Is the Chicago lounge back in full operation yet?

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jebr

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If they can cut the standard of service and still make money, why shouldn't they? I suspect as time progresses, those who want quality service are going to have to pay through the nose, and most of us won't be able to afford it, and that's that.
I think it's going to depend on the amenity and situation. For airlines and such where there's relatively little competition, and leisure travel prioritized cost quite highly, I don't see that improving substantially - at best it'll go back to some sort sort of pre-pandemic lite service level.

For hotels I think it's a bit trickier. The biggest question is going to be whether certain amenities will get people to switch to their hotel over a different one. That would mean things like daily housekeeping may not come back or come back in a much reduced fashion, but things like breakfast may come back at leisure-oriented chains. Free breakfast is a selling point for a lot of leisure travelers, and I think some hotels will restore that and advertise it to win over travelers who value that.

As for the Amtrak lounge - pretty much depends on whether they think the lounge having food will win over business and sleeper passengers in a way that justifies the cost. It'll likely come back in some form (the fact that it's restored in many of the other lounges is promising) but hard to say what exactly that'll look like.
 

Sidney

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I know the food court is almost back to normal and it is easy access from the lounge,but it seems by now the food and drinks should be back. Every other Metropolitan/Acela lounge has food and drink offerings.
 

PerRock

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isit worthit then? also what extra do you get on the train?
Early boarding, extra space (I think all biz class out of Chicago is 2-1 seating), arguably more comfortable seats on the train, (a*) free non-alchoholic beverage on board.

*how many you get seems to be up to the car attendant. I've had some restrict you to 1, others you can have as much as you like, some you can have more but you have to sign your life away (ok you just sign a list). Even the service of getting your drink is random, most times you stand by the biz end of the car & they serve you as soon as they're finished with their current customer, other times (like the last time) I had to go stand in line with all the coach passengers.

peter
 

MARC Rider

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I think it's going to depend on the amenity and situation. For airlines and such where there's relatively little competition, and leisure travel prioritized cost quite highly, I don't see that improving substantially - at best it'll go back to some sort sort of pre-pandemic lite service level.

For hotels I think it's a bit trickier. The biggest question is going to be whether certain amenities will get people to switch to their hotel over a different one. That would mean things like daily housekeeping may not come back or come back in a much reduced fashion, but things like breakfast may come back at leisure-oriented chains. Free breakfast is a selling point for a lot of leisure travelers, and I think some hotels will restore that and advertise it to win over travelers who value that.

As for the Amtrak lounge - pretty much depends on whether they think the lounge having food will win over business and sleeper passengers in a way that justifies the cost. It'll likely come back in some form (the fact that it's restored in many of the other lounges is promising) but hard to say what exactly that'll look like.
1) Business travelers (especially when paid for by the corporate bean-counters) also tends to prioritize cost very highly, except, I suspect they might be willing to pay for fully flexible tickets, so it's possible that an airline might find it useful to offer amenities in addition to full flexibility in order to stand out from the other airlines. Of course, because of hubs and such, many airports are near-monopolies, so maybe it doesn't matter. And with fully flexible tickets, you are paying through the nose (though maybe not in comparison with inflation adjusted fares from 50 years ago.)

2) I can't say much about hotels, as my usual criterion for picking one is location. The point about leisure travelers highly valuing a free breakfast is well take, however, many of the free breakfast offerings, even before Covid, were not really all that great. A known "bad" free breakfast won't cause me to avoid a property if it meets my needs in other ways. When I worked, it was not a factor at all, because if the hotel offered a free breakfast, and you ate it, then my employer would deduct the imputed value of the breakfast from my daily per-diem allowance, and their imputed value was highly inflated. Thus, I would prefer to buy a bagel next door and thus have a lot more of my per-diem allowance available for lunch and dinner.

3) The main value of having food at the Chicago Metropolitan club is that there are lots of passengers who are connecting trains and staying over lunch, and maybe they are reluctant to leave the station. On the other hand, if my experience in November 2019 is an indication, even in pre-covid times, the food offered wasn't really a substitute for the meals. On the other hand, most of the clientele of the east coast lounges are riding the Acela and Northeast Regional, and usually just show up maybe 20-30 minutes before departure. If they're traveling Acela First Class, they're going to be served food on the train, why do they need it in the station? If they're select Plus and traveling coach or business, I could see that offerings similar to those served at the Met Lounge in New York might be enough to bring on the train for lunch. Anyway, most of these travelers aren't riding for more than 3 hours, so the need to feed their faces isn't as great. Furthermore, they can always go into Pret, Au Bon Pain, or Starbucks at the station and get a sandwich, if the cafe car fare doesn't tickle their fancy. In any event, the food in the lounge, or lack thereof, isn't the deciding factor to these people (who are only a small fraction of the total passenger load anyway) on whether to take the train or go to New York by some other means.

(There is one exception in that the Washington Club Acela hosts sleeper passengers transferring between the Capitol and the Silver Meteor who are staying there over lunch. But they have never served real food in that lounge, only chips and snacks and basic drinks.)

While, of course, I appreciate it anytime someone offers me free food, I'm not sure that the food is the main amenity offered by these lounges. I think their real benefit is that they're a quiet place to wait that has more comfortable chairs than the main waiting room used by the hoi-polloi. Plus, if the lounge attendants are doing their jobs, you can also get extra services like getting reservations modified, ordering redcaps, or maybe even get a private escort to trainside. I've had pretty god experiences with the Washington attendants, but I've never needed any help when I've been in the Chicago lounge, so I can't speak about them.
 

Steve4031

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The new food hall is supposed to open this summer or this fall. Hopefully a hotdog place is in it.

Connies pizza will deliver to union station. There is a Giordonos , and beggars pizza within walking distance. A chipotle is down the street. And Whole Foods is several blocks away. All of these options are an improvement over the mouse food served. In the lounge.
 

MARC Rider

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Early boarding, extra space (I think all biz class out of Chicago is 2-1 seating), arguably more comfortable seats on the train, (a*) free non-alchoholic beverage on board.

*how many you get seems to be up to the car attendant. I've had some restrict you to 1, others you can have as much as you like, some you can have more but you have to sign your life away (ok you just sign a list). Even the service of getting your drink is random, most times you stand by the biz end of the car & they serve you as soon as they're finished with their current customer, other times (like the last time) I had to go stand in line with all the coach passengers.

peter
NE Corridor/Carolinian/Pennsylvanian have 2x2 Amfleet 1 business class seating, but the seat pitch is greater than the Amfleet 1 coaches, and you have a better chance that you won't have a seatmate, though, of course, that's not guaranteed, but it has been my experience. The seats also recline farther than the Amfleet 1 coach seats. I've never had any issues with more than one free drink; on the other hand I usually only get one drink, as how many drinks can you consume during a 2 hour trip. I'd rather spend my time in my seat, not in the restroom. :) It's very common, though not universal, that they want me to sign the receipt for the free drink, which the cafe attendant keeps; I think this is for accounting on how many business class free drinks are issued, and for all I know there may be internal financial transfers involved that help keep the cafe car solvent.

A final benefit of business class, if you're an AGR member, is that you get a 25% TQP point bonus, which makes reaching your Select Plus status a little faster.
 

crescent-zephyr

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On the other hand, if my experience in November 2019 is an indication, even in pre-covid times, the food offered wasn't really a substitute for the meals.
Correct. In the old lounge it was always just drinks and a basked with some bags of goldfish crackers, pretzels, chips, muffins, etc.

The new lounge would put a plate of cheese cubes and carrot sticks now and then but otherwise it was just snacks like chips, nuts etc. they did offer the free wine on occasion as well.
 

PerRock

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NE Corridor/Carolinian/Pennsylvanian have 2x2 Amfleet 1 business class seating, but the seat pitch is greater than the Amfleet 1 coaches, and you have a better chance that you won't have a seatmate, though, of course, that's not guaranteed, but it has been my experience. The seats also recline farther than the Amfleet 1 coach seats. I've never had any issues with more than one free drink; on the other hand I usually only get one drink, as how many drinks can you consume during a 2 hour trip. I'd rather spend my time in my seat, not in the restroom. :) It's very common, though not universal, that they want me to sign the receipt for the free drink, which the cafe attendant keeps; I think this is for accounting on how many business class free drinks are issued, and for all I know there may be internal financial transfers involved that help keep the cafe car solvent.

A final benefit of business class, if you're an AGR member, is that you get a 25% TQP point bonus, which makes reaching your Select Plus status a little faster.
Ah but those trains to serve Chicago.

You can also consume a lot more on a 4 hour trip... especially when it's been delayed mid-route by a few more hours.

peter
 

neroden

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When the pandemic's over, they should just continue to let people bring outside food into the Chicago Metropolitan Lounge, and let people supply themselves from the new food court. I know it means extra cleaning, but it's the way to go. They should keep supplying free hot & cold water, coffee, tea, and hot chocolate, though.

The main thing I go to the lounge for is a quiet place between trains... which is always why I go upstairs. The UTTERLY BIZARRE policy of closing the upstairs before the rest of the lounge, and the EVEN WORSE policy of closing the lounge before the LSL departs, are my main complaints about the Chicago lounge. It needs to stay open until the last train levels. All of it needs to stay open until the last train leaves.
 

Sauve850

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I rarely took advantage of the snacks in Chicago. Nice choices though. I put a little ice in my small soft side cooler and usually go upstairs for a quiet comfortable spot to relax in the lounge to wait for my boarding call. Im not really in favor of letting folks bring in outside food. My observations were many left a mess.
 

Michigan Mom

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Pre-pandemic I had booked BC for my Dad attending a conference in Chicago, so he'd have access to the lounge and someone to help him get a Redcap on detraining/boarding. He doesn't get around as easily any more and I didn't like to think of him navigating the station alone. That Chicago Redcap service was a godsend.
Kids and I are taking the LSL in May but not planning to hang out in the lounge until closer to boarding time. Goal is to be outdoors as much as possible, weather permitting.
 

TC_NYC

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Pre-pandemic I had booked BC for my Dad attending a conference in Chicago, so he'd have access to the lounge and someone to help him get a Redcap on detraining/boarding. He doesn't get around as easily any more and I didn't like to think of him navigating the station alone. That Chicago Redcap service was a godsend.
Kids and I are taking the LSL in May but not planning to hang out in the lounge until closer to boarding time. Goal is to be outdoors as much as possible, weather permitting.
That's one thing people don't realize, Red Cap's are available for all passengers, even coach passengers. They have been a godsend for my family when we had two little kids and tons of baggage to carry up the steps of a horizon coach at Chicago. The red caps carried it up right to our coach seats.
 

IndyLions

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If you don't mind a 15 minute walk, there is a Portillo's located at 520 W Taylor Street.
I ate there on one of my Chicago bike-train trips in the summer of 2018, 15 minutes on foot or only a 5 minute bike ride.

They have a pretty decent hot dog, but for whatever reason I went with a burger that day...

1619781016749.png

Here’s the hot dog I had later that evening in BC on the Cardinal. Not quite up to Chicago standards maybe - but after 40-50 miles of bike riding around the city - I was still pretty darn hungry!

1619781091051.jpeg
 

Sidney

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I'll be at the lounge on May 20. At least they could have coffee,juice and soft drinks available. Chicago's lounge is the only one that doesn't offer food. At Portland you get a voucher for two drinks at their convenience store next to the lounge. Covid restrictions are easing up. I mentioned earlier New York's new lounge has an incredible array of food and drink. At this point,It could just be Chicago's lounge doesn't want to be bothered.
 

Exvalley

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I was in two airport lounges last week. Both had ample food and drink.
 
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Palmetto

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Airline lounges serve cocktails gratis, if you don't call a brand. Does Amtrak do that?
 

Mailliw

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What was the logic behind not allowing outside food & drink when the offerings inside were all free? It's not like a theater where they want you to spend money at the concessions stand.
 

Brian Battuello

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I think they just didn't want groups bringing in massive amounts of food and smelling/messing up the place. I've brought in small orders (pizza slice, etc) and no one's said a word.
 
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