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AC Lounge Access - physical locations and rules (2022 onwards)

Old Aug 16, 2022, 12:18 pm
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Last edit by: Adam Smith
This wiki will attempt to cover the ability to access various lounges operated by AC. Since many travellers are not familiar with the layout of Canadian airports, we will detail both physical access as well as rules.


Overview of lounges

AC has three types of lounges:
  • Maple Leaf Lounges (MLLs): essentially, regular lounges
  • Caf: caf-style lounge with limited access and grab-and-go
  • Signature Suites: essentially, only for long-haul international business class passengers
Additionally, AC shares an arrivals lounge with UA at LHR for eligible customers.

Locations & Physical Access

Lounges are in the following locations:



Notes:
  • YYZ Transborder: there are 2 MLLs, a full MLL right after US CBP and a second, small MLL near the regional gates
  • YYC Transborder: AC provides access to the Aspire lounge for status and J pax (no passes/credit cards)
  • YTZ Caf: the Caf at YTZ is an Aspire lounge (accessible via Priority Pass and other programs) co-branded by AC
  • EWR: the MLL is a co-branding of the United lounge in Terminal A; access rules are not entirely clear


Note that most of the Canadian airports used by AC have separate areas for domestic, transborder ("TB", i.e. to the US), and international flights. MLLs are often referred to based on which area of the terminal theyre in, e.g. YYZ Dom is the domestic lounge in YYZ, YUL Intl is the international lounge at YUL. Except when connecting from a domestic flight to a TB/international one, you can only use a lounge in the area from which your flight departs. For instance, a passenger flying from YYZ to LGA cannot use the YYZ Dom MLL as CATSA will not allow them to access the domestic wing; a passenger flying YXE-YYZ-LGA could use the YYZ Dom MLL as they will already be in the domestic area on arrival.

YYZ, YVR, and YUL have segregated international departures areas. The international MLLs cannot be accessed before domestic flights. In other locations, a "domestic" MLL can also be accessed before international flights.

Please note that while the US is a separate country, it is NOT an "international" destination in the way most Canadian airports and AC are set up. You can NEVER access the international lounges when departing on a flight to the US. (Passengers connecting in YVR between a domestic and US flight and following the connections path will enter the international departures area prior to the US area and although can physically access the international MLL, you will not be admitted and will be directed to the US area).

Lounges in transborder areas are after US customs pre-clearance, and can only be accessed by customers travelling to the US.


Access Rules

NEW Effective June 13, 2023
Access to Maple Leaf Lounges, Air Canada Cafs, and Signature Suites will be limited to three hours prior to scheduled departure time. Please note that this policy does not apply during flight connections or flight delays.


While it is not published at the time of writing this, the internal policy now exempts SEs and most passengers with reported disabilities (eg WCHR) from the three hour rule for Maple Leaf Lounges, but not the Signature Suite.

MLLs

Can be accessed for customers holding a SAME DAY DEPARTING boarding pass (for a flight operated by AC or another *A member) based on:
  • Status
    • Aeroplan 35K (domestic and transborder only; no guests; until June 1 2023 - no access on or after)
    • Aeroplan 50K and up (spouse/partner, dependent children, and one guest)
    • Star Alliance Gold (one guest)
    • VA Velocity Platinum or Gold (one guest)
    • Emirates SkyWards Platinum or Gold (one guest)
  • Class of service:
    • Business class (on AC or another *A carrier)
    • Premium rouge
  • Passes(passes may only be valid for certain locations, e.g. domestic/TB - Assume your pass is not valid for any International lounge)
    • Given out to those with AC status
    • Given out to certain credit card holders
    • Purchased directly from AC as an add-on to the flight, either in advance or at the lounge
  • Credit cards (no passes required, only for MLLs located within Canada and the US. No access to LHR, CDG, or FRA lounges):
    • TD VIP (one guest through 31 December 2023)
    • CIBC VIP (one guest through 31 December 2023)
    • Amex Aeroplan Reserve cards

Domestic MLLs in Canada, and MLLs in the USA, can also be accessed by those ARRIVING on an Air Canada mainline, rouge or Express flight, for those holding 50K status and higher.


Signature Suites

Signature Suites require both (a) an eligible fare and (b) an eligible destination. Your flight must be a flight operated by Air Canada that is departing internationally from Toronto or Vancouver. It doesnt matter whether you bought the ticket through AC or if youre on an AC codeshare, or if your itinerary has other international connections. Unless your flight is operated by Air Canada, and is advertised as Signature Class, and is departing internationally from Toronto or Vancouver, youre not eligible. The only exception is Emirates First Class - see below.

Eligible fares:
  • Paid business class (originally booked in J, C, D, Z, or P classes)
  • Business Class (Flexible) Aeroplan tickets - note that only Air Canada can ticket Flexible reward tickets; the website may incorrectly display a partner reward as Flexible
  • First Class (Flexible) Aeroplan tickets when travelling on an Air Canada segment in Business Class
  • Emirates First Class (one guest)

Eligible destinations:
  • South America (Colombia and south)
  • Europe
  • Asia
  • Australia and New Zealand

NOT accessible to:
  • Passengers in business class on any type of upgrades (eUpgrades, Last-Minute Upgrades, bid upgrades, Star Alliance Upgrade Awards)
  • Anyone booked in Business Class (Lowest) reward tickets
  • Anyone booked on a reward ticket through a partner airline, e.g. United MileagePlus, Miles & More, etc
  • Passengers flying internationally with Air Canada, but who are not departing on an international Air Canada flight from Toronto or Vancouver. Example, if you are arriving on an international flight, but connecting to a US or domestic flight - you will NOT have access to the suite.

Cafs

Can be accessed by those with a departing domestic boarding pass (no arrivals benefit for the Caf) based on:
  • Status
    • Aeroplan 50K and up (spouse/partner, dependent children, and one guest)
    • Star Alliance Gold (one guest)
    • Emirates SkyWards Platinum or Gold (one guest)
  • Class of service:
    • Business class (there is no business class service from YTZ, but a business class boarding pass for the subsequent flight enables access)
    • Premium rouge
  • Credit cards:
    • TD VIP (one guest through 31 December 2023)
    • CIBC VIP (one guest through 31 December 2023)
    • Amex Aeroplan Reserve cards
Passengers arriving on a domestic flight with a connection to a US or international destination, although you can physically access the Caf, you will not be admitted. eGates have been updated to enforce the access policy.

While it is not published, the internal policy exempts SEs from that requirement, so you should be admitted.

LHR Arrivals Lounge

AC shares an arrivals lounge with UA at LHR, accessible to the following customers upon exiting the baggage hall in Terminal 2:
  • Business Class (Including upgrades to J)
  • Aeroplan Super Elite (one guest) when arriving on an Air Canada flight
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AC Lounge Access - physical locations and rules (2022 onwards)

Old Feb 14, 2024, 2:03 pm
  #1531  
 
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I just scrolled down and there wasn't
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Old Feb 14, 2024, 2:33 pm
  #1532  
 
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Originally Posted by asovse1
I just scrolled down and there wasn't
The T&Cs are pretty outdated. It does not mention SFO MLL at all.

It also does not mention the 3 hours rule but I guess it falls under availability.
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Old Feb 15, 2024, 4:01 am
  #1533  
 
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Originally Posted by Changeup2000
The T&Cs are pretty outdated. It does not mention SFO MLL at all.

It also does not mention the 3 hours rule but I guess it falls under availability.
I get no access to the Signature Suite, but why not the Cafe? I don't get that one...but I also don't get why they are not valid when the PAX is flying on an AC ticket (014), on an AC flight #, but UA metal...
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Old Feb 15, 2024, 4:31 am
  #1534  
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Originally Posted by billdokes
I get no access to the Signature Suite, but why not the Cafe? I don't get that one.
Because the Cafe was meant to be more exclusive than the MLL.
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Old Feb 15, 2024, 9:02 am
  #1535  
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Originally Posted by Adam Smith
Because the Cafe was meant to be more exclusive than the MLL.
Yep, and like the Signature Suite, the Cafes are not MLLs, but that's beside the point...
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Old Feb 15, 2024, 11:46 am
  #1536  
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Originally Posted by Adam Smith
Because the Cafe was meant to be more exclusive than the MLL.
And it was.

But with the changing of the rules to be the same for people with status (other than access on arrival), is it actually more exclusive now?

I mean, strictly, yes, because the one-time passes don't work. But is that the only difference for departure access?
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Old Feb 15, 2024, 12:20 pm
  #1537  
 
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Originally Posted by canadiancow
And it was.

But with the changing of the rules to be the same for people with status (other than access on arrival), is it actually more exclusive now?

I mean, strictly, yes, because the one-time passes don't work. But is that the only difference for departure access?
Honestly, I thought it was just to deal with overflow from the MLL Dom at YYZ and to test a different format...never for a second thought it was a 'more exclusive' or superior experience...I don't think of a place offering 'grab and go' to be associated with something Premium of Exclusive.
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Old Feb 15, 2024, 12:23 pm
  #1538  
 
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Originally Posted by canadiancow
And it was.

But with the changing of the rules to be the same for people with status (other than access on arrival), is it actually more exclusive now?

I mean, strictly, yes, because the one-time passes don't work. But is that the only difference for departure access?
What do you think of part 2:

I also don't get why they are not valid when the PAX is flying on an AC ticket (014), on an AC flight #, but UA metal...
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Old Feb 15, 2024, 12:30 pm
  #1539  
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Originally Posted by billdokes
Honestly, I thought it was just to deal with overflow from the MLL Dom at YYZ and to test a different format...never for a second thought it was a 'more exclusive' or superior experience...I don't think of a place offering 'grab and go' to be associated with something Premium of Exclusive.
If it were just meant to deal with overflow, then why make it such a drastically different concept... just make it some dinky MLL like TB Express to handle the non-SEs who can't get in because of a lineup at the Dom MLL. Much cheaper than creating a markedly different and arguably more upscale experience all round.
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Old Feb 15, 2024, 12:35 pm
  #1540  
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Originally Posted by billdokes
What do you think of part 2:

I also don't get why they are not valid when the PAX is flying on an AC ticket (014), on an AC flight #, but UA metal...
The MLL passes have always required travel on a flight operated by AC. I have no real issue with that, and it's been the rule forever.

Originally Posted by yyznomad
If it were just meant to deal with overflow, then why make it such a drastically different concept... just make it some dinky MLL like TB Express to handle the non-SEs who can't get in because of a lineup at the Dom MLL. Much cheaper than creating a markedly different and arguably more upscale experience all round.
Yeah, if one is not going to be strictly better than the other, I'd rather they just make it consistent so I don't have to think "Hmm where should I go today? Do I want a coffee or some rum?"
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Old Feb 15, 2024, 5:37 pm
  #1541  
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Originally Posted by billdokes
Honestly, I thought it was just to deal with overflow from the MLL Dom at YYZ and to test a different format...never for a second thought it was a 'more exclusive' or superior experience...I don't think of a place offering 'grab and go' to be associated with something Premium of Exclusive.
You're misinterpreting "exclusive". When the Cafe was introduced, access rules were considerably more restrictive than MLLs, i.e. exclusive. Whether one chooses to interpret that exclusivity in a certain way is up to them.
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Old Feb 15, 2024, 11:38 pm
  #1542  
 
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Originally Posted by canadiancow
The MLL passes have always required travel on a flight operated by AC. I have no real issue with that, and it's been the rule forever.



Yeah, if one is not going to be strictly better than the other, I'd rather they just make it consistent so I don't have to think "Hmm where should I go today? Do I want a coffee or some rum?"
I appreciate it has been the rule forever, but why? And I know from personal experience it can cause confusion and a negative experience for someone who doesn't know the ins/outs of codeshares, especially between AC/UA. The other point I'll make is, would it kill them to end the distinction and just make it more seamless for the pass giver + the pass receiver?
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Old Feb 16, 2024, 1:28 am
  #1543  
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Originally Posted by billdokes
I appreciate it has been the rule forever, but why? And I know from personal experience it can cause confusion and a negative experience for someone who doesn't know the ins/outs of codeshares, especially between AC/UA. The other point I'll make is, would it kill them to end the distinction and just make it more seamless for the pass giver + the pass receiver?
Star Alliance generally cares about operating carriers, whether it's lounge access, mileage earning, or whatever. Why should they change that philosophy in this one place? Restricting pass usage to AC metal is much simpler than getting people to understand the vagaries of codeshares.
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Old Feb 16, 2024, 9:16 am
  #1544  
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Originally Posted by Adam Smith
Star Alliance generally cares about operating carriers, whether it's lounge access, mileage earning, or whatever. Why should they change that philosophy in this one place? Restricting pass usage to AC metal is much simpler than getting people to understand the vagaries of codeshares.
I disagree -- *A generally cares whether one is flying a *A carrier WRT *G club access. It may be much simpler for AC to restrict passes to AC metal, but it's harder for a not-so-savvy passenger to understand. If I buy a ticket on AC with an AC flight number but that is operated by UA why penalize me?

FWIW, UA allows entry into its clubs with a membership or a pass if you are traveling same day on UA or a *A flight (or contracted partner operated flight).
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Last edited by Adam Smith; Feb 16, 2024 at 11:23 am Reason: Fixed formatting
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Old Feb 16, 2024, 11:27 am
  #1545  
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I'd assume it's because AC wants some level of revenue if they're going to let you in "for free".

How do you even get a UC one-time pass without paying $50? There's one(?) credit card that gives you two per year? Any other ways?

Everything else is paid memberships.

AC gives every SE 4 transferrable MLL passes. Lower tiers get fewer. I think you might be able to select more as a benefit at the lower tiers as well. There are a lot of "free" MLL passes floating around.

I appreciate it's confusing when you book AC 5109 SFO-YVR on AC.com and it turns out you can't use the MLL pass, but I don't think this rule is unreasonable or inconsistent.

If I go to AC.com and spend $10k for J on AC 9104 YYZ-FRA tomorrow, I can't get into the Signature Suite.
If I go to LH.com and spend $10k for J on LH 6789 YYZ-FRA tomorrow, I can't get into the Welcome Lounge.
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