News & Reviews News Wire Pacific Surfliner business-class interiors get upgrade

Pacific Surfliner business-class interiors get upgrade

By Bob Johnston | October 7, 2022

Leather seats use materials similar to Northeast Corridor Acela

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Side view of blue and silver bilevel passenger car
A Pacific Surfliner business class car rolls north near Dyer, Ind., on the Cardinal on Sept. 26, 2022. The car, fresh from an overhaul at Amtrak’s Beech Grove shops, is one of 10 with upgraded interiors. It and the adjacent coach café, also in for an overhaul, then moved west on the Southwest Chief to join the rest of the West Coast fleet. James L. Burd

LOS ANGELES — Travelers who choose business class on the Pacific Surfliner route between San Diego and San Luis Obispo, Calif., have always enjoyed more bang for the extra bucks. That’s because Surfliner’s version includes wine, snack packs, and morning pastries as well as soft drinks, coffee, and juice — all served by an attendant — as part of the ticket price.

Galley area of passenger car
Morning pastries and beverages await Pacific Surfliner business class passengers on a train out of Los Angeles on Oct. 20, 2019. Bob Johnston

A non-alcoholic beverage voucher suffices in the category on most other Amtrak trains (except Acela, where complete tray meals and drinks are only served in First Class). Business class passengers who ride Empire Service round trips to and from New York City not operating beyond Albany-Rensselaer, N.Y., don’t even have a staffed cafe.

Now the 10 original Pacific Surfliner business-class cars built by Alstom in 2000-2002 have been upgraded with new carpeting, curtains, and leather seat upholstery.

Though one was recently photographed headed back to California following a 4-year air brake certification and overhaul at Amtrak’s Beech Grove Heavy Maintenance Facility near Indianapolis, all interior upgrades were done in Los Angeles by Amtrak mechanical department employees.  

“Our new seats and cushions use the same Federal Railroad Administration-approved smoke and flame-resistant material used on Acela,” says Puja Thomas-Patel, marketing and communications manager for the Los Angeles-San Diego-San Luis Obispo Rail Corridor Agency (LOSSAN).

Interior of Amtrak Acela trainset
Acela business-class seats. The upgraded Surfliner business class seats use the same materials. Bob Johnston

To add business-class capacity, the Surfliner cars are always paired with a standard Amtrak Superliner coach. Thomas-Patel tells Trains News Wire, “The Superliners are on a captured lease to LOSSAN and (interiors) remain the same, but are used as a second business-class car, as they have more legroom and are more comfortable.” Both have 74 seats, she says, adding, “However, we typically sell (no more than) 140 Business Class seats per train.”

Regarding the extra amenities, Thomas-Patel says afternoon and evening food offerings include snacks such as crackers, hummus, cookies, and jerky, with Truly Hard Seltzer recently added to the beverage selection.

The improvements might help cushion the inconvenience of a bus bridge between Irvine and Oceanside, Calif., and cancellation of two Los Angeles-San Diego round-trips [see, “Orange County agency approves emergency repairs …,” Trains News Wire Oct. 4].

LOSSAN publishes a downloadable timetable at its website (not Amtrak’s); all trains offer business class. The current installment shows modified schedules while the embankment hugging the Pacific Ocean beach near San Clemente is being repaired.



5 thoughts on “Pacific Surfliner business-class interiors get upgrade

  1. I rode the Surfliner round trip Old Town/LA in July. Utterly no different than coach. Asked for coffee, both trips, they told me, oh, we didn’;t make any. But we will. Pretty redicuous. BUT, the conductor on both trups was amazing. Maybe the best Amtrak person I’ve ever encountered. Wish I’d gotten his name. Professional, personable, and an example of what Amtrak could be. If anyone knows who I’m speaking of, please mention his name. I’d like to drop Amtrak a note. (Proably get him fired!!!)

  2. This is indeed comforting and relaxing news for the concerned Pacific Surfliner passengers!
    The Pacific Surfliner travels along a 351-mile (560 km) coastal rail route through San Diego, Orange, Los Angeles, Ventura, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties, serving 29 stations. It is the busiest state-supported intercity passenger rail route in the United States.

    Dr. Güntürk Üstün

  3. But on the NYC – Albany route they have less costs by not hiring an attendant and therefore come closer to breaking even than the Surf Line trains. Much better for the taxpayers.

  4. Amtrak “leaves more money on the table” than any carrier I know. They don’t have a freakin’ clue what Business Class is, or COULD BE, for them. Inconsistency rules. Non-staffed BC cars? Laughable. A warm soda and, it USED to be, a newspaper? Comic. Cali does it right. How hard is that? A working model to follow. Shocker.

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