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.