Posts Tagged ‘Viewliner II dining cars’

Adding Meals For Silver Star Sleeper Class Passengers Will Mean Fared Equal to Those of the Silver Meteor

January 11, 2020

Amtrak’s plans to restore dining service to sleeping car passengers on the New York-Miami Silver Star will mean that any fare differentials between that train and the Silver Meteor will largely vanish.

When Amtrak removed Heritage Fleet dining cars from the Star in early 2016 and ceased to provide sleeping car passengers on Nos. 91 and 92 it also lowered sleeper class fares on that train.

At the time Amtrak said the change was a test of demand for lower sleeping car prices without meals included. The Meteor also operates between New York and Miami although over a different route between Selma, North Carolina, and Savannah, Georgia.

An analysis published on the Trains magazine website said Amtrak ensured that fares on the Star were noticeably lower than those charged for sleeper accommodations aboard the Silver Meteor, which continued to have a full-service dining car and provide meals to sleeper class passenger as part of their fare.

However, Trains said there were times when sleeper class fares on the Star were higher than the Meteor if the latter train had more available space. Chalk that up to the vagaries of Amtrak’s revenue yield management system.

The Meteor routinely operates with three Viewliner sleeping cars compared with the two assigned to the Star.

Starting May 1, a Viewliner II dining car will be assigned to each of the four equipment sets used on the Silver Star.

That car will offer Amtrak’s flexible dining service, which has a menu more limited than that available in a full-service diner.

The Silver Meteor has been operating with Viewliner II dining cars since 2017 but saw full-service dining replaced with flexible dining last October.

Amtrak had ordered 25 Viewliner II diners, but they were slow to arrive from the factory due to production problems.

On both New York-Florida trains the dining car is available only for the use of sleeper class passengers.

Coach passengers on both trains must either bring their own food aboard or purchase food and beverages from a café car.

Amtrak has spoken about enabling coach passengers to purchase the meals served to sleeper class passengers, but has not given a date for when that might begin and how it would operate.

Trains said its analysis of fares charged for sleeper class travel on the Silver Star and Silver Meteor before and after May 1 found that sleeper fares between the same destinations are always higher for the Meteor until May 1

But after that date the Meteor and Star have nearly identical fares with some variation due to varying demand on specific dates.

The flexible dining fare is also served to sleeper class passengers traveling on Capitol Limited, Cardinal, City of New Orleans, Crescent and Lake Shore Limited.

Reviews of the service have been mixed. Some have been critical of the food for its high sodium content and well as limited choices. All but one of the entrees contains garlic.

A Rail Passengers Association staffer writing on that group’s website said in her travels she has noticed that the quality of the food depends on the attention the attendant pays to heating it.

“I have had the same meal coming and going and the quality has been completely different,” wrote Carolyn Cokley. “One was heated to perfection while the other turned to rubber and left a lot to be desired.”

Cokley said in her post that some passengers may not be aware that Amtrak offers a breakfast, lunch and dinner Kosher menu that must be ordered 24 hours in advance for Acela first class and 72 hours, in advance, for overnight routes although she said it unclear if Kosher fare is available on all overnight trains or just those in the flexible dining program.

She said the advantage of the Kosher entrées is they are lower in calories, fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, carbs and sodium compared with non-Kosher entrées on both the flexible dining and traditional menus.

Viewliner II Diner Has Yet to be Assigned to the Cardinal

October 13, 2019

Amtrak has yet to assign a Viewliner II dining car to the Cardinal although it indicated that it had planned to do so effective Oct. 1.

The Chicago-New York train received the flexible dining service on that date, but sleeping car passengers are being served in half of an Amfleet food service car rather than in a Viewliner II diner as is the case with other eastern overnight trains.

Amtrak’s new vice president for long distance services, Larry Chestler, told Trains magazine that the Viewliner II diner won’t be assigned to Nos. 50 and 51 “for the time being.”

Chestler said the Amfleet II lounge cars because used on the train, “are the most suitable for this service given the configuration of the cars and the Cardinal’s passenger volume.”

He probably was referring to the fact the Cardinal is assigned just one Viewliner sleeping car and that the onboard crew uses a portion of its rooms.

Amtrak has said that it has not assigned a second sleeper to the Cardinal because it has yet to repair a Viewliner sleeping car that was damaged in the February 2018 collision of the Silver Star and a CSX freight train.

At present, Amtrak has only one of 25 Viewliner II sleeping cars on its active roster. Those cars feature a different room configuration than Viewliner I sleepers.

Sleeper space aboard the Cardinal can be hard to book with rooms often selling out weeks and sometimes months in advance.

The Cardinal operates tri-weekly via Indianapolis and Cincinnati and uses two equipment sets.