VIA Rail business class adds extra comfort and service to an already comfortable way to travel…but is it worth the upgrade? I travelled between Toronto and Kingston to find out. This is my VIA Rail business class review.
What Does a via Rail Business Class Ticket Get?
A VIA Rail business class ticket includes the following upgrades over economy class;
- Lounge Access
- Hot meal service
- Alcoholic beverages
- Spacious seating arrangements
- Priority boarding
- Extra checked bag
It’s important to note that change and cancellation fees are still present with a standard business class ticket. If you are looking for more flexibility, consider booking a Business Class Plus ticket.
VIA Rail Business Class Cost
VIA Rail business class tickets vary in price based on route and distance travelled. For major routes, business class seats start at $131 between Toronto and Montreal and $101 between Quebec City and Montreal.
For this review, I travelled between Union Station in Toronto and Kingston and cost me $144. In comparison, my return trip in economy was $68. That said, the return trip was further out so rates were lower overall. For best pricing, book well in advance.
That said, Erin recently travelled from Toronto to Chatham and, due to demand, the lower tier economy tickets were sold out. The economy tickets left were almost as much as a business class ticket so in that scenario, closer to the travel date is also a good option on when to book.
Toronto Union Station Lounge
Although a nice perk, lounge access isn’t a selling point for upgrading to be VIA Rail business class. The Union Station lounge includes plenty of comfortable seating options and free Wi-Fi but beyond that, there isn’t much to write home about.
As I found on my Toronto to Vancouver “Canadian” review, the Union Station lounge is lacking a lot. On this visit, drinks were limited to sodas and juice. There was one functioning coffee machine however no coffee cups were to be found. There was, however, plenty of coffee whitener spread all over the countertop 🤦.
If hungry or looking for great coffee before boarding, I suggest visiting the Balzac coffee shop located at the UP (Union to Person Airport train) platform. This personal favourite serves up some of the best coffee in the city and has great butter tarts.
VIA Rail Business Class Seats
Seating in VIA Rail business class is configured in a 1-2 format with tables of four seats staggered every five or so rows. I was travelling solo so sat on the single-seat side and it was plenty spacious. That said, so are the economy seats. I don’t think you gain much legroom on the business class seats however you do get extra space on the window side thanks to the lack of a second seat. There’s also a small table at seat level which is a great addition as the table tray is small. The side table includes cup indents which can help free up your workspace. Double seats have this table in between the two.
Speaking of the table tray, given it is small, it’s not overly conducive for laptop work. It also does not move forward so I found myself hunched over to work. This is no different in economy class. If travelling looking to get some work done I suggest getting a seat at one of the tables as there is more space. If the train is not full, you will have an office space to yourself.
The seats themselves are comfy but again, I don’t see much difference from coach. In both classes, seats are leather however I believe the business class seats include footrests and the economy ones don’t. Also, the seats recline slightly but again, this may be the same in economy.
VIA Rail Business Class Service
Service in VIA Rail business class is where the value starts to show. I found the crew in the business class car super friendly and accommodating. Drink service was frequent and meal delivery and cleanup were timely.
As for the food itself, options on my route included a cheese ravioli with eggplant dish with Greek salad, a baked fish dish, and a cold chicken salad. I opted for the pasta and it was just OK – on par with economy airline food but included in the cost of the tickets so I’ll take that as a win.
Drink service includes wine and spirits and a limited beer menu. Sadly, no craft beer from Ontario is to be found. On the positive, they do serve tall cans.
Note: they ran out of both ravioli and chicken options so if you have a preference or dietary restrictions I suggest selecting your meal in advance. VIA Rail accommodates a variety of diets. You can select your preference upon booking your ticket.
So, Is via Rail Business Class Worth It?
Despite the subtle differences between economy and business class, I enjoyed my trip and would recommend upgrading if the price is right. This means booking in advance or scooping up a seat when cheaper economy seats are gone or comparable. The hot meal and included beverages make for an already enjoyable way to travel that much better. On my return trip in economy, I did miss the beverage service. Still, although the ride itself was very crowded, it was still comfortable.
Last, VIA Rail is rolling out new trains and the business class cars look amazing. I hope to check them out soon. If anyone takes one, let me know what you think!
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