Return of the Friendly Skies (and Tracks)?

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Under considerable government pressure to improve their performance, two of the most maligned sectors of the transportation industry -- trains and airlines -- launched new charm offensives on Thursday. The federally subsidized national passenger train service, Amtrak, chose to take a direct route to the bottom line by unveiling a "travel right or your money back" offer. Announcing better customer service, improved food options and enhanced amenities on board, Amtrak president George Warrington pledged to offer dissatisfied train passengers a refund voucher starting later this year. Under pressure to become fully self-sufficient by 2003, Amtrak sees improved service as a way to increase passenger volume and rake in $85 million over the next three years.

While Amtrak tries to free itself from the government yoke, the airlines are trying to make sure that bureaucrats keep out of their business. The carriers, under a heavy congressional squeeze to address increasing customer complaints, on Thursday announced their long-awaited "passenger bill of rights." Among the measures: informing customers of the lowest available fares, better notification of delays and cancellations, prompt ticket refunds and better service. Congressional critics were encouraged but refused to give the airlines the all clear. "Legislators remain ready to move if this is not enough," says TIME business reporter Julie Rawe.