Amtrak dining downgrades vs United Airlines upgrades

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SteveSTX

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While Amtrak is downgrading the dining options on the Silver Star, United Airlines (gosh I hate even typing that name!) has announced upgraded meal service for economy passengers on long-haul international flights.

Starting June 1, economy passengers will now receive three-course meals and free beer and wine.

Here's a link to their press release which includes menus:

http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/united-continues-upgrades-with-new-international-economy-meals-complimentary-beer-and-wine-300066355.html
 

seat38a

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While Amtrak is downgrading the dining options on the Silver Star, United Airlines (gosh I hate even typing that name!) has announced upgraded meal service for economy passengers on long-haul international flights.

Starting June 1, economy passengers will now receive three-course meals and free beer and wine.

Here's a link to their press release which includes menus:

http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/united-continues-upgrades-with-new-international-economy-meals-complimentary-beer-and-wine-300066355.html
Any upgrade is still 10000% inferior to Amtrak's downgraded meal options.
 

Swadian Hardcore

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But I don't think Amtrak offers meals with beer and wine included in the price of a coach ticket. Sleepers compare better to International Business Class or even International First. Lufthansa has a new First offering with a separate seat and a bed for each passenger. Many of the Asian airlines offer very good service as well.
 

zepherdude

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Well, I was on both Air France from Paris and Delta to Moscow and both airlines served wine with dinner, in addition to a soft drink. Both airlines served a soft dipping cheese with bread stix on a coach meal tray. Air France served a Beef Bouganonne with crusty french baggets and real butter. Delta served rubber chicken with a crappy pasta. Both trays had salad but Delta's came from "Bag O Salad" and no garnish. United must have just served a bread on bread sandwich with an apple on trans Atlantic flights. Both airlines served a pre-landing snack. Delta served cookies and Air France presented a Apricot French Pastry.

I have seen these perks come and go before. Enhanced meal service! They all screwed up when they removed food many years ago, just Amtrak is doing now. Airlines downgraded to save money in the domestic market. Every airline in Europe serves some sort fo inflight snack or meal. Passengers exepect a higher service and they receive it.

No matter what the airlines do, I think Amtrak is still superior on meal service. To me, nothing could be finer than to dine up in the diner. I have never had a bad meal on the train. Even the snack bar is good for what we get. Ok, so we lost the free stuff. So What? It was no longer cost effective, I understand that. People used to flock for free wine and cheese, of course, it was free and always packed with people. I went recenty and paid the $12 bucks and enjoyed the event, its only a small price to pay. Hardly no one was there but me and I am glad I attended. Wine was tasty and cheese was cheesy!

The train will always be superior to flying, unless one needs to be there now. I suspect United is blowing some smoke and getting attention. Lie flat seats are the big push now in business class.

Last evening I watched North by Northwest on TCM. The famous Broadway Limited where Cary Grant enjoyed his Gibson and the classic qoute from Eva Marie Saint stating the Trout was a little Trouty! The train will always be better, no matter with the lie flat seats or not. This is just my humble opinion. I felt like writing tonight and still going strong at 11:15 on the west coast. BTW, that compartment seemed huge, were they really that big?
 

jnismith

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In March, I flew United International Business from London to Washington and then took the Cardinal to Chicago and the CZ to San Francisco.

The best food by far was on United, in terms of quality, quantity and service. It was also better than BA business on the way back to London.

The food on the Cardinal was probably equivalent to airline Economy food. The CZ was better but not a patch on United.
 

Steve4031

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Well, I was on both Air France from Paris and Delta to Moscow and both airlines served wine with dinner, in addition to a soft drink. Both airlines served a soft dipping cheese with bread stix on a coach meal tray. Air France served a Beef Bouganonne with crusty french baggets and real butter. Delta served rubber chicken with a crappy pasta. Both trays had salad but Delta's came from "Bag O Salad" and no garnish. United must have just served a bread on bread sandwich with an apple on trans Atlantic flights. Both airlines served a pre-landing snack. Delta served cookies and Air France presented a Apricot French Pastry.

I have seen these perks come and go before. Enhanced meal service! They all screwed up when they removed food many years ago, just Amtrak is doing now. Airlines downgraded to save money in the domestic market. Every airline in Europe serves some sort fo inflight snack or meal. Passengers exepect a higher service and they receive it.

No matter what the airlines do, I think Amtrak is still superior on meal service. To me, nothing could be finer than to dine up in the diner. I have never had a bad meal on the train. Even the snack bar is good for what we get. Ok, so we lost the free stuff. So What? It was no longer cost effective, I understand that. People used to flock for free wine and cheese, of course, it was free and always packed with people. I went recenty and paid the $12 bucks and enjoyed the event, its only a small price to pay. Hardly no one was there but me and I am glad I attended. Wine was tasty and cheese was cheesy!

The train will always be superior to flying, unless one needs to be there now. I suspect United is blowing some smoke and getting attention. Lie flat seats are the big push now in business class.

Last evening I watched North by Northwest on TCM. The famous Broadway Limited where Cary Grant enjoyed his Gibson and the classic qoute from Eva Marie Saint stating the Trout was a little Trouty! The train will always be better, no matter with the lie flat seats or not. This is just my humble opinion. I felt like writing tonight and still going strong at 11:15 on the west coast. BTW, that compartment seemed huge, were they really that big?
Broadway limited????!!!! That was the twentieth century limited.
 

PRR 60

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Well, I was on both Air France from Paris and Delta to Moscow and both airlines served wine with dinner, in addition to a soft drink. Both airlines served a soft dipping cheese with bread stix on a coach meal tray. Air France served a Beef Bouganonne with crusty french baggets and real butter. Delta served rubber chicken with a crappy pasta. Both trays had salad but Delta's came from "Bag O Salad" and no garnish. United must have just served a bread on bread sandwich with an apple on trans Atlantic flights. Both airlines served a pre-landing snack. Delta served cookies and Air France presented a Apricot French Pastry.

I have seen these perks come and go before. Enhanced meal service! They all screwed up when they removed food many years ago, just Amtrak is doing now. Airlines downgraded to save money in the domestic market. Every airline in Europe serves some sort fo inflight snack or meal. Passengers exepect a higher service and they receive it.

No matter what the airlines do, I think Amtrak is still superior on meal service. To me, nothing could be finer than to dine up in the diner. I have never had a bad meal on the train. Even the snack bar is good for what we get. Ok, so we lost the free stuff. So What? It was no longer cost effective, I understand that. People used to flock for free wine and cheese, of course, it was free and always packed with people. I went recenty and paid the $12 bucks and enjoyed the event, its only a small price to pay. Hardly no one was there but me and I am glad I attended. Wine was tasty and cheese was cheesy!

The train will always be superior to flying, unless one needs to be there now. I suspect United is blowing some smoke and getting attention. Lie flat seats are the big push now in business class.

Last evening I watched North by Northwest on TCM. The famous Broadway Limited where Cary Grant enjoyed his Gibson and the classic qoute from Eva Marie Saint stating the Trout was a little Trouty! The train will always be better, no matter with the lie flat seats or not. This is just my humble opinion. I felt like writing tonight and still going strong at 11:15 on the west coast. BTW, that compartment seemed huge, were they really that big?
Broadway limited????!!!! That was the twentieth century limited.
Had they taken the Broadway Limited, the trout would have been perfect! :)
 

jis

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In March, I flew United International Business from London to Washington and then took the Cardinal to Chicago and the CZ to San Francisco.

The best food by far was on United, in terms of quality, quantity and service. It was also better than BA business on the way back to London.

The food on the Cardinal was probably equivalent to airline Economy food. The CZ was better but not a patch on United.
In my experience United international Business First food service is categorically better than Amtrak Sleeper food in quality, quantity, variety and presentation, though IMHO they could add a 5th entree choice to make it even better. Of course booze is free on United and not on Amtrak, and there is absolutely no haggling about how many cans of soft drink can be had, well of course can is an undefined term there, you get it in real glassware. The clear additional things are the nuts, appetizer and of course the ice cream sundae prepared with your favorite topping right in front of you, plus the fruit and cheese with after dinner drinks. And throughout the meal you can get as much bread of five different varieties as you wish.

On the longer flights I also like the midflight sandwich, dessert, cheese and fruits buffet that is laid out for anyone to use whenever they want.

In international Coach food is adequate, probably at par with Amtrak diner, though overall quantity is perhaps a little less. It is a pre-plated meal served in a single shot on a tray, unlike in BF, where each stage of the menu is served separately, using a dinner setting on tablecloth, and real thick cloth napkin and heavy silverware (three sets of fork and knife and two spoons) are provided. One nice touch is that the cloth napkin has a buttonhole in one corner so that you can hang it off of your shirt to protect it while you are eating.

I guess I will get to experience the enhanced international Coach fare in June on my business trip to Berlin, unless I manage to wangle an upgrade. The Newark - Tegel flight this summer is an international 767-300. I will be happy to report back after that.

Frankly, United hit rock bottom immediately following the merger. Since then they have been improving in measured steps. They still have ways to go before they become anything like the East Asian airlines though. They should be caught up with most Europeans pretty soon and are probably better than some already.

While Amtrak is downgrading the dining options on the Silver Star, United Airlines (gosh I hate even typing that name!) has announced upgraded meal service for economy passengers on long-haul international flights.

Starting June 1, economy passengers will now receive three-course meals and free beer and wine.

Here's a link to their press release which includes menus:

http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/united-continues-upgrades-with-new-international-economy-meals-complimentary-beer-and-wine-300066355.html
Any upgrade is still 10000% inferior to Amtrak's downgraded meal options.
Wait! Since when does Amtrak provide free food in Coach? So clearly even without upgrade the food in international Economy is better since any food is better than no food.

The thing that Amtrak Coach passengers have going for them is that they can buy meals in the Diner. The United Economy food is better than the fare one gets in Amtrak Cafe in my experience.

IMHO the Amtrak Diner fare was slightly better than the pre-upgrade food in international Economy. After the upgrade United will probably be better in terms of what is available in the package, though not in terms of variety of entree yet.
 
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Bob Dylan

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Since I've only taken flights on domestic airlines ( Alaska Airlines AUS-SEA in First and SWA AUS- CHI in Cattle Class) and International flights twice each in the past year,( United AUS- London in Bizfirst and Air Canada to Toronto in Coach) my sample size is small when it comes to airlines food.

My rail experiences have consisted of many trips of various types on Amtrak and VIA rail.

The food on the airlines that offered it ( SWA had free pretzels and soft drinks) was OK with Alaska Airlines having the best by far! The United food and snacks were comparable to what the best Airlines used to offer in Coach in the Golden era of flight! ( I'm a retired million mile flyer)

When it comes to rail, by far my best meals were served on the Canadian between Vancouver and Toronto! The best short haul food was on VIA One ( similar to Acela FC) between Toronto and Montreal with Acela FC in second place!)

The best food I had on an Amtrak LD train, believe it or not, was on the Texas Eagle between CHI and AUS!!!! There are some good chefs and LSAs on that route! ( some bad ones too!!)

I never purchase the junk food on offer in Amtrak cafes with the exception of the Downeaster, Pacific Surfliners and the Cascade trains which are much better in quality and price than Amtrak's National Mcfood offerings @ high prices!

Just one persons opinion based on limited samples. I enjoy reading everyones opinions and experiences while traveling, and will look forward to updates as this saga continues to unfold and as Carol Burnett used to say, " As the Stomach Turns!"
 

JoeBas

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IMHO the Amtrak Diner fare was slightly better than the pre-upgrade food in international Economy. After the upgrade United will probably be better in terms of what is available in the package, though not in terms of variety of entree yet.
Traveling in Y on UA IAH-LHR on Sunday, I'll have to provide a completely biased comparison report after the return.
 

jis

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It would be good to get a pre-upgrade report. As I said I believe it is slightly inferior to Amtrak Diner, mainly because of lack of free booze,and lack of the third course.
 

JoeBas

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Last TATL on UA for me was October '13 IAH-FRA RT, food was very "TV Dinner" style. I'm hoping this is better than that was, but not expecting it.

I'll have another IAH-FRA or IAH-MUC connecting to LH OSL/BGO coming up in October, with a HOS-PHI train trip between, so fresh pre-and-post UA upgrade and current summer AMTK fare should provide a good comparison basis.
 

MikefromCrete

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We're comparing international flights vs. domestic Amtrak travel. Wouldn't it be better to compare domestic airlines vs. Amtrak. Since I only fly on Southwest, my latest food service was a can of pop, some peanuts and snack crackers. Still included in the price of the ticket, though.
 

greatcats

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Mr. Hudson- I thought that line was applied to soap operas: " As the Stomach Churns. ". Anybody have comments on the quality of Amtrak food on trains to Europe and Asia?
 

jis

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We're comparing international flights vs. domestic Amtrak travel. Wouldn't it be better to compare domestic airlines vs. Amtrak. Since I only fly on Southwest, my latest food service was a can of pop, some peanuts and snack crackers. Still included in the price of the ticket, though.
I tend to compare based on length of time that is involved. I don't consider a 5 hour domestic flight a comparable experience to a 2.5 day train trip, just because their origin and destination cities are the same. I would generally compare a five hour air trip to a five hour rail trip.

The only way to get an apples to apples comparison of an Amtrak Sleeper travel is to compare it with an international flight, since those are the only ones that provide "sleeper" service. Well there are some premium domestic services too that offer that like the Untied p.s. service between JFK and LAX, where the service is pretty close to international service.

A typical two hour flight should be compared with a two hour train ride say on the Regional or Acela. Actually Acela FC comes out ahead because you are guaranteed a meal. Most domestic airlines will not serve a full meal even in FC on a two hour flight unless it spans a meal time these days. OTOH in Coach most airlines that even serve any free drinks come out ahead since such is not the case in Amtrak Coach.
 
G

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I would be careful comparing domestic Amtrak service to intercontinental airline service. Obviously, intercontinental airline service meets a much higher standard than domestic.

Typical domestic standards, except for premium transcontinental flights, are for there to be only complimentary soft drinks in coach, with food for purchase, or possibly a complimentary very light snack, such as a small bag of peanuts. In domestic first class, the standard is for complimentary alcoholic beverages and also a complimentary meal on sufficiently long flights taking place during a meal time. Domestic airline service standards in first class are in a rapid race to the bottom; for example, I flew DFW-BWI (Dallas to Baltimore) last week in first on the "New American" during the dinner hour and was offered a shelf-stable bagged sandwich from a bin as the complimentary meal.

I would suggest that the current domestic airline first class standards and trends are very consistent with the changes we are seeing on Amtrak sleeper class service, in my experience.

Guest
 

OlympianHiawatha

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Keep in mind Meal Service on airlines is a variable used to attract passengers, as there is competition from other airlines. In the case of Amtrak, there is only 1 Amtrak; so if you want to take the train or have to take the train, you have no other choice. If we go back pre-Amtrak, then we saw "high on the hog" Dining Car Service on the rails because there was competition-do I take the Santa Fe or the Burlington?

Smart airline management will offer as many "perks" as possible without killing the bottom line, as in the long run, that will attract more customers and add to the profits. But then again the airlines don't have Congress sniffing over their shoulders.
 

dlagrua

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The topic of this post comes down to two questions.

Do you best attract the passenger paying the highest sleeper fare (the core of the profit) by giving them more or by cheaping out?

Do amenities please the customer, are beneficial for marketing and allow Amtrak to better sell tickets?

Amtrak is in the business to sell tickets. Higher sales usually result when you offer a better meals and amenities which premium customers pay for and IMO have every right to deserve.
 

Devil's Advocate

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Every airline in Europe serves some sort fo inflight snack or meal. Passengers exepect a higher service and they receive it.
This is not even remotely true. Some of the most barebones airlines in the world ply numerous European routes.

In international Coach food is adequate, probably at par with Amtrak diner, though overall quantity is perhaps a little less.
The last airline to provide meals on domestic coach tickets was CO and they struggled to reach cafe car quality. Today there are hundreds of international flights with no food provided in coach. On TPAC/TATL flights meal service of some sort is still free included but generally of really poor quality, at least in my experience. Amtrak diners still beat the pants off ever airline coach meal I've ever had.

Last TATL on UA for me was October '13 IAH-FRA RT, food was very "TV Dinner" style. I'm hoping this is better than that was, but not expecting it. I'll have another IAH-FRA or IAH-MUC connecting to LH OSL/BGO coming up in October, with a HOS-PHI train trip between, so fresh pre-and-post UA upgrade and current summer AMTK fare should provide a good comparison basis.
After several frustrating trips through IAH I've started intentionally avoiding it for use with international flights. I currently have DEN-NRT, KIX-SFO, IAD-MUC, and NRT-SFO in the UA queue. Normally I just get something at the airport and take it with me but maybe I'll keep an eye out to see what if anything changes on board.

long-haul international flights.
I'm jealous. That's an experience I've never had and doubt I ever will. Last time I flew South West ABQ-SAN we each got one tiny bag of pretzels.
In the case of international coach travel you're really not missing much. As much as we talk about this or that airline being better or worse in reality they're all pretty similar in coach. I say this having flown something like twenty different airlines so far. These days even flights to Canada and Mexico aren't much different from domestic flights except for the paperwork. The true experience is at the other end of an intercontinental flight when you're off the aircraft, out of the airport, and actively exploring another culture far away from your home.
 

Seaboard92

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I find the Deutsche Bahn diners to actually be worse then the amtrak diners. I think they have a poor selection of drinks and food. And usually not enough tables. Their best diner is on a ICE 1 train set. The diner is the only thing I think DB does wrong mind you. And their chocolate cake is much better then Amtrak's. I'm stocking up this summer on their trains
 

JoeBas

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After several frustrating trips through IAH I've started intentionally avoiding it for use with international flights. I currently have DEN-NRT, KIX-SFO, IAD-MUC, and NRT-SFO in the UA queue. Normally I just get something at the airport and take it with me but maybe I'll keep an eye out to see what if anything changes on board.
Well when you live in Houston and are traveling internationally... you don't have a lot of options. LOL
 

jis

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DB at least has almost passable Diners. Can't say that about SNCF specially on the TGVs anymore. Haven't recently seen how the food served at your seat in First Class is. The food in Eurostar First Class was pretty good the last time I was on it a couple of years back. I might try it again on the Friday after Thanksgiving this year.
 
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Seaboard92

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Now ÖBB from my last trip had amazing dining cars. Fast, efficient, and a good selection. And the new train the Railjet is awesome.
 

jis

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I really enjoyed the OBB run Eurocities several years back. I did Munich to Vienna and and then Vienna to Zurich via Leichtenstein. I think the name of the Eurocity back then was Maria Theresia.
 
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