Faster Internet Service Aboard Amtrak

These are the seats in the first class car of an Acela train operated as Service 2158 by Amtrak from New York to Boston. Photograph by FlyerTalk member Sealink. Click on the photograph for a trip report written by Sealink.

Without any announcement, FlyerTalk members began to notice last month that the Internet service aboard Amtrak trains has been faster — and apparently they were correct.
Amtrak is currently in the process of upgrading its on-board AmtrakConnect Internet service and improving overall reliability by implementing 4G mobile data service from multiple mobile operators, according to an article posted by Jeremy Del Nero of Frequent Business Traveler magazine.
As a result, passengers are noticing faster Wi-Fi Internet service on the Acela Express, Capitol Corridor, Pacific Surfliner and San Joaquin trains, where the improved AmtrakConnect Internet service is already available. All trains equipped with Wi-Fi Internet service should be upgraded before the end of this summer.
I have to wonder: is Amtrak successfully differentiating itself from the airlines?
As an example, there is Acela Express service which operates between Pennsylvania Station in New York and Union Station in Washington, D.C. Both train stations are centrally located within each city — unlike the airports — and are easily accessible by mass transit. The cost of $373.00 round-trip from Monday, June 10, 2013 through Friday, June 14, 2013 can be pricier than a comparable economy class round trip itinerary on Delta Air Lines between New York and Washington National Airport — with the most common airfare pricing at $354.80 for the same dates, but you can pay as low as $208.80 for one itinerary or as high as $689.80 for a different itinerary — but each flight is approximately one hour shorter each way…
…whereas the Acela Express takes as few as two hours and 47 minutes without the hassles, time and costs associated with airport security and parking — plus, the improved AmtrakConnect Internet service is included with the train fare, allowing you to work without having to worry about altitude restrictions hindering your use of electronic devices.
Did I mention that all of the results I received are flights operated by Delta Air Lines on this route use regional jet aircraft — regardless of either airport option in New York, not counting Newark International Airport?
I have not personally tried it, but I would not be surprised if the upgraded AmtrakConnect Internet service is more reliable and faster than for what you are required to pay extra for comparable Internet service aboard an airplane during a flight.
Is the extra $18.20 for the Amtrak service worth it to you on this route — and perhaps other routes as well — thanks in part to the improved AmtrakConnect Internet service? What do you think?

4 thoughts on “Faster Internet Service Aboard Amtrak”

  1. bkafrick says:

    If you’re traveling from NYC-BOS, Amtrak is the only decision in my opinion… even with their sort of crappy 3G service. With 4G, its a no brainer. The Acela is the most comfortable traveling experience I’ve ever had. No TSA, limited security, arrive 5 minutes before the train boards, comfy seat, power at every seat, huge tables to spread out on…. whats not to love?

  2. BearX220 says:

    The price of Acela is not to love. It can go to $400 for a DC-NY round trip. Megabus meanwhile can be $7.00, takes only about an hour longer, and has wifi too. Buses are an underappreciated alternative in the NE corridor.

  3. Brian Cohen says:

    Please keep in mind that I purposely omitted the option of regular service in the example I used between New York and Washington, D.C. — which is a fraction of the train fare for Acela — only because the AmtrakConnect Internet service had not been upgraded on those trains as of yet.
    Once that happens, that option could potentially be more attractive — albeit slower by almost an hour, of course.
    Megabus is indeed another option, BearX220 — but along with the low cost and Internet service, you are also subject to traffic and other disadvantages. I wrote about Megabus here with links to experiences posted by FlyerTalk members:

  4. NathanL104 says:

    I frequently take the train and in the past three years I learned a lot of cost savings measures.
    1.) Get the Amtrak credit card with the 30,000 targeted sign up bonus. Acela tickets are 8,000 one way and regional tickets are 4,000 one way. This card is great because you get 1 point per dollar, so you can easily achieve a free ticket by planning out your purchases. If you’re into liquidating gift cards, 4,000 points is probably only $28 in fees, and that’s a free ticket from WAS to BOS on a regional train.
    2.) Sign up for Amtrak Guest Rewards, which gives you 500 bonus points for an acela trip from NYC to Union Station, 750 in first class. Once you achieve select and select plus status, you get free companion coupons and free upgrade coupons. The upgarde coupons are even for Acela First class, which gives you FREE food and all you can drink beer/wine, etc. Great deal if you can get it for free.
    3.) Travel at non-peak times. Those Acela tickets at 4:00 on a Friday are killer, but just going an hour earlier at 3 or holding off until 6 can save some money.
    4.) Always book two weeks in advance to take advantage of the saver rate. This only applies to Regional Trains.
    5.) Take the regional trains. The trip is only a little longer. Also, I’ve found taking trains that terminate south of DC can save some time and give you a little more space and privacy. For example, the Carolinian that goes to Charlotte is pretty empty a lot of the time, and the cafe car is mostly empty. It also skips some stations on the NEC and has limited boarding and unloading. I’ve taken that train before and gotten to DC in 100 minutes from Philadelphia, which is not too much longer than the Acela. Sometimes they will not let you buy a ticket to Union Station in DC, so you have to buy one to Alexandria, VA. But there’s nothing wrong with getting off at Union Station.
    I agree the NYC to DC acela trains are too expensive, but that’s where the money is in train travel now. Those trains are packed full most of the time, so people don’t mind paying for it I suppose.

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