Tried & Tested

Rail review: Avanti West Coast first class

1 Jun 2022 by Hannah Brandler
Avanti West Coast Pendolino


Avanti West Coast replaced Virgin Trains on the West Coast Mainline (WCML) in 2019. Avanti offers a three-class configuration: first class, standard premier (the same as first class seating but without complimentary catering) and standard.

I travelled in first class from London Euston to Manchester Piccadilly on the 0940 Pendolino service. The trip has a journey time of two hours and six minutes, and stops include Crewe, Wilmslow and Stockport. Avanti offers trains from 0531 to 2200 on weekdays from London Euston to Manchester Piccadilly.

While I travelled on one of the older trainsets, Avanti’s 56 Pendolinos are being refurbished as part of a £117 million project, set for completion in 2024. The revamp will include more comfortable seats, improved lighting, a redesigned shop and better on-board catering.

Avanti West Coast Euston lounge

First impressions

Avanti has first class lounges at its stations in London, Birmingham, Crew, Liverpool, Manchester and Glasgow, which are available to passengers an hour before they travel. The lounges offer complimentary snacks and drinks and high-speed wifi.

The London Euston lounge is well signposted, located upstairs on the first floor of the station to the left of the escalators. It is open from 0645 until 2300 on weekdays, until 2130 on Saturday and from 0800-2300 on Sundays.

Passengers must show their ticket at the front desk and wait to be seated. During my visit in late April, the lounge was still operating with Covid-style measures meaning that there was table service rather than self-service.

Staff were upbeat and friendly, immediately offering breakfast (pastries such as croissants, apple or apricot danishes, cinnamon buns and porridge) along with tea and coffee.

There are various seating areas in Avanti’s colour scheme, including a counter-top with sockets overlooking the main concourse, tables for eating, and pod-style seats for privacy. Passengers can get up-to-date information on their trains via the screens. It was fairly busy during my visit but did not feel crowded as there’s lots of seating areas.

While you could easily just arrive on time for your train and miss the lounge, it’s a peaceful way to start the morning with a pastry and tea in hand, away from the crowds in the main concourse.


The platform was announced at 0925 for the 0940 departure. There was no queue to show my ticket and it was quick to board, with the first class cabins at the back of the train. This does mean, however, that you will have to walk the length of the platform when you arrive at Manchester Piccadilly.

Avanti West Coast seating map

The seat

The first class cabins are located in coaches J and K and have a 1-2 configuration for the most part. Coach K only has 18 seats, with the rest of the space taken up by the kitchen, and coach J has 37 seats.

There are four seats at a table and then a pair of seats opposite each other across the aisle. Neighbouring seats J7 and J8 have a table but no seats opposite, with the space in front for wheelchairs. See the seat map.

The seats in the first class cabin offer extra leg room than those in the Standard class, and all of them have tables. They do not differ from the Standard Premium cabin but, from my experience, first class was quieter and there are added benefits such as complimentary food and beverages and access to the lounge.

Avanti West Coast first class

My seat was initially booked as J24, a backward-facing aisle seat at a four-person table. The window seat on the opposite of the aisle (J23) was free so I sat there instead as it had more space and privacy.

There are plug sockets at every window seat, located just below the table, so these are preferable for business travellers hoping to get some work done during the journey. There is no USB charging point. The seats have lights above them, as well as a lamp-style light on the table.

Avanti West Coast first class

I stored my hand luggage on the overhead shelf and there are racks at either end of the cabin for larger items.

There is an accessible toilet between Coach K and J, which was clean throughout the journey.

Avanti West Coast first class

Food and drink

Just after boarding, the staff offered passengers mint and lemon-infused water or fruit juice. This was followed by tea and coffee around five minutes later, at which point you could order your complimentary breakfast.

There is no physical menu but you can scan the QR code at your seat or visit the website to see the menu. Breakfast is served until 1100 and thereafter there is an all-day menu with the likes of pumpkin and ricotta ravioli, a salad bowl and afternoon tea.

Avanti West Coast first class

Breakfast options included cooked dishes such as a full English or a vegan equivalent, a bacon sandwich, smoked salmon and scrambled eggs, a fruit bowl, and porridge with honey or banana. Avanti reintroduced its cooked breakfast when it upgraded its first class in January.

I opted for the vegan breakfast which was served within ten minutes of ordering and was, by and large, very tasty. It included a well-seasoned corn fritter with zesty smashed avocado and a roasted tomato, though a watery Portobello mushroom. All that was missing was some bread. Drinks were offered again twice over the two-hour journey, keeping us hydrated.

The menu uses local suppliers along its routes. The coffee, for instance, is sourced from London-based social enterprise Change Please, which trains people affected by homelessness as baristas, while Avanti has collaborated with the team at Forest Distillery in Macclesfield to create a unique gin blend ‘Forest to First’ in the first-class cabin alongside Manchester Gin.

Avanti West Coast first class breakfast

The journey

We departed on time at 0940 and the journey was largely smooth aside from slowing down at 1045 when we approached Crewe. The train returned to its normal speed after we departed the station at around 1057, but the delays meant that we arrived at Wilmslow and Stockport ten minutes later than scheduled.

Passengers can track the live progress of their train if they have logged onto the free wifi, which is a handy feature as it gives real-time updates on delays.

Service was excellent throughout, with very prompt food and drinks offerings, frequent collection of rubbish (there are no bins) and friendly chat. Masks were not necessary during the journey.

The free wifi is hit and miss, with Avanti stating that areas of the network can be slower in rural areas and tunnels. I found it difficult to rely on the wifi so resorted to writing articles on Word and sending them to a colleague to upload to the website.

Avanti West Coast track train


We arrived at 1154, eight minutes later than scheduled due to the earlier delay (the image above shows the delays earlier in the journey). It was a speedy disembark and the ticket gates were open to the main station.


Avanti’s first class is a very nice way to travel, with comfortable seats in a clean quiet carriage. There is very prompt and friendly service, including a tasty complimentary cooked breakfast. The downside is that the wifi is not reliable and it is a very expensive way to travel, particularly at peak times.

Fact box

Best for

Excellent service in quiet carriages

Seat configuration



Internet rates for a midweek single first class fare from London Euston to Manchester Piccadilly in July started from £107.50 one-way


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