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This is my first Amtrak trip. I am travelling from Pittsburgh, PA to New York City, NY on the Pennsylvanian; and then from New York City, NY to Washington DC on the Acela Express. Both the tickets are in Business Class.

I read somewhere that the ticket checker/collector will assign the seats for Coach Class tickets on the platform. I am not sure whether this is true in the case of Business Class seats. If not, then does Business Class have fixed seats/seat reservations; or is it just like Greyhound where you can sit in any seat?

If Business Class have seat reservations, then how can I reserve/fix a seat on the train? While booking, I did not find a link to do that. Also, I have checked My Trips > Current Reservations page for a link, but there was no such link.

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First class seats on the Acela Express are the only seats which can be reserved prior to check-in, anywhere in the Amtrak system.* In fact, they are automatically assigned—you cannot see the seat map, and do not know what you have been assigned until you have purchased a ticket, though you can change it afterwards online or with an agent for no charge.

Can I choose a specific seat?
Not while you're making a reservation. Your seat will be automaticaly [sic] assigned to you when you complete your reservation. You may change your seat assignment and choose a different seat at any time after the reservation is complete. Just view your reservation in the Amtrak app or on Amtrak.com. There is no fee to change your seat.

(from Amtrak's First Class Seat page).

Note that the Acela Express is a unique service in the Amtrak system, and does not have a coach section. The "regular" seats are marketed as business class, and the premium seats as first class. This doesn't make a practical difference in terms of seating selection, however, as neither business nor coach seats cannot be reserved in advance on any train in the system.

On long-distance trains, the conductor may assign you a seat, or may allow you to take any open seat. This is largely dependent on how crowded the train is and, for example, if they are anticipating any groups boarding down the line to keep together. For the same reason, even if you are directed to choose your own seat, you should notify the conductor if you want to change later on. On corridor services like the Northeast Regional or Keystone, seating is generally a first-come, first-served scrum, though the conductor will help you find a seat if you ask.

* Rooms and roomettes on trains with sleeper cars are requested and assigned in advance, but these aren't "seats" of course.

  • I didn't realize that Business Class on Acela = Coach Class on conventional trains. Since the OP is traveling in Business Class on Acela, my answer about Coach Class (linked in the question comments above) might be more pertinent than I thought. – Michael Seifert May 23 at 14:06
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    @MichaelSeifert One irony is that coach is such a madhouse for seating that I have bought business class where the premium is not too steep; it's still unassigned seating, but at least it's only in one car, which is typically less full. I have largely avoided the Acela for the last decade or so. It's double the price WAS-NYP over the Regional, and saves you only a half-hour, but is full of people who want everyone to know they are taking the Acela. – choster May 23 at 14:35
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Acela has assigned seats. The other trains do not. You will either

  • be assigned a seat by the conductor at boarding, or
  • it will be "festival seating"/ public transit style seating, where you just take the first seat that you see that suits you. If there are any difficulties, the conductor will sort it out when he comes along.

Either way, if you go to the cafe car for a snack, make sure to leave your seat "looking occupied" e.g. by leaving a jacket there.

Don't forget to go to the cafe car. It's not an airplane, the train is yours to explore. Sitting in your seat the entire trip is a common newbie mistake.

Lastly I suggest checking your reservations; it doesn't make sense geographically to go from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia to NYC, then from NYC to Philadelphia to DC. You might want to ask Amtrak to review your itinerary and see if your 90+ minute Philly-NYC roundtrip is really necessary.

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