Amtrak Acela Express Business Class Washington, D.C.-New York – Review

Amtrak's Acela Express in Union Station

By Jonathan Spira on 3 February 2014
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Not too long ago, the preferred mode of travel between New York City and Washington, D.C., one of the nation’s busiest and most competitive routes, was by air shuttle, namely the Delta Shuttle and the US Airways Shuttle.  Both lines are descendants of the two original shuttles, which linked New York, Boston, and Washington.  The Eastern Air Shuttle, which dates back to 1961, was the first to launch.  No reservations were required, there were no seat assignments, there was no check-in, and, at least initially, passengers were not given boarding passes.

The Eastern shuttle was briefly owned by Donald Trump and then sold to US Air, which was merged into American Airlines in 2013.

New York Air was the second entry in the market, having commenced operations in 1980 at LaGuardia’s historic Marine Air Terminal.  The operation was sold to Pan American World Airways in 1986, which sold it to Delta Air Lines in September 1991, several months before America’s unofficial flag carrier was forced into liquidation.

Today, three-quarters of travelers traveling between New York and the nation’s capital go by train, and roughly half of those going between New York and Boston take to the rails.

While travel time by train is longer than by air, the overall trip duration is typically shorter for many since the train departs and arrives in the cities’ centers.

In addition, those opting for the rails avoid the cost of getting to and from the airport, traffic encountered en route, waiting at the gate, sitting on the taxiway waiting to depart, and a sometimes lengthy taxi to the gate at the final destination.

The view en route

The view en route

Weather introduces yet another variable into the equation.  While trains can be impacted by a variety of weather conditions, planes are even more susceptible.  Although my trip from Washington to New York via the Acela Express had been planned way in advance of a major snowstorm, the decision to go by train turned out to be prescient.


Union Station was quite busy due to hundreds of protestors who were converging on the station.  Unable to get the train ticket to load in the Amtrak app, I headed to the Amtrak check-in counter.  The railroad has a dedicated line and counters for Acela passengers and there was no wait, while there was a lengthy wait for others.

Originally scheduled to be on a later train, I switched to an earlier one as I had doubts about whether the Long Island Railroad would be running on time, or at all, given its susceptibility to disruptions in major storms.  This turned out to be a smart move as all of the subsequent Acela service northbound was cancelled.

Unlike at an airport, there’s no security checkpoint so there were no delays in getting to the gate.

The line to board seemed a bit long but it moved very quickly.  Amtrak closes the boarding gate two minutes prior to the train’s departure.

Once on board, there was no real indication that the train was pulling out of the station, no safety demo, and of course the seats don’t have seat belts.  It just starts moving.

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