Saturday, May 29, 2010

Lounge Access

I spent some time on Twitter today helping a guy out with some questions about airport lounges.  I’ve been asked about them before so I figured now’s as good of a time as any to write down my thoughts.  Since we’re up here in the great white north, I’ll put a Canadian focus on the info.

What are your options

In most Canadian airports you have one (if any) option, the Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge.  Some airports have multiple MLLs to cover their domestic, transborder and international needs.  Most only have one for domestic though.  So if you’re flying transborder or international, check to see if you’ll be able to access the MLL from the terminal area you’re scheduled to depart from.  If you can use a MLL for your departure, it will be close to where the Air Canada flights depart from  The full list of MLL locations and amenities can be found here on the Air Canada site.

A few of the Canadian Airports offer lounges that you can access with Priority Pass.  Their locations are a bit more random in the airport as they’re not serving the departures of one airline.

How do you get access

Maple Leaf Lounges

There are a number of ways to get into the Maple Leaf Lounges.  The first way is to have Gold status with a Star Alliance airline.  This, plus a valid same day departing ticket on a Star Alliance carrier, will get you access.  On top of you, they will grant you access to one guest plus your immediate dependants.

The other no cost way to get into the lounge is to be flying on Air Canada with a business class ticket.

The second way is to have a purchased Maple Leaf Club membership.  You get the same access level as a Star Gold member, but you don’t get guest access.

Another way is to purchase your way in on a flight by flight basis.  Note that you can’t do this at the lounge.  You have to do it when you’re purchasing your ticket.  The cost varies depending on the class of ticket (Tango, Tango+ or Latitude) you purchase.

Priority Pass

Getting into a Priority Pass lounge requires a paid membership for all visits.  They have a few different plans that you can see on their website here.  The short story is that you pay (in some way) and you always have to pay for guests.

The amenities

Maple Leaf Lounge

For business travellers, you have free internet access (name and flight info entry required), a business center with printing and computer terminals and credit card activated phones.

The food offerings in the lounges are light.  Usually toast and yoghurt for the mornings, and salad bars in the afternoons/evenings.  Through the day there are bags of potato chips and some fresh fruit available as well.  At certain times during the afternoons/evenings you can also get soup.  While not the worlds greatest soup, it is pretty good.

All beverages are free in the lounge.  There are coffee/tea/hot chocolate machines, coolers full of soda, wine and canned beers, and beer taps.  There also is a selection of hard liquors available.  As a true Canadian, one of the greatest features are the pre-rimmed caesar glasses and the condiments sections.  The coolers will have Clamato, or sometimes Spicy Clamato, juice to help you make that perfect caesar.

Every lounge has a half decent selection of magazines and local and national newspapers.  Usually there’s also a TV viewing area somewhere in the lounge.

Some lounges have shower facilities, some don’t.  When they do have them, they’re nicely appointed, but don’t have anything spectacular about them.

Some of the individual lounge amenities can be found at this Air Canada web page.

Priority Pass

It’s harder to quantify what you’ll get in a lounge when you use Priority Pass.  Priority Pass isn’t a lounge network, it’s an access mechanism to partner lounges.  Because Priority Pass isn’t controlling these lounges the amenities will vary from lounge to lounge.  Individual lounge offerings can be found by searching the Priority Pass website.


Lounge access is a nicety of air travel.  If you fly enough, you’ll appreciate the amenities.  Unfortunately lounges are opening their doors to more and more travelers.  The result is that they’re more crowded.

Like any public space, some people know how to behave in it while some don’t.  I regularly see people taking phone calls in the designated no-phone areas, talking loudly, letting their children run wild and being slovenly.

Do I use lounges?  You bet.  I use one almost every time I’m in an airport (connection time allowing).  I’m hoping to fill in a series of posts on the Maple Leaf Lounges that I frequent.  Watch here and hopefully you’ll see it.