High Speed Rail Review: Renfe Preferred (Business) Class Madrid-Seville

As I mentioned in my previous post a couple of times, weather in Madrid was quite chilly and windy for the first two days of our stay. This made walking around the city and visiting Toledo or Segovia not so pleasant. When I looked at the weather report that morning, it looked as if the temperatures were much better down south in Seville (in the 60s and 70s).

Introduction: Spring break in Spain
British Airways Club World DFW-LHR
British Airways T5 Galleries South Lounge @ Heathrow
The Westin Palace Madrid
Renfe Preferred Class Madrid-Seville
Renfe Preferred Class Lounge – Seville St. Justa
Hotel Alfonso XII Seville
Strolling in Seville
Sights and Sounds of Majestic Madrid
Iberia Business Class Lounge Madrid Barajas
Iberia Business Class Madrid-Barcelona
The W Barcelona
Exploring Gaudi’s Barcelona
The Hilton London Heathrow Airport T5
American Airlines New Business Class LHR-DFW

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Since we were planning on Seville anyway during this trip to Spain, we decided it might as well be while the weather in Madrid was unpleasant. And so I quickly went on to the RENFE website to buy tickets. Buying the tickets is extremely easy despite the website persistently switching to Spanish as the default language. Unfortunately given the short notice, there were no tourist class tickets left and the price for tourist plus was rather high. I noticed that preferred class was going for less than 10 euros more than tourist plus class so I grabbed those seats for ~87 Euros. In case you are wondering, I used my Citi Prestige Card for 3x the points on this travel expense.

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Most RENFE high speed trains depart from Madrid Atocha Station, which is the busiest train station in Spain. Walking in, the Madrid train station struck me as being surprisingly more modern and a bit more tropical than other European train stations I had seen (eg. Zurich, Paris, Frankfurt…). In the extremely spacious station centre, there were a number of palm trees and tropical shrubs, emphasizing Spain’s southern position in Europe.

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All high speed rail platforms at Madrid Atocha have airport style security checks at the entry doorways. The line was rather long, but we found that it moved extremely quickly. There was a separate line for business class, but it wasn’t manned at that point.

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Hopping on to the platform, we were met with the usual European high speed rail train scene. Sleek looking, modern, and nicely painted rail cars in the middle of a well lit covered area.

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I must say though that Spain’s high speed trains looked to be in immaculate condition compared to the trains in other European countries, both on the outside as well as inside.  
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The seats in “Renfe Preferred Class” were arranged alternating between forward facing seats and seats facing another pair of seats. Though there was no real difference in seating arrangement between tourist class and preferred class, the seats had a noticeable amount of extra leg space and seat width. Luggage, as usual, is stored above the seats on overhead racks.

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There were an ample number of electric outlets in between and around the seats so I charged up all my electronics during the ride. The lack of Wifi was very disappointing, however, given that T-Mobile data roaming is only good enough for email, Whatsapp, and Google Maps.

As we got ourselves seated and settled in, we were handed a menu featuring available complimentary drinks. The menu read as follows:

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The 2.5 hour train ride from Madrid to Seville is an express service with only one intermediate stop: Cordoba.  By the time we pushed off from Madrid, most of the seats in the cabin were taken.

Having seen beautiful rolling green hills and green pastures in France, Germany, and more,  I had my eyes glued to the window. However, most of the scenery in Spain was rather drab and dry, even in the hilly areas. I like to think that it was due to it being the colder time of the year, but I might be wrong. Sorry that I don’t have any pictures. The fast moving nature of the train also meant the pictures came out blurry.

About an hour into the ride, the drinks service began with some water or orange juice served from a tray. This was soon followed by a beverage cart featuring soft drinks and alcoholic beverages. I chose Coke Light, of course, which was served with ice and lemons.

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Following the drinks service, lunch was served, which included fresh fruit, a sandwich, and some packaged chocolate cake. I tried asking for a vegetarian tray option on the cart, but the attendant didn’t speak English and I wasn’t sure whether he understood my dad’s Spanish. You may note that there was some writing on the package, but most of it was not about the ingredients. For what it’s worth, coffee and tea service was also offered following the meal/snack service.

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I finished off my Coke Light, and was brought another since my sister hadn’t ordered a drink before (drinks are strictly one per person). I didn’t risk trying the sandwich because I wasn’t sure of it being vegetarian.

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Before we knew it, our train pulled into Seville St. Justa, capping a relaxing ride from Madrid.

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We headed out to the taxi queue, and in a manner of minutes were on our way to the magnificent Hotel Alfonso.

Renfe Business Class Seville —> Madrid

Our return journey was on a slightly newer version of Renfe train we arrived on earlier. This preferred class cabin featured better lighting, new magenta coloured seats, and well tinted windows to keep the cabin cooler (especially in the summer). I don’t have much more to say regarding this, but just wanted to point out that some trains are much nicer than others.

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Bottom Line:

The Renfe AVE service  is one of Europe’s best high speed rail services and the best way to travel across Spain if you book your tickets early and at reasonable prices. The trains are what you expect European trains to be: fast, convenient (going from city center to city center), modern,  clean, and quiet.  Preferred class seats come with the added benefits of added seat pitch, extra space, meal/beverage service, extra power ports, lounge access, and a quieter cabin. These seats were nice given that I was only paying a 10 Euro premium, but definitely not worth the usual 60-70 Euro upgrade. However, I leave you to judge the pricing of some of those alcoholic beverages on the menu, lounge access (more on that in the next post), and your desire for sleep before making that decision. From what I could tell, tourist class looks to be good enough for travel throughout Spain. 

Note: if you are looking for last minute transit options, airfare is probably the cheapest considering the extremely low fares I have seen on Veuling and the 4500 award tickets on Iberia available through British Airways. However, this very much throws away a lot of time on commutes between each city’s airports and their respective city centers. Not to mention airline security and more. In other words, make sure you have the time. I sure didn’t!