a cargo airline ceo?
    This speaks to how they view their passengers.

  4. We didn’t need him to make passengers more miserable. Train travel should be enjoyable. Scenery you can’t see from a car, meeting strangers to tell stories, eating a meal while passing through different towns. Missing the traffic, road tolls, delays from accidents and bringing your own car on the Auto Train pays off in the end. All lines need refurbished trains and tacks. Bring rail travel up to the new century please.

  5. I’m pretty sure Amtrak was in a sorry state before both Trump and Obama. Sheesh, not everything has to be Red vs Blue. It’s been pretty bipartisan to allow rail service to become worse and worse in the US.

  6. Hmm, maybe I’m trying too hard to find a silver lining, but I’m actually intrigued – the new leader might bring a useful perspective here. A cargo guy is going to be all about reliable, on-time, efficient ops. Maybe he can speak the language of the freight railways who often cause Amtrak so many headaches with shared track. And who knows, in this era of new modalities of logistics, perhaps there are even some interesting revenue opportunities to be had – running high-value, small-format freight at passenger speeds (think legal documents running from NY to DC via Acela). No, this doesn’t immediately scream luxury service for the customer, but if he can built an operationally sound backbone, then they can go from there.

  7. I’m sure Amtrak’s heavily subsidized customers didn’t enjoy Anderson’s efforts to bring at least some efficiency to Amtrak, but perhaps Amtrak benefited (a little). Seems to me this train wreck (bada bing) of a railroad will continue with its long track record of fiscal irresponsibility.

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