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Business Class differences?

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Sidney

Service Attendant
Joined
Jul 12, 2020
Messages
198
I am on the Coast Starlight in business class. A little more room and only amenity is a bottle of water. There used to be a voucher from the cafe car. Not any more. Later this week I'll be on the Lake Shore from Chicago to Albany. You get one free alcoholic beverage and unlimited soft drinks. Glad I had the upgrade coupon. It certainly isn't worth $42 more from Pdx to Mtz
 

Amtrakfflyer

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Feb 2, 2005
Messages
497
On the positive side you get a 25% bonus on AGR points for business class travel.

Which brings up one of my biggest pet peeves of AGR, 25% bonus for business class, 50% for Acela first, and ZERO for sleeper travel. Just another way Amtrak gives the middle finger to sleeper passengers that are paying big bucks.


From Amtrak.com:

  • Amtrak Travel
  • Earn 2 points per $1 spent, and a 25% point bonus for Business class travel and 50% for Acela First class
 

20th Century Rider

Conductor
Joined
Jan 26, 2020
Messages
1,315
Location
Oregon Coast
I am on the Coast Starlight in business class. A little more room and only amenity is a bottle of water. There used to be a voucher from the cafe car. Not any more. Later this week I'll be on the Lake Shore from Chicago to Albany. You get one free alcoholic beverage and unlimited soft drinks. Glad I had the upgrade coupon. It certainly isn't worth $42 more from Pdx to Mtz
According to the Amtrak website as of today, January 18, 2021; you are entitled to a complementary food voucher which can be used in the Cafe car... on the Coast Starlight. This is disturbing... there is only one Amtrak and there is only one Coast Starlight train. Questions need to be asked. Below is a screenshot of the Amtrak site as of today! :oops:

Screen Shot 2021-01-18 at 4.14.41 PM.png
 

20th Century Rider

Conductor
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Jan 26, 2020
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Oregon Coast
Amtrak business class is a very very mixed up bag of 'anything goes' possibilities... depends on who's traveling, number traveling, the service attendant, and what route you are on. This is one of many areas where Amtrak falls waaaaay short!

 

crescent-zephyr

Conductor
Joined
Oct 21, 2015
Messages
3,163
Business class can be absolutely nothing, like on the Acela.

It can be 1 free non-alcoholic drink and lounge access on Chicago bound trains.

It can be a large snack box and free drinks including achohol on Pacific Surfliner.

It includes a pillow on the Carolinian.

It’s such a mess...
 

me_little_me

Conductor
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Jul 16, 2010
Messages
3,658
Amtrak business class is a very very mixed up bag of 'anything goes' possibilities... depends on who's traveling, number traveling, the service attendant, and what route you are on. This is one of many areas where Amtrak falls waaaaay short!
Perfect description of Amtrak onboard service in general. You never know what you are going to get and each and every employee sets his/her own rules and management refuses to do anything about it.
 

20th Century Rider

Conductor
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Jan 26, 2020
Messages
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Location
Oregon Coast
Business class can be absolutely nothing, like on the Acela.

It can be 1 free non-alcoholic drink and lounge access on Chicago bound trains.

It can be a large snack box and free drinks including achohol on Pacific Surfliner.

It includes a pillow on the Carolinian.

It’s such a mess...
Right! It needs to be consistent... along with so many other wide and varied issues involving Amtrak. That's why it comes down to more focused and more pro active and pro-passenger management.

That Amtrak is such a mish mash of so many different ideas when it comes to business class and services only diminishes overall quality and reliability.

Where's the leadership... oh, where's the leadership??? :rolleyes: 🤪
 

fdaley

Service Attendant
Joined
Jan 25, 2020
Messages
140
The Pacific Surfliner business class is impressive, with substantial snack packs and complimentary wine. And when I booked business class one time on the Downeaster, the cafe attendant took our (nonalcoholic) drink orders and delivered those to our seats (plus food, if we wanted) before we left North Station, which seemed like a really nice service after a day of hoofing it around Boston.

Most of the other routes where I've tried it, business class means a bigger, cushier seat, usually with a leg rest, and a 1-and-2 seating arrangement, plus the complimentary soft drinks, though you have to seek those out yourself. On the Wolverine, as of 2018, business class still included a complimentary New York Times -- a perk that had disappeared in the Northeast a few years earlier.

On the Empire Service trains, even the beverages aren't included on most trains, as there's no cafe on the trains originating/terminating at Albany. My worst business class scores go to Northeast Regional (except 66/67) and the Pennsylvanian, where the cars used were standard Amfleet 1 coaches without leg rests. On those trains, the only thing you're getting is the free soft drink (which doesn't even include all of the nonalcoholic drinks on the cafe menu) and the benefit, if there is one, of sitting with a bunch of other people who paid extra for no real reason.
 
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PVD

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On most NER you would usually see an AM-1 BC car as opposed to AM-1 Coaches. seats a bit further apart, and curtains.
 

fdaley

Service Attendant
Joined
Jan 25, 2020
Messages
140
I don't recall curtains, so perhaps that car wasn't available the day I booked it, or else the difference in leg room was too subtle for me to notice. It really didn't seem any different from regular coach, and consequently I never booked a biz class seat on Northeast Regional again -- except on 66, which I discovered had the better seats.

The Pennsylvanian I tried more recently -- just before the pandemic -- but again I didn't find any discernible difference from a regular coach. I did get early boarding at NYP, though.
 

20th Century Rider

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Sometimes business class on Amtrak is obvious, and sometimes it is about 'deception.' I.E. if you've paid more, you may think you're getting more... although after boarding the 'upgrade' turns out to be the same seat and the same everything else.

But if they've put you in that 'state of mind...' you gotta applaud management for such creative deceptive 'financial extraction!'

So... ya all... parachute down to earth and before you shell out more $$$ for a business class upgrade, be sure you can count on and justify what you're getting for the extra dollars being handed over. The review below isn't reflective of all Amtrak business class products... because business class on Amtrak is inconsistent and inconsistently value worthy. :oops: :rolleyes:

 

PVD

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should be around 10 less seats, but on the short hauls, even the AM-1 coach is usually plenty of room. More than anything , certain times of day those curtains are pretty handy. The restuffed and covered seats are pretty decent on both cars. The Penn generally has a few AM-2 LD coaches in its consist, they would have leg rests, curtains, slightly larger windows, along with an AM-1 coach and an AM-1 BC car. The AM-2 is probably nicer than the BC car.
 

PVD

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In many cases it's not the car or amenities, it's all about who else is in the car with you. When I was still working, I used to try for BC on Empire Trains, not for the better seat, as much as the ability to work with less distractions and disturbances. Nobody walking through, and direct access to the cafe. (I usually was on 281 or 283 so there was service) Coming home on Sunday, I'd usually just go coach.
 

MARC Rider

Conductor
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Messages
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Baltimore. MD
Business class doesn't need to be consistent across the entire Amtrak system, all it needs to be is better than coach class on the same train.

This is true of airlines, too. Last year (before the virus), my Dad flew out to the west coast to visit my sister. Since he turned 90, he's decided to spring for first class. His outbound flight had a lie-flat seat cubicle, even though it was just a 6-hour transcontinental flight. His eastbound flight had a (very roomy) reclining seat. He didn't say too much about the food service, except that, of course, he was served a meal, unlike the poor suckers in coach. So even with the airlines, first class isn't always the same product.

In general, Amtrak business class is superior to the coach class on the same train:
My experience in the east

Northeast regional -- BC has Amfleet 1 BC 2x2 car more legroom and window curtains. #65-66-67 have the 2x1 club seating with leg rests, though I think the leg rests are useless.
Carolinian, the same plus an attendant comes and hands out drinks. Except that means you can't get your free drink whenever you want in the cafe car, you have to wait until the attendant comes around.
Vermonter and Ethan Allen Express -- BC is the 2x1 club seating, coach are Amfleet 1 corridor coaches.
Pennsylvanian and Palmetto -- Amfleet 1 BC car, but Amfleet 2 coaches in the consist (along with Amfleet 1 coaches.)

The trains where BC is not substantially better than coach are the Pennsylvanian and Palmetto. Of course, if the Amfleet 2 coaches are all full, which happened to me once when I rode the Pennsylvanian, you'd be better in business class as compared to the available Amfleet 1 coaches. Nonetheless, I ride business class on the Palmetto, because (as least on Saturday northbound trains), the business class never fills up, and I get a seat pair to myself all the way from Savannah to Baltimore, whereas the coaches are packed.

I sure take advantage of the free coffee or soda, but but a free $2 coffee really isn't the reason why I'd upgrade. It's mostly for more space and a better chance of a seat to myself are the main reasons. The 25% AGR TQP bonus is also good.
 

bratkinson

OBS Chief
Joined
Aug 7, 2004
Messages
869
Location
QB 101
The apparent Business Class 'variety' is largely due to equipment availability and, in the case of the Pacific Surfliner, extra funding for BC by the State of California. Trying to run an Empire Service BC car (cafe w/half tables and half 2-1 seating) on a Superliner train is certainly a no go. And the 'idea' of BC on the Coast Starlight? Several years ago, during the stop at Jack London Square, I decided to stick my head in and see what it was. It's simply 'regular' Superliner coach seating on the lower level! Other than a free beverage, it's a complete waste of money unless one prefers the hopefully more quiet space without kids running up and down the aisle.

Living in New England, I decided to build a table of BC seating differences. My efforts were strictly measuring the distance from the front of the seat cushion to the back of the fully upright seat ahead with a tape measure. Here's what I found in no particular order:

NEC B/C 62/64 seat car 20”
NEC/EMP Svc/LD 18 seat/cafe 18” - IW 2-side = 19” (? gap to wall) / 1-side = 20” (5” gap to wall)
Amfleet II seat LD coach 22”
Superliner Seat LD coach 24”
Pacific Surfliner BC 24” (on 1 side) 19” (on 2 side)
Horizon MKE-CHI 14”
NEC Coach (recent redo) 12”

I'm sure I measured both Acela BC and FC but somehow, that measurement got lost. As I recall, it was 18" for both. The difference in BC was 'wider' seats and 2-1 arrangement.

But why the uproar on railfan web sites? I'd surmise that we railfans consitute less than 0.0001% of the total number of Amtrak passengers. As such, I'd postulate that less than 0.001% of 'normal' Amtrak BC passengers have never ridden on more than 1 BC-equipped route. IE, Empire Service BC passengers don't go beyond NYP, and Surfliner passengers don't ride trains other than the Surfliner. In short, they don't know anything except but what they've personally experienced.

Airlines, on the other hand, don't have a captive audience like Amtrak has. So there's competition between them of how to get extra high margin revenue from a 'business class' passenger vs what the competitor(s) do. I haven't flown in 9 years and only rarely the prior 11. But I'd guess that with the 'push' by all businesses to cut costs to the bone, competing alrlines are faced with how cheaply can they get their liquor vs improving the customer experience. The disappearance of anything 'free' on board proves they're more focused on the almighty bottom line than anything quality.
 

crescent-zephyr

Conductor
Joined
Oct 21, 2015
Messages
3,163
This is true of airlines, too. Last year (before the virus), my Dad flew out to the west coast to visit my sister. Since he turned 90, he's decided to spring for first class. His outbound flight had a lie-flat seat cubicle, even though it was just a 6-hour transcontinental flight.
He most likely bought two different products (delta one vs. delta business class for example).
 

Sidney

Service Attendant
Joined
Jul 12, 2020
Messages
198
Three people total in BC from Pdx to Mtz on 11. Free coffee would have been nice. I asked about the food voucher. My attendant didn't know anything about it. At my stop in Martinez he wasn't downstairs to open the door. I had to do it myself...and BC was the last car on 11. I thought that car was just behind or ahead of the sightseer lounge. Needless to say,I'm glad I had the free upgrade. If I paid for it,I would have been pissed.
 

railiner

Conductor
Joined
Mar 20, 2009
Messages
8,893
Location
Palm Beach County
Amtrak business class is a very very mixed up bag of 'anything goes' possibilities... depends on who's traveling, number traveling, the service attendant, and what route you are on. This is one of many areas where Amtrak falls waaaaay short!

Business class can be absolutely nothing, like on the Acela.

It can be 1 free non-alcoholic drink and lounge access on Chicago bound trains.

It can be a large snack box and free drinks including achohol on Pacific Surfliner.

It includes a pillow on the Carolinian.

It’s such a mess...
Perhaps, instead of calling all these variation's "Business Class", Amtrak should bring back its first term for these extra fare seats, as "Custom Class"...then they could make it as 'custom' as they want on each route, with no apologies...😁
 
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