Amtrak Business Vs. Coach Class
As with any mode of travel, Amtrak, the U.S. national rail service, rewards passengers who are willing to pay a bit more with perks and better comfort. Analogous to first class and economy class on an airplane, Amtrak's business class is marketed toward corporate travelers who appreciate the space to plug in their laptops or meet with clients during the trip, while coach serves the general population. Select trains offer an even more posh first class option with bigger seats and meal service.
Learn the Amtrak Layout
Coach seats are available on all Amtrak trains as the basic passenger seating option, except on the Acela Express, the super-fast Washington D.C.-to-Boston route. Business class seats appear inside the Amtrak train on many long-distance and short-distance routes as a more expensive upgrade from coach; on Acela trains, business class is the minimum level of accommodation. Acela travelers may also choose to upgrade to first class seats, a perk found only on this route.
Reserve a Seat
Amtrak coach seats may be reserved or unreserved. Overnight trains and some heavily-traveled short-distance routes, such as the Northeast Regional, require reservations in advance. With reservations, each passenger is guaranteed a seat. Other short-distance routes offer unreserved coach seats to passengers on a first-come, first-served basis, and seats are not guaranteed in the event of a crowded train. Business class seats are guaranteed and require reservations.
Compare the Classes
Coach class offers basic accommodations with comfortable reclining seats, tray tables and overhead reading lights. Amtrak business class seats are cushier with headrests, adjustable footrests, more legroom, tray tables and electrical outlets for laptops or DVD players. Seats usually face forward. However, in business class, rows may face each other over a fold-down conference table. In both classes, each pair of seats on either side of the car's central aisle shares a picture window.
Perks on Amtrak Business Class Seats
While all passengers can purchase snacks and beverages at the Cafe Car on most trains, business class travelers enjoy complimentary nonalcoholic drinks and free newspapers in the Cafe Car. On some routes, the business class section may occupy its own car, separated from the coach cars by the cafe or bar car. Acela business class travelers who wish to upgrade to first class will enjoy deluxe seat-side meal service with breakfast, lunch and dinner menus, beverage service and extra-large adjustable seats, in addition to business class perks.
Weighing the Costs
A business class seat may cost $30 to $40 more than a coach seat on regular routes. On Acela Express trains only, an upgrade from Acela business class to first class may cost more than $100. Business class seats aboard Acela trains – the minimum level of accommodation – are about the same price as business class fares on regular trains. Both business and coach fares vary, depending on the departure time or day, holiday scheduling, or route. Frequent Amtrak travelers also can join Amtrak Guest Rewards and earn points and status they they can exchange for upgrades.