Sunday, December 17, 2006

Amtrak business class, worth the ten bucks?

There is a good chance that you weren't even aware that Amtrak offers business class seating from Ann Arbor to Chicago. If you're anything like us, it gets overlooked in the mad dash to the weekly specials page. A BC upgrade to Chicago only adds $11 to the one-way ticket price. However, you can't upgrade from the drastically reduced fares in the weekly specials. As a result, we've never taken the upgrade, but many people have recommended it.

According to Amtrak, the upgrade includes:
electrical outlets for every pair of seats
complimentary, non-alcohalic beverage
newspaper
in-car Railfone
lots more leg room

Now, coach is already quite comfortable. Those who associate "coach" with the cramped quarters on airplanes will be pleasantly surprised at the space Amtrak offers. The seats also recline much further than the airline variety. So unless you need lots of legroom, coach will do the trick. Railfone isn't a priority for us. Your cell phone will work at least at either end of the journey (we tend to lose signal in Southwest Michigan) and paying for calls by credit card is a pain in the ass, especially since Amtrak says those calls may cut out just like your mobile. Electrical outlets are nice, but can usually be found in coach as well; they just aren't guarenteed in every seat. That leaves a glass of juice and a newspaper, which isn't worth the $10 to us.

But we forgot to mention one important benefit to BC. You get a reserved seat. Regular Amtrak riders may recall that familiar knot that forms in one's stomach as the train aproaches the Ann Arbor station and passengers begin jockeying for position. Coach riders have a guarenteed seat, but that seat doesn't have a location. When you board the train, chances are that most pairs of seats have one person either pretending to be asleep or making every effort to look like an unpleasant seatmate in hopes that they can ride next to an "empty". God forbid that you are traveling with someone that you actually want to sit next to. The staff will sometimes act as negotiators in seat trades, but don't count on it. In comparison, sauntering on to the BC car and being shown to your seat is worth a little extra.

In a recent teetering interview, Homeless Dave gives BC upgrades the thumbs up. If he says it is worth the money, maybe there is more to gain than juice and paper.

The galsguide gives a full rundown on riding from Chicago to Detroit. She opts for the BC upgrade. Her advice includes choosing the side of the train for sun exposure (in Michigan the north side of the train will almost always be the shady side) and priceless tips like "doubling as a scarf, a Pashmina is a chic way to stay fashionable and warm at the same time."

If you've got any thoughts on riding business class on Amtrak, let us hear them in the comments.

3 comments:

HomelessDave said...

Re: Business Class Updgrades:

electrical outlets for every pair of seats
complimentary, non-alcoholic beverage
newspaper
in-car Railfone
lots more leg room

Based on my trip from the summer between Ann Arbor and Chicago, I can confirm all of the list items except for the Railfone. I'm not saying there wasn't one. I'm just saying I don't remember seeing one.

The beverage was complimented by a comedy routine from the car steward. Not so awfully funny.

An additional perk to Business Class is that in Chicago, they let you board before the riff-raff from coach.

As far as the physical amenities go, coach is nice enough that my wife and I erroneously thought we were in Busines Class until the conductor checking tickets clued us in. That might reflect more the fact that we're easily impressed, though.

Definitely way way more room.

boggsprn said...

I travel Amtrak Frequently from Ann Arbor to Chicago and onto destinations west and south. Business Class is definitely worth it. Makes the journey so much more enjoyable. For the novice train user, Coach class will definitely do just fine. Of course, with the cheap fares in the hot deals- BC is not worth the upgrade then. But if paying regular fare/AAA discount, the BC upgrade is great for the frequent traveler. Much more quiet and enjoyable for the 11 dollars.

albert candy said...

The cost more than $800 to update from the primary lodge to Business Class Flight. While it’s sort of pleasant having a full-lean back seat in your own particular private case, nothing else about the administration even verges on advocating the expense, especially when contrasted with cheap business class ticket of $399. Immaculate defences, it feels as inefficient to drop the additional trade when it’s not in for cold hard currency expansion to paying for the flight itself. Second, on flights longer than a couple of hours having more space, more mindful administration and courtesies, for example, an ensured force outlet and a semi-selective restroom places you in the best circumstance conceivable - physically and rationally - to get significant measures of work done. When we got full requirement in cheap business class ticket then why prefer to so expensive flights.