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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 Jun 12, 2023, 10:06 am
  #826  
 
Join Date: Sep 2011
Location: Ideally YOW, but probably not
Programs: AC SE*MM
Posts: 1,863
Originally Posted by Hotel 83 Tango
Basically the email puts the lounge overcrowding blame on 35Ks and people who show up to the lounge too early?

I can see the 35K change making a difference, but realistically how many people show up to the airport more than 3 hours before their flight? I'm sure it happens to all of us occasionally but I am not sure that it will have a dramatic impact on overcrowding?

How's the MLL been since 35K no longer have access? Still crowded with a wait to get in?
I've been trying to think of the last time I was in a lounge >3h before departure (not in transit). I too sometimes time my arrival at the airport so I can do a meeting from the lounge, but usually if that is >3h before I do it from home / hotel and <2h before I do it from the lounge so I don't think this will really impact me. I still can't imagine this is causing a lot of issues but I guess AC must have the stats and know when people scan in and out and must have figured this would have some kind of measurable impact.

Since the change to drop 35K I've only spent time in the YOW lounge (which was always fine) and in lounges that didn't allow 35K anyway. Last week while in the YYZ Cafe I was tempted to go upstairs to the main lounge to have a look, but at this point I hate that lounge so much (and like the Cafe so much) I couldn't be bothered. Edit: Was in YYZ transborder too which I forgot allowed 35K previously. It was pretty quiet at dinner time, no line and no problem finding a seat.
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RatherBeInYOW is offline  
Old Jun 12, 2023, 10:31 am
  #827  
 
Join Date: Jun 2010
Location: MEX
Programs: AC E75K
Posts: 4,232
Originally Posted by razorblade705
Well, there go the days of working from the lounge because the only time you had to go to the airport between meetings was more than 3 hours before departure.
"There go the days"? Didn't you have another post indicating that you don't even have lounge access yet?

Originally Posted by RatherBeInYOW
I've been trying to think of the last time I was in a lounge >3h before departure (not in transit). I too sometimes time my arrival at the airport so I can do a meeting from the lounge, but usually if that is >3h before I do it from home / hotel and <2h before I do it from the lounge so I don't think this will really impact me. I still can't imagine this is causing a lot of issues but I guess AC must have the stats and know when people scan in and out and must have figured this would have some kind of measurable impact.

Since the change to drop 35K I've only spent time in the YOW lounge (which was always fine) and in lounges that didn't allow 35K anyway. Last week while in the YYZ Cafe I was tempted to go upstairs to the main lounge to have a look, but at this point I hate that lounge so much (and like the Cafe so much) I couldn't be bothered. Edit: Was in YYZ transborder too which I forgot allowed 35K previously. It was pretty quiet at dinner time, no line and no problem finding a seat.
Originally Posted by Bohemian1
While I seriously doubt that anyone is that desperate for a couple of extra hours in the MLL, I'm sure somebody will end up purchasing a refundable ticket for an earlier flight, check in on that ticket, and then cancel it after entry. Dunno if the de-duping system works fast enough to thwart this.

And No, I am not recommending this type of behavior.
I agree with RatherBeInYOW that people spending 3+ hours in the lounge (excluding connections) must be a relatively small proportion of all lounge goers (and I would venture skewing towards the FOTSG variety, so likely further reduced after the 35K access change). Of the remainder, I seriously doubt you'll have more than a rounding error of people buying a fully refundable ticket for an earlier flight just to access the lounge.
capedreamer is offline  
Old Jun 12, 2023, 10:33 am
  #828  
 
Join Date: May 2007
Location: YOW
Programs: 50K
Posts: 38
hmmm, this will be annoying for me when i try to standby for an earlier flight on commuter routes and can't use the lounge.
gosamburu is offline  
Old Jun 12, 2023, 10:38 am
  #829  
 
Join Date: Jun 2023
Posts: 64
Originally Posted by capedreamer
"There go the days"? Didn't you have another post indicating that you don't even have lounge access yet?
No, but I do have another post saying I dont have status. (I do have lounge access from my Reserve card.)
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razorblade705 is offline  
Old Jun 12, 2023, 10:49 am
  #830  
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Join Date: Sep 2012
Location: SFO
Programs: AC SE MM, BA Gold, SQ Silver, Bonvoy Tit LTG, Hyatt Glob, HH Diamond
Posts: 44,777
Originally Posted by capedreamer
I agree with RatherBeInYOW that people spending 3+ hours in the lounge (excluding connections) must be a relatively small proportion of all lounge goers (and I would venture skewing towards the FOTSG variety, so likely further reduced after the 35K access change). Of the remainder, I seriously doubt you'll have more than a rounding error of people buying a fully refundable ticket for an earlier flight just to access the lounge.
It might be "a relatively small proportion of all lounge goers", but if 20 "I hate spending time at airports" SEs each go for 15 minutes before their flight, that's 5 person-hours of lounge occupancy.

If one "I have non-stop meetings between lunch and flight" SE goes 5 hours before their flight, that's 5 person-hours of lounge occupancy.

In that example, the "more than 3 hours" is less than 5% of "all lounge goers", but they're 50% of the occupancy.

AC definitely has data on lounge entry and dwell time (which is the single metric they've publicly stated is causing all the issues), so I have to believe they think it will have a noticeable impact.
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canadiancow is offline  
Old Jun 12, 2023, 10:51 am
  #831  
 
Join Date: Jun 2010
Location: MEX
Programs: AC E75K
Posts: 4,232
Originally Posted by canadiancow
It might be "a relatively small proportion of all lounge goers", but if 20 "I hate spending time at airports" SEs each go for 15 minutes before their flight, that's 5 person-hours of lounge occupancy.

If one "I have non-stop meetings between lunch and flight" SE goes 5 hours before their flight, that's 5 person-hours of lounge occupancy.

In that example, the "more than 3 hours" is less than 5% of "all lounge goers", but they're 50% of the occupancy.

AC definitely has data on lounge entry and dwell time (which is the single metric they've publicly stated is causing all the issues), so I have to believe they think it will have a noticeable impact.
Fair enough. I hope they (and you) are right!
capedreamer is offline  
Old Jun 12, 2023, 11:21 am
  #832  
 
Join Date: Jul 2004
Location: YVR
Programs: AC SE, BA Gold
Posts: 2,913
The new policy seems to contradict the Star Alliance lounge access policy, which clearly states that *G members have access with a same day (or up to 5am the next day) *A BP, period.
iwillflytheworld is offline  
Old Jun 12, 2023, 11:27 am
  #833  
 
Join Date: Feb 2013
Location: YEG
Programs: AC: Ac*A, , Nexus: Expired
Posts: 1,489
Originally Posted by eastexpress
As someone at an outstation, I'm glad it won't apply to long layovers, that's the only time I'm at an airport more than 3 hours before my flight.

How many people are actually showing up that early?

Also does this mean E50k and up don't get arrival access any more?
I am curious about arrivals too. I redeye YEG-YYZ regularly and like to shower in the lounge on arrival.
danapop is offline  
Old Jun 12, 2023, 11:33 am
  #834  
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Originally Posted by iwillflytheworld
The new policy seems to contradict the Star Alliance lounge access policy, which clearly states that *G members have access with a same day (or up to 5am the next day) *A BP, period.
NZ once denied me access on a connection because my next flight was 6-7 hours later, so there is precedent.

Originally Posted by danapop
I am curious about arrivals too. I redeye YEG-YYZ regularly and like to shower in the lounge on arrival.
Read my original post about the policy change. Access on arrival is unchanged.
canadiancow is offline  
Old Jun 12, 2023, 11:36 am
  #835  
 
Join Date: Oct 2022
Programs: Aeroplan SE; Marriott Bonvoy Ambassador
Posts: 1,562
Originally Posted by YVR4Ever
The 3 hour limit will be slightly annoying for two thankfully infrequent scenarios: hotel won't extend checkout (thanks, Hilton!) and series of work meetings just before flight. One side effect will be to drive my hotel stays towards the brands that routinely permit late checkout.
Another scenario is that the elite booked a late flight of the day and stays in the MLL trying to standby an early one. Now they cannot do that while waiting in the lounge.

Edit: For this reason, I am more inclined to a "no more dwelling over 3 hours" rule rather than "no enter until 3 hours before a flight" rule, but the former may be a lot harder to enforce ...
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Changeup2000 is offline  
Old Jun 12, 2023, 11:59 am
  #836  
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Posts: 44,777
Originally Posted by Changeup2000
Another scenario is that the elite booked a late flight of the day and stays in the MLL trying to standby an early one. Now they cannot do that while waiting in the lounge.

Edit: For this reason, I am more inclined to a "no more dwelling over 3 hours" rule rather than "no enter until 3 hours before a flight" rule, but the former may be a lot harder to enforce ...
Did anything say standby wouldn't be permitted to access until 3 hours before the confirmed flight's departure time? Without confirmation, it's not clear to me which way they'd go on that.

There's a difference between "I want to spend 8 hours in the lounge" and "I'm here 8 hours early, but trying to get out".
canadiancow is offline  
Old Jun 12, 2023, 12:10 pm
  #837  
 
Join Date: Jul 2004
Location: YVR
Programs: AC SE, BA Gold
Posts: 2,913
Originally Posted by canadiancow
NZ once denied me access on a connection because my next flight was 6-7 hours later, so there is precedent.
Interesting. I checked Air New Zealand lounge access rules and indeed they limit access to 4 hours before the flight (at least for some lounges), with no mention of exceptions for connections. So it's safe to assume there'll be no push-back from *A.
iwillflytheworld is offline  
Old Jun 12, 2023, 12:26 pm
  #838  
 
Join Date: Oct 2022
Programs: Aeroplan SE; Marriott Bonvoy Ambassador
Posts: 1,562
Originally Posted by canadiancow
Did anything say standby wouldn't be permitted to access until 3 hours before the confirmed flight's departure time? Without confirmation, it's not clear to me which way they'd go on that.

There's a difference between "I want to spend 8 hours in the lounge" and "I'm here 8 hours early, but trying to get out".
Yeah, I guess they will be out of luck trying to, say, go to MLL at noon and stand by for the next available flight probably at 1pm or 2pm, while holding a 10pm ticket. So I would prefer to let elites in by noon and stay up until 3pm. If they do not get standby cleared, they have to leave the lounge. I believe there are a few other lounges enforcing a similar rule: You can come as early as you can, but you cannot overstay.
Changeup2000 is offline  
Old Jun 12, 2023, 12:32 pm
  #839  
 
Join Date: Apr 2023
Posts: 183
Cafe have the same Minor accompanied rule? Thought it was only for the MLL but surely got denied access as a dom J pax with YPTU
yoonland is offline  
Old Jun 12, 2023, 12:37 pm
  #840  
 
Join Date: May 2023
Location: YUL find me in Montreal
Programs: Air Canada SE, Bonvoy Gold, Hotels.com Gold
Posts: 671
Originally Posted by Changeup2000
Edit: For this reason, I am more inclined to a "no more dwelling over 3 hours" rule rather than "no enter until 3 hours before a flight" rule, but the former may be a lot harder to enforce ...
If you had to scan your boarding pass at the eGate when leaving the lounge, that would solve both this problem, as well as the cheater method (proposed above) of booking a flight you never intend on taking.

Would also give AC more precise data about dwell times, and could potentially open up an opportunity to make extra money by automatically billing a full MLL access fee to people who stay more than three hours.

FWIW, folks with *G and black credit cards do also get access to the Plaza lounges, and they have a subscription service which works out to about $40 per visit when you pay for 10 visits.... so if someone is showing up significantly more than 3 hours early and wants to bang away at a laptop, there is an alternative.

Last edited by Adam Smith; Jun 12, 2023 at 11:22 pm Reason: Merge consecutive posts by same user
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