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.
Well, I didn’t mean with my comments yesterday to turn this incident into “a thing” – my intent was at first to clarify what was actually offered, which later turned into clarifying that things were still not all that clear. (And I hope I have not come across pinning blame on one employee or another – from my years in customer service, I avoid this as much as I can unless the employee, not the company, is clearly in the wrong.)
As a quick correction, it was the Metropolitan Lounge attendant who had the “ask me” button, not our car attendant.
I also neglected to mention we were all given pillows – a small perk, but a comfortable one.
My intent, in the follow-up to your comment, was to underscore the issue of poor communication from management to the rank-and-file employees. It’s a constant problem that crops up all the time. If you start a booking for the Coast Starlight on the Amtrak website, you have to click on “Business Class”, then click again on “Coast Starlight”in the middle of a long paragraph in order to get to additional verbiage where you learn that “Upon confirmation of space availability, Business Class passengers may request a reservation to enjoy our popular wine tastings in the Parlour Car (tasting fee applies).” It’s just not clear. And if the employees aren’t clear, the result will be unhappy or disappointed customers.