Left Hand, Meet the Right Hand.
Amtrak has recently added Business Class to the Coast Starlight. Good. Another option for passengers. Uh … but bad … because there seems to be some lingering confusion as to what exactly you get for the extra cost.
The other day, one of our readers reported that he bought the upgrade after being told by Amtrak Reservations that a Business Class ticket on the Coast Starlight would entitle him to preferred seating and also allow him to enjoy the ambience of the Pacific Parlour Car for the duration of his trip. He was ticketed to board in Los Angeles, but I do not know where he was scheduled to leave the train. For the purpose of this report, however, that does not matter.
On the day of departure, he boarded the train and was delighted to find nice comfortable leather chairs on the lower level of a coach which was entirely reserved for Business Class passengers. He was also assured by the car attendant, who was wearing an “Ask Me About Coast Starlight Business Class” button, that he would have access to the Pacific Parlour Car for the duration of his trip.
Ah, but upon entering the parlor car, he was turned away by the attendant, who said that as a Business Class passenger, he would only be able to enjoy the parlor car for the wine tasting although he could purchase a drink at the bar. His email did not say if he would have been permitted to enjoy his drink in the parlor car or would have to return to his nice leather seat and drink it there.
I do think keeping the Parlour Car as a sleeper-only perk makes sense (low capacity) and keeps it special . . . 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.
How is it possible for this to happen? How can two on-board employees, working the same trip on one train, have a different understanding of what the Business Class perks are? It just shouldn’t be that hard! It is, however, discouraging.