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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 13, 2023, 1:46 pm
  #871  
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Originally Posted by RangerNS
It's not just space, it's also consumption. 3+ hours is going to be more than just a quick trip to the lounge for a cookie and beer.

It could very well be AC has no hard data and are just grasping at straws here, expecting that chopping off two long tails be worth while.
They absolutely have data on dwell time, and have repeatedly said it is basically the only change from pre-COVID that's causing the issues.
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Old Jun 13, 2023, 2:00 pm
  #872  
 
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Originally Posted by canadiancow
They absolutely have data on dwell time, and have repeatedly said it is basically the only change from pre-COVID that's causing the issues.
Interesting. Any theories (either by AC or in general) on why covid caused people to spend more time at airports? Is it a carry-over from the days when all the covid tests and other extra procedures got people into a habit of arriving at the airport earlier, and now that those procedures have mostly gone away, people still choose to show up early?
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Old Jun 13, 2023, 2:07 pm
  #873  
 
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Originally Posted by capedreamer
Interesting. Any theories (either by AC or in general) on why covid caused people to spend more time at airports? Is it a carry-over from the days when all the covid tests and other extra procedures got people into a habit of arriving at the airport earlier, and now that those procedures have mostly gone away, people still choose to show up early?
It would be really interesting to know how much AC's terrible OTP results in passengers spending more time in the lounge. One would have to assume that there are those entering the lounges more than 3 hours prior to departure, or they wouldn't do this. When looking at intercontinental flights, I have rarely chosen a layover less than 3 hours (especially in winter) because if the departure destination only has one flight, you have lost a day if you misconnect. With flights being very full, IRROP's may also eliminate the ability to get on the next flight because it is sold out.
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Old Jun 13, 2023, 2:22 pm
  #874  
 
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Originally Posted by capedreamer
Interesting. Any theories (either by AC or in general) on why covid caused people to spend more time at airports? Is it a carry-over from the days when all the covid tests and other extra procedures got people into a habit of arriving at the airport earlier, and now that those procedures have mostly gone away, people still choose to show up early?
More likely spacing reducing capacity.
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Old Jun 13, 2023, 2:27 pm
  #875  
 
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Originally Posted by EdmFlyBoi
It would be really interesting to know how much AC's terrible OTP results in passengers spending more time in the lounge. One would have to assume that there are those entering the lounges more than 3 hours prior to departure, or they wouldn't do this. When looking at intercontinental flights, I have rarely chosen a layover less than 3 hours (especially in winter) because if the departure destination only has one flight, you have lost a day if you misconnect. With flights being very full, IRROP's may also eliminate the ability to get on the next flight because it is sold out.
Yeah that makes sense for connections but what about at the origin? I know AC still recommends arriving at the airport 4 hours before departure for certain international flights (which I've never done), so the question is why are they doing that? What has changed since covid that this kind of recommendation is necessary?

Originally Posted by Bohemian1
More likely spacing reducing capacity.
What kind of spacing? Is anyone still doing social distancing?
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Old Jun 13, 2023, 2:43 pm
  #876  
 
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This is why I doubt if AC really has data on this, or as I said, its just different department working in silos, ineffectively tackling a nonexistent problem.

I doubt this will affect me, as I have no intention of coming to airport more than 3 hours in advance, but as many people have mentioned, I doubt all the corner cases have been worked out such as standby.
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Old Jun 13, 2023, 3:53 pm
  #877  
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Originally Posted by capedreamer
Yeah that makes sense for connections but what about at the origin? I know AC still recommends arriving at the airport 4 hours before departure for certain international flights (which I've never done), so the question is why are they doing that? What has changed since covid that this kind of recommendation is necessary?
Only reason covid would have played a role would be because of the recommendation that one shows up way too early. Which has become questionable a passenger standpoint, but probably makes their life somewhat easier, like, it's OK if lines are huge.

But the real reason is that anyone and their dog now have access from credit cards. Which is the aeroplan bread and butter. Some years they probably make more profit from credit cards than flying... So that won't change. Plus, they don't want to talk too loud about that.

What they could do at least would be to exempt SEs and J passengers from the limitation. Who at this point probably represent a relatively small fraction of the lounge population. And who typically do not show up early.

BTW has any SE got the e-mail announcing the new policy?
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Old Jun 13, 2023, 3:59 pm
  #878  
 
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Originally Posted by capedreamer
Interesting. Any theories (either by AC or in general) on why covid caused people to spend more time at airports? Is it a carry-over from the days when all the covid tests and other extra procedures got people into a habit of arriving at the airport earlier, and now that those procedures have mostly gone away, people still choose to show up early?
n=1 here, and not a case of early arrival. That understood, my wintertime flights from Dublin this past winter (and looking to be the case again next winter) now have a mandatory 7 hour YYZ layover, due to the cutback of routes and frequency out of YXE. Seven hours of broken taco chips is marginal compensation...
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Old Jun 13, 2023, 4:04 pm
  #879  
 
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Originally Posted by Stranger
BTW has any SE got the e-mail announcing the new policy?
Yes. Showed up yesterday.
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Old Jun 13, 2023, 4:05 pm
  #880  
 
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Originally Posted by Stranger

What they could do at least would be to exempt SEs and J passengers from the limitation. Who at this point probably represent a relatively small fraction of the lounge population. And who typically do not show up early.

BTW has any SE got the e-mail announcing the new policy?
Yes. I did.
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Old Jun 13, 2023, 4:45 pm
  #881  
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Originally Posted by Stranger

But the real reason is that anyone and their dog now have access from credit cards. Which is the aeroplan bread and butter. Some years they probably make more profit from credit cards than flying... So that won't change. Plus, they don't want to talk too loud about that.
I don't know why people keep stating this provably incorrect nonsense as fact. Less than 10% of lounge entries are based on anything other than cabin or status.
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Old Jun 13, 2023, 6:30 pm
  #882  
 
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Originally Posted by Stranger
But the real reason is that anyone and their dog now have access from credit cards.
Well now hang on a minute, it's only the top-end "Infinite Privilege" individual cards that get lounge access, which means they're a top 3% income earner in Canada to qualify for the card. And even for them it's 6 visits max per year without status. The Business cards, IIRC, require spending $10,000 per MLL visit up to a max of 4. And even then, a lot of the people with these cards also have status....

So like the cow is saying above me, the numbers just don't add up.
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Old Jun 13, 2023, 6:40 pm
  #883  
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Amex Reserve has a much lower income requirement since I qualify 😂
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Old Jun 13, 2023, 6:50 pm
  #884  
 
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Originally Posted by Stranger
BTW has any SE got the e-mail announcing the new policy?
I have not. Which is curious.
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Old Jun 13, 2023, 7:04 pm
  #885  
 
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The spending requirement isnt strictly enforced, and in large cities, which are also cities with crowded MLLs, household income of $200K (which may translates to individual income of only $100K) is quite common, probably 20-30%.

I think it is true that lots of people have access nowadays, I wont be surprised if the number is more than the number of E50K+, but for those who visit the lounge a lot, they should have earned status as well. I will also mention that I usually dont stay more than 15 min in MLLs, if at all, whereas people who dont travel often may come to the airport early to maximize the lounge experience, so maybe they are more noticeable. While its plausible that less than 10% of the entries are not by cabin or status, they could account for more than 10% of the people you see in the lounge.
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