Insider reporters Mikhaila Friel and Joey Hadden traveled in first-class trains in the US and the UK.
Both reporters paid under $300 for Amtrak and Avanti West Coast trips with meals and lounge access.
Mikhaila and Joey both came to the same conclusion: first-class wasn't worth the price tag.
Earlier this year, two of Insider's reporters took first-class trains in the UK and the US.
In June, UK-based reporter Mikhaila Friel traveled in first class on Avanti West Coast's train from Glasgow, Scotland to London, England. The journey took just over five hours and cost $257, or around £209. In comparison, standard tickets start at around $40, or £32.80, depending on the timing.
Meanwhile, in March, US-based reporter Joey Hadden traveled first-class on an Amtrak Acela from New York City to Baltimore. The journey took about 2.5 hours and cost $273, or around £232. In comparison, a standard Amtrak Acela ticket, which is comprised of all business and first-class seats, cost $121. Joey spent an extra $152 to upgrade to first class.
Avanti West Coast and Amtrak are popular train lines in the UK and US.
Avanti West Coast is a UK-based train operator that runs services between 50 different stations across Scotland, England, and north Wales, according to its website. The operator has been running since 2019, when it took over Virgin Trains, The Independent reported at the time.
Mikhaila had used Avanti West Coast's services before, as she previously lived in London and regularly traveled between the capital and her home in Scotland. She only ever purchased a standard ticket before, so she was excited to see what first class would be like this time around.
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.
Joey previously traveled up and down the East Coast on Amtrak in bedroom and roomette accommodations, and had experienced coach before, but this was her first time booking a first-class ticket.
Neither reporter had traveled in first class before, so they did some research about the routes and perks of the upgraded train car ahead of time.
Mikhaila had never traveled in first class before, so she researched Avanti West Coast's services ahead of time to manage expectations. She was surprised to learn that the train operator had a first-class lounge at her local train station in Glasgow; she also looked forward to trying the food and beverages on the train.
It was Joey's first time in first class, too, so she looked up the Amtrak Acela route she was traveling on and learned that Acela is an Amtrak express train on the East Coast with only business and first-class seating. She also learned that like Mikhalia's trip, hers would include access to an exclusive lounge at New York's Penn Station, as well as food and beverage services on the train.
Mikhaila began her journey at Glasgow Central Station while Joey boarded her ride at Penn Station in NYC.
Mikhaila arrived at Scotland's biggest train station, Glasgow Central, around an hour and 30 minutes before her 11:33 a.m. departure on June 1 in order to enjoy the station's first-class lounge, which is open exclusively to Avanti West Coast passengers traveling with first-class tickets.
Joey arrived at NYC's Penn Station at around 8 a.m. for her 9 a.m. train to Baltimore on a Sunday morning to spend an hour in Amtrak's Metropolitan Lounge, where first-class passengers get in for free on the day of their trip, and business-class passengers can pay $50 to access the club.
Both reporters thought their first-class lounges were nicely decorated and had a cozy feel.
Upon entering the first-class lounge in Glasgow, Mikhaila noticed that nobody asked to see her ticket or the tickets of the passengers who entered after her. This struck her as odd, as it seemed that anybody was allowed to walk in.
Despite this, she noticed there weren't too many other people in the lounge. She liked the way it was decorated with cozy armchairs as well as murals on the walls that referenced some of the city's landmarks.
Joey thought the lounge at Penn Station was beautifully decorated and very clean. There was plenty of comfortable seating and only a couple of other passengers during Joey's time in the lounge. She had to show her ticket to an attendant to get inside.
While Mikhaila felt uninspired by Glasgow's lounge snack selection, Joey felt spoiled for choice in NYC.
Mikhaila felt uninspired by the complimentary snacks in Glasgow's first-class lounge, which included fruit, oatmeal, muesli bars, and muffins. She assumed there would be a wider variety of options or the chance to order a hot meal considering the price tag of her train ticket.
She also noticed there were two mini fridges with water bottles and sodas inside, however, one had a broken door and was still in use. There were also two coffee machines, one of which had an "out of use" sign attached to it.
Meanwhile, Joey was surprised and overwhelmed by the wide selection of complimentary snacks in Amtrak's lounge, which included Kind bars, cookies, popcorn, chips, and candy. A refrigerated section was stocked with additional snacks like chips and hummus. There were also free beverages like coffee, iced tea, and citrus-infused water. The beverages were grab-and-go while the snacks were served by an attendant at the snack counter.
As Joey was waiting for her train in the peaceful, comfy space with free refreshments, she thought it was nice, but wouldn't pay $50 for it if traveling in business class.
After boarding their respective trains, Mikhaila and Joey were both impressed by the amount of luggage space and leg room they experienced in their first-class carriages.
In Mikhaila's first-class carriage, she had the option to book a table seat or an individual seat. She opted for a table seat, and there was just one other passenger seated across the table from her. She enjoyed the extra leg room that came with having a table. She also thought there was plenty of space to store her luggage in the overhead rack, perhaps more than if she was in another carriages because the first-class carriage appeared to be nearly empty.
In Joey's first-class Acela car, the configuration was two seats on one side and one seat on the other. Joey sat in her reserved seat in the single row and was impressed by the amount of space she had to herself. She also put her luggage in the overhead bin to maximize leg room and thought she had more leg room than in other Amtrak rides she'd experienced, enough to stretch her legs almost all the way out.
Mikhaila thought her seat was comfortable throughout the five-hour journey, but Joey felt her's was more stiff than expected.
On the Avanti West Coast train, Mikhaila thought the chairs were made with a soft fabric and noted they also had arm rests on each side. Mikhaila was seated next to the window, so she felt comfortable and relaxed watching the scenery throughout the journey. She also had a power outlet on the wall to charge her phone.
On Joey's Amtrak train, she noticed that the chairs appeared to be big and thought they'd be comfy and plush. However, once she sat down, she thought they felt stiffer than expected. Next to Joey's feet were two outlets to charge devices.
However, Joey had some have perks that Mikhaila didn't. Below the tray table, a foot rest pulled out from the seat back chair and above her head was a reading light.
Both reporters thought they received better customer service than they have in other train classes.
One thing Mikhaila thought was different when traveling first class compared to her prior train travel was the level of customer service she received. Just 10 minutes after her train departed, she was approached by a staff member who asked for her drink order. She asked for a Pepsi, which was delivered promptly. The staff were present in the carriage throughout the journey to collect litter and attend to passengers' requests.
Joey had a similar experience with Amtrak's first-class service. She received a food and drink menu within minutes of her departure and ordered an orange juice, which was served shortly after.
The food on board Avanti West Coast and Amtrak were excellent in quality, both reporters said.
When it came time to place a food order, Mikhaila wasn't given a physical menu but was verbally asked to choose between ravioli, a toastie, or afternoon tea.
She chose the afternoon tea, which was served to her by a member of staff and consisted of four sandwiches: ham and cheese, cheese and onion, chicken, and egg. There was also a scone with two individual pots of jam and cream. She enjoyed the entire meal, particularly the scone, which she thought was light and fluffy.
Joey traveled during breakfast time and could choose between four complimentary meals including an omelet and an empanada. She chose a fresh fruit plate and orange juice, which came out just a few minutes after she ordered. She was surprised to find that it included a croissant, too, since it didn't say so on the menu.
Joey thought the fruit tasted cold and fresh and every piece was as juicy and flavorful as the last. While the croissant tasted a little less fresh to her, she still found it to be warm and tasty. A few minutes after she finished eating, an attendant came by to remove her tray.
Both reporters agreed that the first-class bathrooms weren't different from what they have experienced in other classes.
There was a bathroom in Avanti West Coast's first-class carriage, however Mikhaila didn't notice any special, luxurious touches that would make it feel more elevated for first class. It had a full-length mirror, a sink area, a smaller mirror, a toilet, and a hand-dryer.
The bathrooms in Joey's first-class carriages were clean and seemed to be quite typical of a train bathroom in other classes, in her experience.
After departing their respective trains, Mikhaila and Joey concluded that their first-class experiences weren't worth the expensive price tags. But Mikhaila thought she got a slightly better deal since her ride was cheaper and longer.
While both reporters experienced similar comfortable experiences on their train journeys, Mikhaila's journey was double the length of Joey's and her ticket cost $16 less. Considering the length of the journey, it appears that Mikhaila received a better value for her ticket.
Mikhaila enjoyed her first-class experience, especially the customer service and onboard food and beverages. However, she didn't think it was worth $257 as she wouldn't pay that much for the same meal in a restaurant.
Similarly, Joey was glad she got the chance to try the first-class Amtrak experience, but she didn't think the larger seat or perks of the complimentary lounge and meal were worth the $273 price tag since the seat wasn't that comfortable and the food and snacks weren't exceptional.
Next time, both reporters will save money and just book a regular ticket.
Read the original article on Insider