Business Class Comes to Three Overnight Trains.
When it comes to Business Class on Amtrak, what you get varies from train to train. Sometimes you’ll have a 2-and-1 seating configuration and leather seats; on another train it’s 2-and-2 upholstered seating. Sometimes a complimentary newspaper is part of the deal; sometimes not. The two constants seem to be a free nonalcoholic beverage and fewer passengers around you. At any rate, with that as a kind of disclaimer, I will report that Business Class is now available on two of Amtrak’s overnight trains, with one more to be added in a couple of weeks.
The Coast Starlight (daily between L.A. and Seattle) was the first overnight train to have Business Class added. I have not yet had an opportunity to check it out personally—that will come next month on my way back from the NARP meetings in Washington—but another of our members has pronounced it “not bad”. The seating is up graded, you get a free non-alcoholic drink, and you have access to the Pacific Parlour Car, although only for the wine and cheese tasting. The price difference is reasonable, too: a mere $30 bump for the eight hour ride from Seattle to Eugene, for example.
Next, Amtrak introduced Business Class with basically the same perks to The Cardinal, operating overnight three days a week between New York and Chicago via Charlottesville, Cincinnati and Indianapolis. There was one bizarre occurrence during the Business Class launch: the famous Greenbrier Resort in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, caused a minor stir when they posted information about the new service on their web site and gave the impression it was a “private car”, which some interpreted as being exclusively for their guests. Well, no . . . not hardly.
And then, just a matter of a few days ago, Amtrak announced that, beginning April 1st, Business Class will be available on The Crescent, the daily train running overnight between New Orleans and New York City.
I must say that Business Class on one of those overnight trains would seem to make more sense for shorter segments … from Philadelphia to Charlottesville, for instance. Or from Los Angeles to San Luis Obispo. Would you want to travel overnight in Business Class instead of coach on the Crescent from New Orleans to New York City? I picked a date in mid-July at random and that would cost $230, which is $106 more than a standard coach seat. Personally, I’m not sure a leather covered seat and couple of free cans of Pepsi is worth that much additional cost. And either way, you’ll be sitting up all night in a chair. If you’re going to spend that much for Business Class, you might as well pop for another $157 and get a roomette. You’ll have privacy, a bed to sleep in, and all your dining car meals included in the fare. Bottom line: there’s just no substitute for a sleeper. That’s travel; everything else is just transportation.
I upgraded to business class on my way home from Eugene or. Worth every penny we had the car to ourself, so quiet at night the back car was so full. Mom with 2 kids that are respectful and just slept. They enjoyed their $7 voucher for a snack and food. Also got as much water bottles as we wanted. Down stairs there was full leather seating up stairs was their normal clothes seats.
I travel Business Class on the Amtrak Cascades trains all the time, and it’s usually the way to go. I travel from Mt. Vernon to Seattle. I have traveled the Starlight many many times, and have a trip in the planning stages right now. I played around on the website and thought of booking Business Class for the SEA-PDX portion, then sleeper from PDX-LAX. It was kind of a pain, and ended up being $45 higher than the cost of just leaving SEA in a sleeper to begin with. Perhaps I’ll just book the sleeper, then once on-board, I’ll take myself on a walking tour and just go see the Business Class section.
Just boarded the Starlight here in LA. Business class has a car to itself, at least on today’s train! The lower level has the upgraded 2-and-2 leather seats, while the upper level still has the usual upholstered Superliner coach seats. Our attendant confirmed we do have access to the Parlour car for the length of our trip.
I haven’t been on the Starlight in a year (I’ll be onboard in a few weeks, and I did book business class to check it out), but my understanding is a little different than what you posted.
I wasn’t aware of “upgraded” seating, unless “upgraded” means being separate from the “unwashed masses” of coach… last I heard, they are just using the standard superliner coaches (2-and-2 upholstered seats and all), with business class reserving the lower-level section of one car, or an entire coach when demand and equipment allow.
The “free drink” is in fact two bottles of water and a $6 voucher to use in the café, diner, or PPC… well, it almost buys a Bloody Mary.
As for access to the PPC itself, I called and asked an agent before I booked – she said access is now unlimited, not just for the wine tasting.
(You forgot to mention lounge access for business class passengers – on the Starlight, that’s at Los Angeles… and, I would assume, Portland, but the website only mentions LA.)
Well, crap! I hate it when this happens … although I guess, in a way, it proves the point that it’s hard to know for sure what you’re going to get. Many thanks for the update. I spoke with one of the reservations people and misinterpreted an email from a NARP member who rode #14 a few weeks ago. Many thanks for the update.
Unfortunately when I went to the Parlour car I was turned away. The LSA says we have access for bar service and wine tasting only. This contradicts what I was initially told by our attendant, as well as what I was told by the phone representative I spoke with prior to booking!
That can’t possibly be more frustrating. I will see what I can find out on this end and, in the meantime, if you haven’t been able to et it straightened out there to your satisfaction, call Amtrak’s reservations number (1-800-USA-RAIL) and ask them to connect you with Customer Relations. They should be able to give you the correct information. . . one way or the other. What a bummer!
Fortunately for Amtrak, my frustration with this incident has been preempted by frustration over my car being broken into while I was away. :)
I do think keeping the Parlour Car as a sleeper-only perk makes sense (low capacity) and keeps it special – especially if business class is going to run an entire car, not just 12 seats. But that’s not what I had been told. It’s a bad sign to me not only that Amtrak’s own published information is unclear, but that two different employees both gave me incorrect information when I asked for clarification. If this is something Amtrak is pushing and expects them to sell (and they do – one of the crew made an announcement over the PA giving coach passengers the opportunity to upgrade, and the Metropolitan Lounge attendant even had an “Ask Me About Coast Starlight Business Class” button – maybe I should have?), they need to educate their employees on what, exactly, they are selling. Setting expectations is Customer Service 101 – and when that phone attendant put me on hold last month to verify that she was, in fact, getting me the correct information, I did expect I’d be able to enjoy the Parlour Car today.
That said: I’ll probably upgrade again next time if I’m not riding overnight. The added quiet alone makes it worthwhile, and that $6 coupon does offset the cost a little. And maybe – just maybe – I’ll even try going to the Parlour Car again (for bar service only, of course) for one of their world-famous olive-free Bloody Marys.
I’ll still be writing a letter though.