Travel notes: Will Amtrak Joe ride to the rescue?; The Max is back; Southwest adds cities; Food deliveries to your Philly departure gate

Biden checking out a locomotive. Photo courtesy of Amtrak.

With the presidential election victory of “Amtrak Joe” Biden, hopes are rising that rail travel will get a lifeline during the pandemic. It’s not every president-elect who has a train station (Wilmington) named in his honor.

A dogged supporter of the government-owned railroad known for taking the train home from D.C. after Senate sessions, Biden wants passenger rail to be part of his “Build Back Better” infrastructure plan.
Like its airline counterparts, Amtrak is bleeding cash with even holiday travel expected to be well below normal levels.
Biden faces daunting challenges that will include the likelihood of a Republican-controlled Senate and financial constraints that come with the debt that piled up from the first CARES Act.
Still, if Biden can cobble together support from Democrats as well as Republicans who want to preserve service to their respective states, he has a chance of adding to improvements that are already in the works – one example being the new Acela trainsets slated to make their debut on the Northeast Corridor.
While Northeast Corrido service was close to profitability before Covid-19, billions of dollars in projects are needed to deal with bottlenecks and crumbling infrastructure on D.C. to Boston route.
Southwest adds more airports.

Southwest Airlines Co.will offer four daily flights from Baltimore Washington Thurgood Marshall International Airport and Chicago O’Hare as well as service to Savannah, GA and Sarasota, FL.

This is in addition to frequent daily nonstops to Chicago Midway airport from BWI. Southwest has operated all Chicago service from Midway for 35 years.

Southwest saw an opening at the larger airport due to the pandemic and a desire to offer an option to business travelers who prefer O’Hare. Southwest will initially offer 20 daily flights from O’Hare.

During its more than three decades of service to Chicago, Southwest has grown to become Chicago Midway’s largest airline while also employing more than 4,800 People in the city.

Also added to the Southwest map for 2021 are Colorado Springs, Steamboat Springs, and Montrose (Telluride) in Colorado; George Bush Houston Intercontinental; and Savannah, GA.

The most recent addition is Sarasota, FL.Three daily roundtrip flights from BWI to Sarasota will begin on February 14. Two daily roundtrip flights to Savannah will launch on March 11.

The 737 Max is back

Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 MAX-8
(Ashlee D. Smith/Southwest Airlines)

The controversial Boeing 737 Max will return to less crowded skies.

The Federal Aviation Administration signed off on software and other improvements, 20 months after the aircraft was grounded following two overseas crashes that claimed more than 300 lives.

Both American Airlines, which has a hub at Philadelphia International Airport, and Southwest Airlines, the lead carrier at Baltimore-Washington will phase in their jets. Southwest, with fewer jets in the skies due to the pandemic, will wait until spring.

American willresume scheduled service with two flights a day — or one round trip from Miami to New York La Guardia — through‌ Jan.‌ 4. After that, the carrier will phase in more 737 MAX aircraft throughout January, with up to 36 departures from Miami depending on the day of the week.

Southwest noted that prior to the grounding, 40,000 flights and more than 89,000 flight hours were logged.

Passengers will be able to opt-out of Max flights without penalty.

Food deliveries to your gate at Philadelphia International

PHL Food & Shops, the concessions program at Philadelphia International Airport, is the first airport program in the U.S. tolaunch the integrated meal delivery service for passengers using the Grab mobile food ordering platform AtYourGate delivery service.

Passengers can now ordervarious items, including cheesesteaks and crab fries,from a mobile device and have their food deliveredto their location at the airport.

“The Grab Airport app featuring delivery byAtYourGateis not only convenient, but it also offers travelersand employeesanothersafe,contactless waytoorder food from some of the airport’s favorite restaurantsand receive it quickly,without having to wait in line,” said Megan O’Connell,marketing and customer servicemanager ofMarketPlacePHL.

Passengers can download theGrabappto their mobile device,, or scan Grab QR codes located throughout the airport.

The current list of participatingPHL Food & Shopsrestaurants includes Auntie Anne’s, Bar Symon, Bud & Marilyn’s, California Pizza Kitchen, Chickie’s & Pete’s (fourlocations), Dunkin’ (Concourse D & D/E Connector), Gachi, Geno’s, Jack Duggan’s, Jamba (twolocations), Piattino Pizza, Smashburger (threelocations), and Vino Volo.

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