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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 Apr 30, 2023, 11:47 am
  #706  
 
Join Date: May 2020
Location: YYZ
Programs: AC SE, AA PlatPro, Hyatt Globalist, Bonvoy Plat & LT Gold, Hilton Gold, National EE
Posts: 880
Originally Posted by Adam Smith
No.
Can confirm no access when flying to the Caribbean in paid Signature J. I was on a paid J Signature Class ticket to BGI (on the 788) and it was just MLL access.
MillennialMiles is offline  
Old Apr 30, 2023, 1:10 pm
  #707  
 
Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: YVR
Programs: AC 75K, BA Gold, Marriott Platinum, National EE, Sixt Platinum, Hertz PC, AVIS PC
Posts: 1,943
Originally Posted by FlyerGoldII
The Plaza Premium lounge agent felt I could successfully get access to the AC Signature Lounge next door.
Originally Posted by Adam Smith
Why do you think they would know anything about it?
They work at the airport!

Ron.
newfbc is offline  
Old May 12, 2023, 12:45 pm
  #708  
 
Join Date: Oct 2015
Posts: 756
Is flying domestic but at a gate equal to or greater than 50 still the rule for entry on domestic flights flying AC J? It's been a few years...
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Old May 12, 2023, 12:47 pm
  #709  
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Originally Posted by Nazdoom
Is flying domestic but at a gate equal to or greater than 50 still the rule for entry on domestic flights flying AC J? It's been a few years...
The bolded part is impossible.
canadiancow is online now  
Old May 12, 2023, 1:25 pm
  #710  
 
Join Date: Apr 2023
Location: YUL
Programs: AC E75K
Posts: 153
Originally Posted by canadiancow
The bolded part is impossible.
Didn't use to be. 50 and 51 at YUL were once swing gates that could be used for domestic or international departures. I suppose that changed when they put international BP scanning checkpoint in, tbh I didn't think about it. OP said he hasn't been there in some time -- he'll have to use the old lounge by gate 3 afaik.
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Old May 12, 2023, 1:32 pm
  #711  
 
Join Date: Oct 2015
Posts: 756
Originally Posted by canadiancow
The bolded part is impossible.
Apparently 50 and 51 are swing gates, so they do sometimes serve domestic flights. Such as right now.
But for the benefit of others: yeah, no physical access to the intl lounge even if assigned to a gate 51 domestic. They installed one-way bp scanners to go beyond the swing gates (i.e., to 52 and up when 50 and 51 are domestic)
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Old May 12, 2023, 1:40 pm
  #712  
 
Join Date: Sep 2011
Location: Ideally YOW, but probably not
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Originally Posted by Nazdoom
Apparently 50 and 51 are swing gates, so they do sometimes serve domestic flights. Such as right now.
But for the benefit of others: yeah, no physical access to the intl lounge even if assigned to a gate 51 domestic. They installed one-way bp scanners to go beyond the swing gates (i.e., to 52 and up when 50 and 51 are domestic)
When they do this they physically block off 50/51 from the international area (and vice versa when they are International gates) with super classy looking portable partitions. As you discovered the scanners which have been there for ~4 years now will reject your BP if you try and head down to the international gates where the intl MLL is.
RatherBeInYOW is online now  
Old May 12, 2023, 1:43 pm
  #713  
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Okay, my bad. Regardless of your flight's gate, it's not possible to physically access the international MLL if you're flying domestic, just like YYZ and YVR.
canadiancow is online now  
Old May 12, 2023, 2:02 pm
  #714  
 
Join Date: Apr 2023
Location: YUL
Programs: AC E75K
Posts: 153
Originally Posted by RatherBeInYOW
When they do this they physically block off 50/51 from the international area (and vice versa when they are International gates) with super classy looking portable partitions. As you discovered the scanners which have been there for ~4 years now will reject your BP if you try and head down to the international gates where the intl MLL is.
I have to assume there is less need to use 50/51 for international since the international jetty expansion opened 5 (ish?) years ago. It's interesting to know they retain the ability, though.
yulscs is offline  
Old May 12, 2023, 2:29 pm
  #715  
 
Join Date: Apr 2016
Location: YYZ
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Gate 50 and 51 are usually used by aircrafts arriving as international but departing as domestic, and vice versa, similar to the swing gates at YVR. For example, AC871 CDG-YUL often becomes AC311 YUL-YVR, and it usually uses gate 50/51. I remember this because boarding a full plane of 450 passengers in the confined space is not a pleasant but definitely memorable experience

Speaking of the lounge, I think it was around 2019 or early 2020 you could no longer access international MLL with domestic BP at YUL?
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songsc is online now  
Old May 12, 2023, 2:30 pm
  #716  
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Originally Posted by songsc
Gate 50 and 51 are usually used by aircrafts arriving as international but departing as domestic, and vice versa, similar to the swing gates at YVR. For example, AC871 CDG-YUL often becomes AC311 YUL-YVR, and it usually uses gate 50/51. I remember this because boarding a full plane of 450 passengers in the confined space is not a pleasant but definitely memorable experience

Speaking of the lounge, I think it was around 2019 or early 2020 you could no longer access international MLL with domestic BP at YUL?
You can't get to the international MLL with a domestic BP, which is a separate issue from whether or not they'd let you in.
canadiancow is online now  
Old May 12, 2023, 2:35 pm
  #717  
 
Join Date: Apr 2016
Location: YYZ
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Originally Posted by canadiancow
You can't get to the international MLL with a domestic BP, which is a separate issue from whether or not they'd let you in.
Pretty sure an exception was made for YUL, if your departure gate was 50 and above or something.
songsc is online now  
Old May 12, 2023, 2:47 pm
  #718  
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That was years ago (2017?), before they segregated domestic and international departure areas.

You can't go from the international MLL to domestic without going through CBSA.
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Old May 12, 2023, 2:50 pm
  #719  
 
Join Date: Apr 2016
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Originally Posted by canadiancow
That was years ago (2017?), before they segregated domestic and international departure areas.
And that was exactly what I said. Did I say thats still the case today?

Originally Posted by songsc
Speaking of the lounge, I think it was around 2019 or early 2020 you could no longer access international MLL with domestic BP at YUL?
songsc is online now  
Old May 14, 2023, 8:03 am
  #720  
 
Join Date: May 2009
Location: Canada's worst airport....YYJ
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Posts: 608
I hate that it now feels lucky, or like a travel win when you walk up to the YVR Dom MLL and theres no line. Ive just come to expect Id have to wait.

Im holding out faint hope that June 1 will bring a noticeable change, but I think we realistically wont see much difference until 2024 when the carried over statuses finally dry up.

In the meantime, highly annoying.
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