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

Old Aug 16, 22, 1:18 pm
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Last edit by: yowcat
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:



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

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 (on flights within Canada, to the U.S and Sun destinations, indicated by cabin code J on your boarding pass)
  • 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 Lounges 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.

Eligible fares:
  • Paid business class (originally booked in J, C, D, Z, or P classes)
  • Business Class (Flexible) Aeroplan tickets
  • 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 - this includes any rewards ticketed by an Aeroplan partner, 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.

Cafe

Can be accessed by those with a departing domestic boarding pass (no arrivals benefit for the Cafe) based on:
  • Status
    • Aeroplan 50K and up (one guest)
    • Star Alliance Gold (one guest)
    • Emirates SkyWards Platinum or Gold (one guest)
  • Class of service:
    • Business class
    • 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 cafe, you will not be admitted. eGates have been updated to enforce the access policy.

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
  • 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 Oct 3, 22, 3:04 pm
  #241  
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Originally Posted by zorn View Post
Are we 100% certain it's the credit card holders who are crowding the lounges, and not also a combination of the following issues
All have been discussed, and I think generally acknowledged as issues, in the thread on how AC is creating too many elites.

Originally Posted by zkzkz View Post
There is the obvious logical issue with "credit cards" being the problem... Frequent fliers are frequently at the airport. If the credit card holders aren't frequent fliers then it's tough for them to add up to a lot of seats in the lounge since they aren't there.... frequently.
I've already done the math on this in some other thread. It doesn't take a large number of incremental customers to push lounges over capacity, and even if individual non-elite credit card holders don't fly very often, there are so many of them out there in the country that it only takes a small percentage of them to show up to the lounge on any given day to have a large impact.

The only problem with that is that AC has defined frequent fliers as people who fly frequently *and* pay a lot for their tickets. By excluding all the lower fares from significant status qualification currency there are frequent fliers who don't actually qualify for status.
You misunderstand the purpose of a frequent flyer program. It's not to shower benefits on people who fly often, it's to incentivize behaviour that's profitable to the airline. The people who buy the cheapest possible tickets, especially Basic, may generate little to no profit for AC, and have also demonstrated themselves to be incredibly price-sensitive. AC thus chooses not to reward this behaviour.
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Old Oct 3, 22, 3:31 pm
  #242  
 
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Originally Posted by Adam Smith View Post
You misunderstand the purpose of a frequent flyer program. It's not to shower benefits on people who fly often, it's to incentivize behaviour that's profitable to the airline. The people who buy the cheapest possible tickets, especially Basic, may generate little to no profit for AC, and have also demonstrated themselves to be incredibly price-sensitive. AC thus chooses not to reward this behaviour.
I didn't make any judgement there, just speculated about whether the credit card users -- at least the ones seen frequently in the lounge -- are actually new or just the same people that the lounges previously accommodated before the rules changes.

(But as an aside if AC doesn't want people buying Basic fares they have an easy option.... stop selling them)

Edit: Ah. I think I see how my comment may have been unclear. When I said "The only problem with that" I didn't mean I had a problem with AC's practices (in this moment). I meant the only problem with my logic above about non-status travellers being non-frequent travellers and therefore not taking up lounge seats is that there exist non-status travellers who do fly frequently but on Basic/Standard fares. If those people sign up for credit cards they may well appear in lounges frequently even though they're non-status.

Last edited by zkzkz; Oct 3, 22 at 7:52 pm
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Old Oct 3, 22, 5:39 pm
  #243  
 
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Originally Posted by zkzkz View Post
(But as an aside if AC doesn't want people buying Basic fares they have an easy option.... stop selling them)
I don't think AC have any problems with people buying basic fares. I am pretty confident that AC are not losing money on those people.

But they are also not making money from them hand over fist from basic fare passengers - to Adam's point, they are also very price-sensitive - so there is no need to shower those purchasers with additional benefits. You want to pay for a basic flight, then you get a basic flight - you don't also get other status and benefits from that flight.
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Old Oct 3, 22, 6:44 pm
  #244  
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Originally Posted by canopus27 View Post
I don't think AC have any problems with people buying basic fares. I am pretty confident that AC are not losing money on those people.

But they are also not making money from them hand over fist from basic fare passengers - to Adam's point, they are also very price-sensitive - so there is no need to shower those purchasers with additional benefits. You want to pay for a basic flight, then you get a basic flight - you don't also get other status and benefits from that flight.
What benefits do you not get on Basic? eUpgrades? Everything else is still offered.
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Old Oct 3, 22, 6:56 pm
  #245  
 
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Originally Posted by canadiancow View Post
What benefits do you not get on Basic? eUpgrades? Everything else is still offered.
You don't get SQM or SQD.

To quote the OP:
By excluding all the lower fares from significant status qualification currency there are frequent fliers who don't actually qualify for status.
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Old Oct 4, 22, 12:57 am
  #246  
 
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Out of curiosity, does anyone know the closing time of the YVR Domestic Maple Leaf Lounge? Online sources have varying times, from 10pm-11:30pm, while the lounge phone line seems to have an hour hold time...

Thanks,
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Old Oct 4, 22, 1:25 am
  #247  
 
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Pretty sure I am just adding more evidence to something that is already apparent.

Went to YVR-DOM MLL on September 28, 2022, at 11:30. I would describe it as at 150% of capacity. 100% of all sitting spaces were full and the rest of the lounge looked like a San Sebastian tapas bar with people standing and eating small bites off plates.

I walked out . . and took a seat in the sparsely setup Plaza Premium "lounge" at the top of the concourse stairs. At least I got a seat to myself and was served a drink . . . .

Also - at checkin - - the Kiosks were relatively empty there were ~70 people in line for "priority" checkin with 4 people in the SE line. We all basically joked that everyone should just use the kiosks . . .
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Old Oct 5, 22, 10:24 am
  #248  
 
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Originally Posted by Adam Smith View Post
All have been discussed, and I think generally acknowledged as issues, in the thread on how AC is creating too many elites.
In the thread about zoned boarding, this email excerpt on the airline's view of the matter was posted:

Originally Posted by TheViperOne View Post
First, on the topic of our hub lounges, you are right they are overcrowded. This is an industry-level phenomena, and we have studied this quite a bit. You may find it interesting that our overall visits are actually lower vs. 2019, and premium credit cardholders continue to be an insignificant minority of visits. Our main driver of overcrowding is actually dwell time -- meaning our customers are spending more time in our lounges than ever before. While flight delays can add to this, most of our increased visit durations come from much earlier arrival times at the airport and longer flight connection times.
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Old Oct 5, 22, 10:26 am
  #249  
 
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Originally Posted by zrh2yvr View Post
Went to YVR-DOM MLL on September 28, 2022, at 11:30. I would describe it as at 150% of capacity. 100% of all sitting spaces were full and the rest of the lounge looked like a San Sebastian tapas bar with people standing and eating small bites off plates.
Hmmm...it's all coming together now.

I had the same experience in YYZ domestic last week. The lounge cleared out as soon as the YVR flight started boarding.

Conclusion: the problem is all the Vancouver people.
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Last edited by zorn; Oct 5, 22 at 10:45 am
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Old Oct 5, 22, 10:41 am
  #250  
 
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Originally Posted by zorn View Post
Conclusion: the problem is all the Vancouver people.
Absolutely! And you're welcome!
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Old Oct 5, 22, 1:56 pm
  #251  
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Originally Posted by zorn View Post
In the thread about zoned boarding, this email excerpt on the airline's view of the matter was posted:
So in theory it should resolve itself over time. As frequency increases, connection times will shrink. And as general chaos returns to semi-chaos, people will stop showing up 6 hours early.

But I'd still like to see some kind of "zone 1" bypass for long lounge lines.
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Old Oct 5, 22, 2:27 pm
  #252  
 
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Originally Posted by canadiancow View Post
So in theory it should resolve itself over time. As frequency increases, connection times will shrink. And as general chaos returns to semi-chaos, people will stop showing up 6 hours early.

But I'd still like to see some kind of "zone 1" bypass for long lounge lines.
Of note I also mentioned the creation of more elites through various promotions and carryovers in the e-mail before mentioning credit cards and they conveniently did not respond to that part...
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Old Oct 5, 22, 7:54 pm
  #253  
 
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Originally Posted by canadiancow View Post
I'm not even sure we have consensus on mixed cabin bookings. There have been contradictory examples provided in the timeframe covered by this thread. It seems it's more of a YOLO.

Access on arrival is pretty straightforward. If you're 50K+, you can access any domestic or transborder MLL on arrival.
50K+ can access all Domestic and TB lounges (in Canada and US) upon arrival?

I thought it was just Domestic MLLs (in Canada).
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Old Oct 5, 22, 8:40 pm
  #254  
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Originally Posted by c224488 View Post
50K+ can access all Domestic and TB lounges (in Canada and US) upon arrival?

I thought it was just Domestic MLLs (in Canada).
Well you wouldn't have physical access to pre-clearance areas, but you're allowed in the ones in the US.
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Old Oct 5, 22, 9:36 pm
  #255  
 
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Originally Posted by zrh2yvr View Post
Pretty sure I am just adding more evidence to something that is already apparent.

Went to YVR-DOM MLL on September 28, 2022, at 11:30. I would describe it as at 150% of capacity. 100% of all sitting spaces were full and the rest of the lounge looked like a San Sebastian tapas bar with people standing and eating small bites off plates.

I walked out . . and took a seat in the sparsely setup Plaza Premium "lounge" at the top of the concourse stairs. At least I got a seat to myself and was served a drink . . . .
I've been to the YVR domestic MLL 3 times over the past month (September 8/11 and October 3) and there was a decent crowd, but I wouldn't say it was at capacity like the YUL domestic MLL, which has been at/over capacity during my visits earlier this year (April 26, May 19). My gripes with the YVR domestic lounge are that there's no business centre (unlike the MLL in Calgary/Edmonton where there are cubicles/desks) and the same poor hot food items seem to be served over and over again (cream of mushroom soup, chicken penne, slices of a pretty lousy flatbread, and some sweet/sour rice), which may have made me sick during my visits on September 8 and October 3 (and I like to think that I have a pretty strong stomach after habitually consuming street food in developing countries). Never had an issue with the two other YVR MLLs, but I'll be going to the Plaza Premium Lounge instead the next time I'm waiting in the YVR domestic terminal.

I can't help but notice that I walk right by the international MLL in YVR every time before getting to the USA preclearance area and the USA preclearance MLL. I saw the wiki pinned in this thread, but just to confirm, I would be turned away from the MLL in the international section of YVR if I am flying to the USA? I was tempted to stop there instead this past Friday if my connection to the USA (SFO) wasn't so tight. My last visit to the international MLL in YVR was in February 2020, when I was going from YYC-YVR-HND, and I stopped at the MLL in the domestic area, followed by the MLL in the international area with no problems (YVR to HND leg was with ANA, YYC to YVR with Air Canada).
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