When looking for an Amtrak reservation for this summer, I came across an interesting “warning” on Amtrak‘s website, indicating they were running a trial test from July 1 through January 31 on the Silver Star trains 91 and 92, which run from New York to Miami.
In short, Amtrak is hoping to reduce the price of sleeping car accommodations, which currently come with provided meal service three times a day in the dining car, to a service which includes only buy-on-board options. So, the fare for the sleeper car will be cheaper, though you’ll either have to bring your own food onboard, or pay for the buy-on-board products in the cafe car, thus reducing the need for a Dining Car.I have several concerns and thoughts regarding this change:
- If customers will be forced to buy food in the cafe car, not only is it overpriced (which, in the end, could match them back up to the original price of a sleeping car ticket), but it’s also terrible. I reviewed an Amtrak cafe car menu here, and it was more disgusting than what you’d find in the frozen section of your supermarket. In my experience, the Dining Car menu is better – not great, but better. What confuses me more is not only are they removing free food, but they’re removing the chance to dine in the Dining Car entirely. I guess that’s a cost saving measure.
- If customers bring food onboard the train, since this train operates overnight, will there be ice provided for coolers, or a way for them to store food? If folks are really trying to save money, they’ll more than likely choose this option versus paying for food in the cafe.
- To be honest, I think I’d rather pay for food in the price of my ticket rather than have a lower cost and be wondering what to do. I don’t know if Amtrak would create a two option program here, but I like the peace of mind of knowing I’m already covered, to be honest. Besides, if the sleeping car accommodations are truly First Class, then I think they should be provisioned as such. Of course, as more airlines move to a-la-carte pricing, I can see Amtrak following suit, too.
Looking at two services side by side – one with meal service, one without – you can see a sample pricing difference:
Remember, the sleeping car Viewliner Roomette can sleep two people, so included in the cost is the food for two people on train 97. For a roughly $120 difference, that’s not too bad, in my opinion, considering the price of food that’s in the Dining Car anyways.
Here’s the new test outlined by Amtrak:
Amtrak will test a new service aboard the Silver Star from July 1, 2015, through January 31, 2016, that will allow passengers to pay less to upgrade from coach class to our popular sleeping car accommodations. All meal service for sleeping car and coach passengers will be provided in the Café/Lounge car, where passengers can purchase a selection of hot and cold sandwiches, snacks and other items. The Café/Lounge menu is shown at right and is also available on Amtrak.com. During the test period, traditional dining car service will not be provided.
Amtrak will examine customer reaction and market demand for this experimental service.
Lower Cost Sleeping Car Accommodations
This test will allow passengers to pay less to upgrade from coach class to our popular sleeping car accommodations. Traditionally, Amtrak has bundled the cost of Dining car meals into the charge for the sleeping car accommodations. Under this experiment, these costs will be “un-bundled” to allow passengers to travel the New York-Orlando-Tampa/Miami route in a sleeping car at a lower cost.
Passengers will continue to have the option of choosing traditional dining car service aboard the Silver Meteor (Trains 97 & 98), which operates along much of the Silver Star route. Dining car meals aboard the Silver Meteor are included in the sleeping car upgrade charge.
Sleeping Car Amenities
Passengers with sleeping car accommodations will continue to have complimentary coffee, chilled water and juices, along with meals delivered to their rooms, upon request, turn-down service for their bedrooms and roomettes, private restrooms and access to shower facilities. At stations with ClubAcela, Amtrak Metropolitan Lounge or similar services, sleeping car passengers will also continue to have same-day lounge access and pre-boarding privileges.
Amtrak is launching this initiative to evaluate the operational cost savings and customer satisfaction of operating an overnight train at a lower fare and without a dining car. Amtrak will continue to explore ways to provide food and beverage service at lower cost.
What do you think of the new test? Would you pay less for a sleeping car ticket knowing you didn’t have meals included?
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