Business class on LD trains: how are ticket sales?

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Business class on LD trains: how are ticket sales?

Postby SouthernRailway » Sun Jan 08, 2017 12:08 pm

How are Amtrak's business class services on its long-distance trains faring; are ticket sales pretty good?

There was only 1 person in the business class car on my latest Crescent trip (although that was on a Saturday night when very few people were traveling).

Do I assume correctly that since business class tickets don't really get any special benefits (other than perhaps nonalcoholic drinks and a newspaper), Amtrak just views them as ways to further increase revenues when "regular" coach is sold out (since only high-priced business class seats would be available)?
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Re: Business class on LD trains: how are ticket sales?

Postby ThirdRail7 » Sun Jan 08, 2017 1:16 pm

SouthernRailway wrote:How are Amtrak's business class services on its long-distance trains faring; are ticket sales pretty good?

There was only 1 person in the business class car on my latest Crescent trip (although that was on a Saturday night when very few people were traveling).

Do I assume correctly that since business class tickets don't really get any special benefits (other than perhaps nonalcoholic drinks and a newspaper), Amtrak just views them as ways to further increase revenues when "regular" coach is sold out (since only high-priced business class seats would be available)?



Without going into unpublished details( I'm sure Arlington will be able to dig them out, eventually) it largely depends on the train. Some trains are doing a decent amount between certain points while some lag. Clearly, some have an advantage over others based on the customer base and the route served (the Lake Shore vs the Crescent) and the equipment used (the 2+1 seating used on Cardinal and Lake Shore vs the standard AM-II on the Crescent.) There are clearly people that aren't in it for the long trip that will prefer business class, but overall, I do believe a motivating factor for expanded business class on certain trains is your last sentence.
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Re: Business class on LD trains: how are ticket sales?

Postby Arlington » Sun Jan 08, 2017 7:39 pm

ThirdRail7 wrote:
SouthernRailway wrote:How are Amtrak's business class services on its long-distance trains faring; are ticket sales pretty good?

Without going into unpublished details( I'm sure Arlington will be able to dig them out, eventually) it largely depends on the train. Some trains are doing a decent amount between certain points while some lag. Clearly, some have an advantage over others based on the customer base and the route served (the Lake Shore vs the Crescent) and the equipment used (the 2+1 seating used on Cardinal and Lake Shore vs the standard AM-II on the Crescent.)

Thanks for the vote of confidence! So far, neither the MPR nor NARP has done a great job of breaking out three classes of service. They are both formatted assuming that there are only two interesting classes, coach and one better-than-coach. I was going to try to back it out for the Cardinal by comparing 2016 performance (with business class + sleeper class) and 2015 performance (with only sleeper class), but would need an exact start month of the business class. (which I asked for in the Cardinal thread)

In the NARP numbers, you really see that the Palmetto is winning BC trips at every stage length, while the Lynchburger, Carolinian, & Norfolk service have very clear "business endpoint" markets (Charlottesville, Raleigh, & Norfolk) that drive higher BC service (and other stage lengths longer or shorter don't have as high % in BC)

I like the idea that coach would sell out and then BC would be the "lowest available fare" (which some employers or others with last-minute trip needs might demand their employees book...without booking a sleeper).
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Re: Business class on LD trains: how are ticket sales?

Postby Morning Zephyr » Sun Jan 08, 2017 8:43 pm

There's a good reason it's hard to make a genuine marketing push and get results: the so-called "business class" product means inconsistent things on Amtrak and in some cases is an outright sham. That violates the basic principles of marketing, which is to have a consistent product and identity so the consumer can clearly see the value. On the Talgos, Empire Service and apparently sometimes on the Cardinal and Missouri River Runner, business class is a clearly different product than coach, with two-and-one seating, bigger seats, more pitch. On the NE Corridor, maybe the Carolinian and maybe the Palmetto and maybe Pennsylvanian, "business class" is nothing but a coach and reportedly in some cases an older coach than the seats actually being sold as coach! And "maybe" is the point. Would anyone pay for business class on Lufthansa or Singapore Airlines if sometimes the seat and service were identical to coach? Or in some cases worse than coach? Amtrak is not going to have success with "business class" until it is clearly a consistent type of equipment with defined characteristics, rather than being a label often misapplied to what is really a coach.
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Re: Business class on LD trains: how are ticket sales?

Postby Greg Moore » Sun Jan 08, 2017 9:22 pm

This is my biggest complaint about Business Class, I have no idea what it means in most cases.

I think Amtrak has to be consistent, and starting with 2-1 on all non-Acela trains.
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Re: Business class on LD trains: how are ticket sales?

Postby east point » Sun Jan 08, 2017 9:38 pm

The biggest problem with LD trains and Business class ? Persons who are not familiar with Amtrak offerings will almost never find the business class listed on LD trains that have sleeper service while surfing the web site. Anyone know how reservation agents proffer BC or if they even do ?
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Re: Business class on LD trains: how are ticket sales?

Postby JimBoylan » Mon Jan 09, 2017 12:24 am

Even on Empire Service, there are 2 kinds of Business Class. Trains that only go as far as Albany from New York do not include any refreshments, as they have no working Cafe Car.
In 2002, Business Class out of Chicago included a $3 or $5 voucher good towards Cafe Car purchases. It was locally managed. About the same time, Business Class on the Vermonter included a tray of Vermont food samples.
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Re: Business class on LD trains: how are ticket sales?

Postby mohawkrailfan » Mon Jan 09, 2017 8:57 am

ThirdRail7 wrote:Without going into unpublished details( I'm sure Arlington will be able to dig them out, eventually) it largely depends on the train. Some trains are doing a decent amount between certain points while some lag. Clearly, some have an advantage over others based on the customer base and the route served (the Lake Shore vs the Crescent) and the equipment used (the 2+1 seating used on Cardinal and Lake Shore vs the standard AM-II on the Crescent.) There are clearly people that aren't in it for the long trip that will prefer business class, but overall, I do believe a motivating factor for expanded business class on certain trains is your last sentence.


I don't think the Lake Shore has business class or the 2+1 seating. At least I've never seen it, and the web site won't sell me a ticket for it.
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Re: Business class on LD trains: how are ticket sales?

Postby Rockingham Racer » Mon Jan 09, 2017 9:07 am

Greg Moore wrote:This is my biggest complaint about Business Class, I have no idea what it means in most cases.

I think Amtrak has to be consistent, and starting with 2-1 on all non-Acela trains.


That sums it up. Business Class on the NEC is a joke. Free drink? Now it's a walk thru 2 cars to get to the café car IINM?
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Re: Business class on LD trains: how are ticket sales?

Postby Hamhock » Mon Jan 09, 2017 9:53 am

Anecdotally, I can say that my mother very much enjoyed her recent round-trip Business Class experience on the Crescent from New Orleans-Newark.
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Re: Business class on LD trains: how are ticket sales?

Postby Arlington » Mon Jan 09, 2017 10:53 am

Hamhock wrote:Anecdotally, I can say that my mother very much enjoyed her recent round-trip Business Class experience on the Crescent from New Orleans-Newark.

Is she someone who says "I can sleep in a seat"? Would her alternative ordinarily have been a coach seat or a roomette?
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Re: Business class on LD trains: how are ticket sales?

Postby JimBoylan » Mon Jan 09, 2017 12:01 pm

mohawkrailfan wrote:I don't think the Lake Shore has business class or the 2+1 seating. At least I've never seen it, and the web site won't sell me a ticket for it.
It's on the Boston section, Train Numbers 448 & 449. On the Web site, it's mixed up with the Sleeper space, not the Coach section.
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Re: Business class on LD trains: how are ticket sales?

Postby bratkinson » Mon Jan 09, 2017 12:24 pm

I really have to wonder how much people will pay for an upgrade that is barely an upgrade?

I can't speak for all overnight trains now sporting business class, as I've only ridden the Cardinal and Lakeshore Ltd with these cars. These are the same cars that still travel on the Vermonter and Empire Service trains to Buffalo. Just last week, I rode the Vermonter B/C and discovered the seats are closer together than the standard NEC Business Class Amfleet I cars. I've taken that train a fair number of times in B/C and never noticed how close the seats are. Because the passenger in front of me had fully reclined his seat, it was as cramped as standard NEC coach as I had to slide my laptop computer towards me to prevent the screen from being crushed/snapped off/broken as he reclined...exactly like NEC coach. Obviously, those seats recline further than Amfleet I coach seats. While the seats are a bit further apart than NEC coach, when fully reclined, there's no more room than Amfleet I coach. There's a leg rest in all the 2-1 B/C cars as well as the usual foot rest. Additionally, the '2' side seats have a nice padded armrest between seats (6" wide, I think) with two can/bottle holder depressions on the front of them. Thus, the seats on both sides of the aisle are the same width, with, perhaps, the extra 1" gap on the window side compared to the aisle-side seat. Actually, the seat gap to the window is noticeably wider than in all other Amfleet I and II cars I've ridden. Note that the '1' side seats do not have an armrest/can holder. Like all B/C tickets, there's free non-alcoholic beverages included. Bottom line? Unless one is traveling during heavy travel periods (holidays & winter to/from Florida), I think I'd prefer the regular Amfleet II coach seats on the hope that I could spread out across both seats, especially for sleeping.

And what about Wifi? As I discovered while riding the Coast Starlight last May, the Wifi is nothing more than a small hot spot box in the lounge car (no B/C car between sleepers and diner at that point) that uses cellphone connectivity to access the web. While traversing wilderness areas, there was no signal...just like cellphone. No surprise, really, but I wasn't expecting it to happen. FWIW, if you're more than 1 car away from the hot spot on a Superliner, your wifi connectivity is zero. Even in the adjacent Superliner in a lower level roomette, connectivity was poor and excruciatingly slow as a result. As for the Wifi in the B/C car on the Lakeshore, it's got good 'range' as it has a stronger transmitter. Amtrak had been using the lounge cars' 2-1 seating on train 448/449 for sleeping car passengers that met their sleeper at Albany/Renssaeller. Sitting 2 cars back, the Wifi worked just from BOS to SPG for me...even faster than 'under the wires' on the NEC.
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Re: Business class on LD trains: how are ticket sales?

Postby Hamhock » Mon Jan 09, 2017 3:50 pm

Arlington wrote:
Hamhock wrote:Anecdotally, I can say that my mother very much enjoyed her recent round-trip Business Class experience on the Crescent from New Orleans-Newark.

Is she someone who says "I can sleep in a seat"? Would her alternative ordinarily have been a coach seat or a roomette?

She's fine with sleeping in a chair, but I think she'd have opted for the roomette if it had been much cheaper; essentially she'd be a candidate for a Slumbercoach.
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Re: Business class on LD trains: how are ticket sales?

Postby Arlington » Mon Jan 09, 2017 3:53 pm

Hamhock wrote:Anecdotally, I can say that my mother very much enjoyed her recent round-trip Business Class experience on the Crescent from New Orleans-Newark....She's fine with sleeping in a chair, but I think she'd have opted for the roomette if it had been much cheaper; essentially she'd be a candidate for a Slumbercoach.
How much cheaper would the roomette have to be (and assuming that to make it cheaper, they'd not include meals)? Or put another way, how much *more* than BC would she have paid to get a roomette (but no food)?
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