Amtrak Acela Express in First Class – America’s fastest train as an alternative to the plane?
Back in May 2018, I couldn’t resist to test America’s fastest train, the Amtrak Acela Express in First Class. Of course, I made a full travel video about it, which I recommend to watch. In this article I will summarize my thoughts on this travel option.
Where and when?
So how was my trip in the Amtrak Acela Express in First Class? First of all, there is no high speed rail network in the United States. This has many reasons, one of them being the travel habits of the American people. Americans simply love to fly. So the Acela is something very special -- there is simply no other real highspeed train on the whole continent. However, this does also mean that the Acela only runs on one route -- from Washington Union Station to Boston South Station.
There are up to 20 Acela’s departing each day and depending on how many stops they make, you may need more than seven hours until you reach the final destination in Boston. This already shows, that while the Acela has certain sections which are widely considered to be high speed rail, it is still not comparable with what you may know from other countries with high speed trains.
Old trains, but good service on board
The good news is, that the train attendants did a good job at least when I was traveling. I got a good warm meal, which was included in the ticket price, there was a free Wifi connection and there were electric power outlets at each seat. The staff was kind and helpful. So from that side I was quite happy and I would definitely say that you wouldn’t get a better treatment on a domestic first class flight.
The train, which was introduced in December 2000, was quite old, though. Although Amtrak has revamped the seats, you could still feel that it is far from new. And the ride wasn’t always very smooth and I think it is best described by European high speed rail in the 90s. And btw, even the Acela Club lounge at Washington’s otherwise impressive Union Station, felt like a time journey to the 90s.
On the other hand, I want to point out that the train was clean and everything worked fine.
Amtrak Acela Express in First Class -- Conclusion
Let’s not forget that I chose the Amtrak Acela Express in First Class, because I was traveling for fun, meaning I had time, I wanted to see some of the beautiful landscape and I am a train enthusiast. So for me it was worth it, but if you are a business traveler you have different considerations. Maybe seven hours from Washington D.C. to Boston are too long for you, maybe not. However in my view, the Acela is a very good alternative to the plane especially on shorter segment, such as from Washington D.C. to New York City. It has a major advantage, because it stops right in Manhattan! New York’s Penn station is only a short walk away from the Empire State Building, just to put that into perspective. No need to have a long drive from one of New York’s airports!
Another thing that I found odd, is that there is no seat reservation option right now. However, Amtrak is implementing it right now, so that is subject to change.
So the Amtrak Acela Express in First Class, but also in the standard class, which is much cheaper (ticket prices vary based on the day of travel and the time of booking, I paid $281.00), is certainly a travel option to consider.