Passengers or Customers?

Just returned from a train journey to London which posed a few interesting questions. First, the possible loss of the word passenger from the English language in favour of customer. (We’re even called customers on the Underground.) It seems to me that a customer buys a commodity, and a passenger pays for a service which involves travel. It’s a campaign I’ll have to resuscitate, having already had correspondence on the subject with the now defunct GNER.

It’s interesting too to compare first class with the rest. This time, being lucky enough to be given a first class ticket, I could compare the two. The first class coach was full of business men talking importantly (and loudly) about deals and presentations, or men in suits nervously jiggling one leg and playing electronic games. I was the only person reading a book in the entire coach.

I actually think the quiet coach in standard class is more civilised: no silly mobile phone conversations, no noisy ill-behaved children. Free food and drink is provided thoughout the journey, and there is a quiet coach in first class, but I wonder if the additional cost is worth it.

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