I traveled in business-class trains on Amtrak in the US and Via Rail in Canada.
My $216 Via Rail ticket included meals and access to station lounges. The $168 Amtrak fare didn't.
After comparing both trains, I thought my business-class ride in Canada was worth the higher price.
I recently traveled in business class on a Via Rail train in Canada and an Amtrak train in the US.
In August, I took a 10-hour Amtrak ride in business class from NYC to Niagara Falls in New York for $163. In comparison, standard coach tickets start at around $68.
Just a few days later, I took a 6-hour Via Rail ride in Canada from Toronto to Montréal for $216. Standard coach tickets start at around $100.
Via Rail and Amtrak are popular train lines in Canada and the US.
Amtrak is a US-based train operator that runs 21,000 route miles in 46 US states, the District of Columbia, and three Canadian provinces, according to its website. The company has more than 300 trains running every day.
In the past, I've spent 85 hours on Amtrak trains going up and down the East Coast, reviewing its various accommodations from business and first class to private rooms in sleeper cars.
Similar to Amtrak, Via Rail is Canada's main railroad system and is one of the most accessible and popular ways to travel by train in Canada. It serves more than 400 stations in eight provinces across Canada with economy seating, business class, and sleeper accommodation, according to their website.
While I've spent significant time on Amtrak, this was my first time on Via Rail, and I was excited to see how the train rides compared, especially in a premium setting such as business class.
I began my Canadian journey at Toronto's Union Station while I boarded my US ride at Penn Station in NYC.
I arrived at Toronto's Union Station at 7:30 a.m. for my 8:30 a.m. train to Montréal because I knew my business-class ticket came with access to an exclusive lounge at the station with plenty of seating and free refreshments.
For my 7:15 a.m. Amtrak ride to Niagara Falls, I arrived at NYC's Penn Station around 6:45 because I knew that my business-class ticket didn't include access to the station's lounge. It would have cost me $50 to get in.
My Via Rail ticket included access to an exclusive lounge, but my Amtrak ticket did not.
In Canada, the lounge at Toronto's Union Station was mostly empty on a Friday morning. I thought it was a quiet and peaceful place to enjoy a coffee and get some work done. According to their website, Via Rail's lounges are available to passengers traveling in business class, sleeper plus, prestige, and VIA Rail Premier members traveling in economy.
In the US, Amtrak has lounges at select stations, too, but they're only free to access for first-class passengers and not available in all stations. As noted, business-class passengers may purchase access, but I instead went to the main waiting area for all passengers with a train ticket that day. There were benches situated in front of screens with train schedules. I found it to be crowded on a Sunday morning, but after a few minutes of standing around, I grabbed a seat.
After boarding both business-class trains, I was impressed by the amount of leg room and aisle space.
In both Via Rail and Amtrak's business-class cars, the configuration was two seats on one side of the aisle and one seat on the other.
The Toronto Star reported that Via Rail business-class seats are 18.5 inches wide with a 39-inch seat pitch.
An Amtrak representative told Insider that their business-class seats are about an inch wider with an additional three inches of leg room.
My Via Rail seat was assigned in a single row while my Amtrak seat was not assigned, but I snagged a spot in the single row. On each train, I thought I had enough leg room to stretch out.
I thought the Via Rail seat was comfortable throughout the 6-hour journey, but my Amtrak seat was stiffer than I expected it to be.
Right away, I thought that my Via Rail seat was one of the most comfortable I've ever experienced on a train. Unlike Amtrak seats I've sat in, the top of my Via Rail seat was curved, so I was able to rest my head in a comfortable position for lounging.
On the Amtrak train, I noticed that the chairs appeared to be big and thought they'd be comfy and plush. However, once I sat down, I thought they felt stiffer than expected.
Both seats reclined and came with a tray table and access to outlets for charging devices, but the Via Rail train had an additional side table next to the seat.
In Canada, I was surprised to find that I had a side table in addition to a tray table that pulled out in front of me, since no train I've ever been on in the US has offered two tables per passenger. Throughout the trip, I used the side table to hold my coffee while working and to store my laptop while taking breaks.
In the US on Amtrak, I had a tray table in front of me but no side table, which I thought made it feel a little more crowded while doing work. When taking breaks, I had to put my laptop away and take it back out each time.
My Via Rail business-class ticket included complimentary breakfast, lunch, snacks, and drinks, while my Amtrak ticked only included one complimentary drink.
Via Rail's ticket comes with complimentary meals, which were brought to my seat by a train attendant. For breakfast, the train served a warm bagel with cream cheese. It was no New York bagel, I thought, but it was decent and filled me up.
The lunch menu was announced over the loudspeaker. I went with a rigatoni dish with sides of corn salad, bread, and carrot bread for dessert. The meal was better than I expected with an al dente cook on the pasta. I also thought it was much better than the pasta I've tried on Amtrak trains in the past.
Amtrak business-class fares, however, don't include any meal service as part of the price, just a drink. In the US, I got a Diet Coke, which was included in the price of my ticket, and I brought my own snacks. A bar car is also available to all passengers to purchase meals, drinks, and snacks.
I thought the customer service was better on the Via Rail route than on the Amtrak ride.
In Canada on Via Rail, I felt like I received exceptional customer service while on the train. Shortly after departing, a train attendant came around with complimentary drink service, and then again for refills about an hour later. Between meals, attendants came around with snacks and warm hand wipes, as well.
In the US on Amtrak, I didn't see attendants checking in with passengers or delivering any meals or snacks. To get my complimentary drink, I had to go to the cafe car.
On both business-class trains, I didn't think that the bathrooms were too different from lavatories I've experienced in other train classes, but the Via Rail bathroom appeared to be cleaner.
I didn't notice anything special about either bathroom compared to other train classes or rides I've experienced, but in Canada on Via Rail, I was impressed by how clean the bathroom appeared to be compared to most train bathrooms I've used.
In the US on Amtrak, I found that the bathroom trash was overflowing.
After departing business-class trains in Canada and the US, I concluded that Via Rail offers a better business-class experience than Amtrak does, and I think it's worth the higher price tag.
Although it was more expensive, I think the Via Rail ride was worth the additional cost since I found it to be so comfortable and my business-class train ticket came with additional perks like complimentary meals, snacks, and access to the station lounges.
And whether you're traveling six hours or 10 — nothing is more welcome on a long train than a clean bathroom.
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