Amtrak, Continental Enter Code-Sharing Partnership

WASHINGTON -- Amtrak and Continental Airlines are launching a partnership that will allow travelers in four Northeastern cities to book train and air trips with one call, reports a wire service.

Beginning in mid-March, travelers between Newark International Airport and four cities -- Philadelphia; Wilmington, Del.; and Stamford and New Haven, Conn. -- can book train travel to and from the airport as part of their flight reservation.

Continental will assign its airline designator code to trips on Amtrak's Acela Regional and Keystone trains, making them part of a traveler's integrated itinerary.

Amtrak, which last fall began serving a new station at Newark Airport, and Continental, which operates a hub at the airport, say the code-sharing arrangement will treat the public to “seamless” travel.

“Travelers will be able to use Amtrak's frequent Northeast Corridor rail service and Continental's coast-to-coast air service to easily reach the destination of their choice,” said Amtrak president George Warrington.

The companies say the four year air-rail arrangement is the nation's first.

Continental President Larry Kellner predicted that up to 500 travelers each day will use Amtrak to reach flights out of Newark. Continental offers nearly 300 departures each day from Newark.

Continental last fall eliminated its short connector flights from Philadelphia to Newark. Travelers now can choose among 17 trains connecting Philadelphia and Newark Airport each weekday.

Code-share tickets can be purchased through Continental or from a travel agent.

Also under the agreement, members of Continental's frequent-flier program, OnePass, can earn miles when traveling on Amtrak's premier Metroliner and Acela Express trains between New York and either Boston or Washington.

Members of the OnePass program and Amtrak's Guest Rewards program will be able to exchange points and miles.

This won't be the first time Amtrak and Continental have worked together. Under a long-standing agreement, Amtrak automatically accommodates Continental passengers who are stuck at the Newark airport because of bad weather or other circumstances.

The agreement comes at an uneasy time for Amtrak, the nation's sole provider of intercity passenger train service, which has lost money each year for its three-decade existence.

A federal oversight panel voted last week to recommend that Congress open the nation's intercity rail system to competition. Supporters of Amtrak say the federal government has overlooked and underfunded passenger rail.

Warrington said the new agreement with Continental shows there is opportunity to grow passenger rail.

“We're in this for the long haul, and business goes on,”he said.