Rumor: Coast Starlight to Lose Business Class

Discussion in 'Amtrak Rail Discussion' started by desertflyer, May 20, 2019.

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  1. May 20, 2019 #1

    desertflyer

    desertflyer

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    There is a rumor among Amtrak staff that the Starlight is no longer going to offer business class.

    I'm not sure how business class yields were, but I do wish they would do a better job with the business class product on the Starlight.
     
  2. May 20, 2019 #2

    JP1822

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    The product seemed strong just a few weeks ago when I was on the Coast Starlight. But that was just a select period of time.

    But all of Amtrak's business class products need not only some sort of uniformity, but better amenities and perks offered.

    The Coast Starlight business class had nice leather seats with great recline, foot rests, leg rests, etc. I was in sleeper class, but those in business class seemed VERY comfortable. Since the Starlight route is essentially a series of multiple corridors in one, it makes sense to offer business class.

    If business class goes, Amtrak will likely rip the leather seats out and return it to cloth seats. I hope they try to keep business class on this route. It does seem to make sense and people were trying to use it as an upgrade to coach. The long distance trains could benefit from something other than just sleeper and coach class. VIA's Dayniter and Amtrak's Slumber Coaches offered that happy medium to a degree.
     
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  3. May 20, 2019 #3

    F900ElCapitan

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    I hope they keep it too, I’ve got tickets for it in November.
     
  4. May 20, 2019 #4

    seat38a

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    BC on the starlight seemed to be full where the route overlaps with corridor trains like the Surfliner and Cascades which offer BC already, outside of the overlapping corridor, BC seemed to be pretty empty.
     
  5. May 21, 2019 #5

    desertflyer

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    The seat covers are different, but it's the same seat as coach. You get a voucher for cafe or diner ($6.50 I think?) and a bottle of water. I'd take it over coach because there were usually less children and people would mostly be quieter, but I have to say that it really just felt like a premium economy product, if that.

    For long distance business class, it'd be nice to have included hot meals at your seat along with a drink or something. Right now I think the product differentiation is too minimal.
     
  6. May 21, 2019 #6

    SP&S

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    Anytime I've ridden the CS the business class section seemed to be mostly empty. Perhaps on some segments it had ridership but anytime I peeked in it looked to me as if it was a waste of a car.
     
  7. May 21, 2019 #7

    TiBike

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    When I've ridden it between Salinas and Sacramento, and Salinas and SoCal, it's usually been about half full or less. I don't recall not having a pair of seats to myself, although that happens often enough in coach, too. I go coach when I take a bike – bike plus business class about doubles my fare – it's not a huge amount of money on an absolute basis, but I just have knee jerk reaction to seeing, say, a $55 ticket go to $100. Not all the business class cars have leather (real?) seats, BTW.

    It's worth it to me because it's usually quieter, with few or no kids and a less idiosyncratic group of fellow travellers.

    That said, this seems to be the season for rumours – first diner service on the Sunset and now this. Gotta wonder if it's worth worrying about at all.
     
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  8. May 21, 2019 #8

    Devil's Advocate

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    Amtrak operates under an opaque administration that is prone to make service reductions with little or no advance warning. At one point the loss of the PPC was just a rumor, but it fit right in with a board of directors that favors barebones service standards over even minimal luxury. Both the TE and SL have been floated as being in contention for contemporary dining. That may turn out to be incorrect, but some route somewhere has to be next in line, or you have to believe we've seen the last of contemporary dining.
     
    Last edited: May 21, 2019
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  9. May 21, 2019 #9

    Seaboard92

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    I could see the Starlight losing its business class because I don’t really feel it’s a worthy upgrade. The hard product is the same as coach for the most part. And the soft product leaves much to be desired.

    The long distance train that has the best business class ridership from my observations is the Cardinal. Every time I’ve ridden the Cardinal in business class it was full out of DC.

    But let’s take a look of all the various business class products Amtrak offers.

    Corridors
    -Cascades (Eugene-Portland-Seattle-Vancouver): operates with two cars with 2-1 seating. Roughly if I remember right five rows. So a total of 15 seats per car for 30 per train. Includes lounge access in Portland, a $3 coupon in the cafe, and customs first in Vancouver.
    -New York Services (New York-Albany-Buffalo-Canada): uses a split cafe with 2-1 seating. Runs with 18 seats per train. Free soft drinks.
    -Pacific Surfliner (San Luis Obispo-Los Angeles-San Diego): uses a California Car in business class setup with 2-2 seating. It offers reserved seating vs the rest of the train which doesn’t. Also included is a small snack on board. And metropolitan lounge access in Los Angeles.
    -Midwest Service (Chicago-Pontiac, St Louis, Kansas City, Indianapolis): operates with a horizon cafe/business class car with 16 2-1 seats. One Free soft drink per person. And Metropolitan Lounge access in Chicago and St.Louis.
    -Northeast Corridor (Boston-New York-Washington-Virginia): operates with 2-2 seating in a 62 seat car (if I remember correctly). Free soft drinks, and priority boarding. However no lounge access is provided. Very much a disappointment as this is one of the trains the new administration loves and wants to force on everyone.
    -Acela (Boston-New York-Washington): this is basically coach. Just renamed to make the Acela sound like a more premium product. No complimentary drinks, no priority boarding, no lounge access.
    -Downeaster (Boston-Portland-Brunswick): operates with a sixteen seat 2-1 split cafe. Business class allows for priority boarding and complimentary soft drinks.

    Long Distance
    -Auto Train (Lorton-Sanford): service was experimented but has since been removed. One superliner coach provided business class service. Offered priority boarding and the sleeping car meal. But no priority car unloading.
    -Crescent (New York-Washington-Charlotte-Atlanta-New Orleans): service was experimented but has since been removed. Was operated in a standard Amfleet II coach on a train equipped with Amfleet II coaches so the hard product was the same. Small amenity pack and free soft drinks.
    -Lake Shore Limited (Boston-Albany-Chicago): operates on the Boston section only. Runs with a 16 seat 2-1 car. Offers free soft drinks.
    -Cardinal (New York-Washington-Cincinnati-Indianapolis-Chicago): operates with a 16 seat 2-1 car. Offers free soft drinks, and has a private table area shared with the sleepers for lounge space.
    -Coast Starlight (Seattle-Portland-Bay Area-Los Angeles): operates in a standard superliner coach. Two bottles of water, and a voucher for food valid in the cafe or diner.
    -Palmetto (New York-Washington-Charleston-Savannah): operates with a 62 seat Amfleet I with 2-2 seating on a train with Amfleet II 58 seat 2-2 cars. Complimentary drinks. However more room in coach with larger windows.
    -Carolinian (New York-Washington-Raleigh-Charlotte): operates with 62 seat 2-2 car with free soft drinks. Unlike the palmetto the whole train uses Amfleet I’s and coach has ten more seats.
    -Pennsylvanian (New York-Philadelphia-Harrisburg-Pittsburgh): operates with an Amfleet I business class car with 62 2-2 seats and Amfleet II coaches with 58 seats and larger windows. Again a free soft drink is offered.
    -Vermonter (Washington-New York-Springfield-St. Albans): operates with a 16 seat 2-1 car. Free drinks are included and priority boarding but no lounge access.

    International
    -VIA Corridor (Windsor-Toronto-Montreal-Quebec City): operates with two styles of equipment HP2 cars offer 2-2 seating while LRCs offer 2-1 seating. VIA offers free drinks (alcohol included), and meal service appropriate to the time of day. Lounge access at major stations, and priority boarding.
     
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  10. May 21, 2019 #10

    Bob Dylan

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    Amtrak: The definition of Inconsistency!
     
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  11. May 21, 2019 #11

    TiBike

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    That's standard operating practice in the business world. Airlines, hotels and restaurants make service reductions (and increases) all the time, with little or no notice. So do tech companies. Apple is particularly ruthless about pruning services and products that don't fit their current business roadmap. They're one of the world's most respected brands despite this – because of it, I would argue. I'm not putting Amtrak in that class, but there's nothing unusual about a business taking decisions without a lengthy, public debate. If anything, Amtrak's problem is that is doesn't implement service changes in a rapid, consistent and thorough manner.

    You're right about that. I think the "contemporary" meal service – I don't have much regard for Amtrak's euphemisms, BTW – or something like it will expand over the system, and I've said before that I'm looking forward to it. But that's another thread :).
     
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  12. May 21, 2019 #12

    desertflyer

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    I would also add that, if your trip is in the afternoon or evening, you get a free glass of wine with the snackbox on the Surfliner. It's a small perk, but a good one. I agree that the inconsistencies between the different Amtrak business class products is frustrating. In my opinion, the hard product is generally fine. If Amtrak could improve the soft product and make it consistent, it would be a much better experience. I think this could be done in a few ways:

    1. Hot meals at your seat on long distance trains and snack boxes on corridor trains. One beer or wine included after noon.
    2. A quiet policy. No loud phone calls or Netflix without earbuds.
    3. Priority boarding.
    4. 2-1 seating would be ideal, but it's not really a problem on the Surfliner, so I don't know that it's a necessity.

    If they really wanted to go all out, it would be great to see Amtrak install something like Gogo 2KU wifi. This works even when there is no cell service and is quite fast. It can be combined with a local server that hosts up movies, TV, and music on passenger's personal devices. This could be complimentary in business and for a surcharge in coach. It also takes up almost no space since it's originally designed for air travel. Anderson knows this product well from his time at Delta, although the faster 2KU product may have been just after his time.

    Anyways, those would be my wishlist. I know it'll never happen, but it would make the business class product compelling and perhaps more popular with higher yields than it has now.
     
    Last edited: May 21, 2019
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  13. May 22, 2019 #13

    bretton88

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    If I recall correctly, satellite wifi has been looked at, but there's not enough tunnel clearance on some of the Western routes to mount the required reception equipment.
     
  14. May 22, 2019 #14

    FrensicPic

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    Keep in mind the Pacific Surfliner is funded by the State of California (LOSSAN, CalTrans). I would think, that funding is also providing the amenities you mentioned and many of us have experienced.

    BTW, the Pacific Surfliner also provides PRINTED schedules. Try finding one of those for a long distance train!
     
  15. May 22, 2019 #15

    desertflyer

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    I believe it. Superliners are just over 16' tall and double stacks are 18-20'. That's not a lot of height to work with, but I think newer systems are significantly shorter. My guess is this technology moves faster than Amtrak's management. Not that they need to since there would never be the funding for luxurious, working wifi.

    The Surfliner being state sponsored does explain the better product. It's not without faults, but it does provide a template for a consistent business class soft product.
     

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