This posting is about getting lounge access if you’re flying economy, without Elite status. This post has a focus on Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounges (MLL) and Canadian options. It also looks at paid options for other lounges.
An airport lounge can be useful if you have a while to wait: it’s a bit quieter, you get a bit of food, and if you’re traveling alone with carry-ons, you can go to the washroom while more-or-less-safely leaving your bags behind.
Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounges happen to have particularly complicated access options. I have tried to decode them as best I can.
Note that the price for adding a guest, the price to add lounge access to a ticket, and the number of Aeroplan miles needed to get membership/passes continues to increase almost yearly.
UPDATE 2013-02-10: Also note, MLL access requires a confirmed same-day ticket on Air Canada or a Star Alliance partner; you can’t use the Maple Leaf Lounge if you’re flying on a non-partner airline. This isn’t reciprocal: MLL access usually doesn’t mean you can use a Star Alliance lounge; you have to be flying with that specific Star Alliance airline. ENDUPDATE
UPDATE 2013-11-04: CIBC will no longer be offering Club Privileges Travel after 2013. All cards will expire Dec 31, 2013 at the latest. ENDUPDATE
Air Canada: Canada, Paris, London, Los Angeles…
There aren’t many Maple Leaf Lounges. They’re across Canada, but internationally there are only lounges in Paris, London (both departure & arrival lounges), Frankfurt, Los Angeles and New York (LaGuardia airport – LGA).
You can see the list of lounges at http://www.aircanada.com/en/travelinfo/airport/maplelounges/locations.html
UPDATE 2016-04-11: The Montreal international lounge is being renovated. A smaller (but perfectly nice) international lounge is now located further down the hallway (past gate 52) until the renovations are complete. ENDUPDATE
Air Canada’s Frankfurt lounge is in Terminal 1, Concourse/Departures B (Level 3) as of 2013.
The basic level of MLL access only gives you access to those lounges. So it’s really only useful if you’re traveling within Canada or to one or more of those five international destinations. Also note, if you’re departing for the US, there is no MLL lounge access in Calgary, Edmonton, Halifax, Ottawa and Winnipeg as the US preclearance takes you to a separate departures area.
You can sort of get the lounge access story at http://www.aircanada.com/en/travelinfo/airport/maplelounges/access.html
The basic options are:
- Air Canada Maple Leaf Club – Canada*
- buy (with Aeroplan miles) Maple Leaf Lounge passes**
CIBC Club Privileges Travel / Club Travel Privileges
- American Express AeroplanPlus Platinum
- lounge access added when you purchase Air Canada ticket (from AirCanada.com)
* Canadian lounges ONLY
** North American lounges ONLY
*** $15 per additional person per lounge (before 11am) / $25 per guest per lounge (after 11am). Please note that in the Frankfurt lounge the cost is €25 (Euros) regardless of the hour and the London Heathrow Departures lounge cost is £25 (GBP) regardless of the hour.
**** for Priority Pass standard you still have to pay $27 per person (including the member) per lounge
Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge access can be purchased for the following fares (rates listed are per person, per one-way trip). Lounge access can be added online up to 24 hours before the flight. It may also be possible to buy lounge access at the airport.
- Latitude fares: $25 CAD/USD
- Premium economy: $25 CAD/USD
- Premium rouge: $25 CAD/USD
- Flex fares: $50 CAD/USD
I don’t think it’s worth it using Aeromiles for club membership or particularly for a pass, you’re paying 49,500 miles for $375 worth of service or 7000 miles for about $50 of service.
As far as I know, you can’t buy a MLL day pass or pay to enter the lounge at the front desk. Unlike most of the US airlines (which let you buy day passes online or at front desk), unless you’ve added MLL access to your ticket 24 hours in advance or have access due to one of the options listed above, you may not be able to get into the lounge.
UPDATE 2014-01-23: Although TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite is advertising “Access to the Maple Leaf™ Lounge” this is extremely misleading. It’s not a general MLL access card. They’re actually offering only one single Guest Pass (one use of one lounge by one person), valid only if you’re travelling on an Aeroplan rewards ticket (not a regular ticket), with an expiry date (after one year), valid for all MLL except Heathrow arrivals. It’s so restrictive as to be essentially worthless. ENDUPDATE
CIBC Club Privileges Travel
The CIBC Club Privileges Travel card no longer exists.
IF you already have a CIBC Aerogold card the Club Privileges Travel add-on is not bad if you will be flying more than a few times in locations where there are lounges. You can currently ONLY buy it over the phone 1-888-737-2665 (select the “all other services” option). There’s supposed to be a website www.aerogoldtravelclub.com but it has been down for months. You can view the old (may no longer be valid) pages in the Wayback Machine: CIBC Club Privileges Travel (February 2, 2011); Participating Airports (more or less same as the lounge list from Air Canada above).
AmEx AeroplanPlus Platinum is NOT a Platinum Card
In general despite the name, the AmEx AeroplanPlus “Platinum” card does NOT have the same lounge access rights as a regular AmEx Platinum card. The primary focus of the AmEx AeroplanPlus Platinum is Maple Leaf Lounge access.
You do not get AmEx Platinum Concierge services (see Reserve card below if you want Concierge). You do not get free AmEx Platinum lounge access. This means:
- VIP lounge in Quebec City – no free access. Instead you either pay $35 or if you prefer to use the Priority Pass membership card you pay the US$27 Priority Pass lounge fee.
- Plaza Premium lounges – no free access (have to pay for access)
- Swissport (formerly Servisair) Executive lounges – no free access (have to pay for access)
- AmEx Centurion Lounges – access with any AmEx card but not free, need to pay for $50 one-day pass. Purchase pass at lounge only. (Paid access not verified but consistent with their Platinum card policy.)
See AMEX Aeroplan Platinum No More Plaza Premium/Servisair Access in FlyerTalk.
To get free access to the set of Platinum card lounges you need to get the regular AmEx Platinum card (which is $699/year). This regular AmEx Platinum card does not give you Maple Leaf Lounge access.
Instead it gives you free access to American Airlines, Delta, US Airways, and Centurion lounges.
UPDATE 2015-08-30: Regular AmEx Platinum now lists Delta Sky Clubs, Airspace Lounges, and Centurion Lounges as included. ENDUPDATE
(Check the Airport Club Access Page for details; the participating lounges may change.) Although the regular AmEx Platinum earns “points”, you can convert those points 1-for-1 to Aeroplan miles.
You can see how Canadian AmEx Platinum (left), AmEx AeroplanPlus Platinum (centre), and AmEx AeroplanPlus Gold (right) compare in the table below:
For Toronto Pearson specifically, AmEx has info about what access you get with the AmEx Aeroplan Platinum and the AmEx regular Platinum cards at http://www.amexcloud10.ca/
AmEx AeroplanPlus Reserve Card
American Express has added a level above Platinum for AeroplanPlus cards, the Reserve Card. The main difference is that the Reserve card DOES include Concierge service. For this you pay an extra $400 per year ($899 yearly vs $499 yearly for AP Platinum). The Reserve card also adds $500,000 Travel Accident Insurance. As well you get Aeroplan call centre priority (normally you need Aeroplan dDiamond level to get this). Household income must be $60,000 or more (a lower threshold than the TD Infinite Privilege card below).
You can see how the AeroplanPlus Reserve card compares with the AeroplanPlus Platinum card below:
TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite Privilege
Given that the condition to get the card is “Minimum of $200,000 annual gross household income”, this is an option that applies to almost no one. The card itself is $400 per year. It has 4 MLL guest passes a year, but like the TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite pass, these are only if you’re travelling on an Aeroplan rewards flight, and as always, it’s one pass per person per lounge. (So basically useless.) In addition, it has complimentary membership to Airport Angel lounge service, and six complimentary visits. This is worth maybe $150 a year. It’s not clear if this is a yearly free membership, with six visits a year, or one-time. It’s also not clear if it’s a member and guest membership, or member only. Airport Angel lounges include some MLL lounges. There is more information about Airport Angel at https://www.airportangel.co.uk/ and pricing at http://www.cppdirect.co.uk/airport-angel/ as well as a section on the service along with other paid lounge options towards the bottom of this post.
OTHER vERY-HIGH-END CARDS
There are other very-high-end cards in Canada that include lounge access. Be aware that some US VIP card branding and features are different from Canada. In general if you have enough money to be eligible for these very-high-end cards you should have enough money not to have to worry about lounge options.
Selecting an option
For just the Air Canada Maple Leaf Club specifically, there are two higher levels of membership: North America Plus for $495/year (includes European MLL) and Worldwide for $665/year. You can see the available lounges (many more than just Air Canada lounges) for those levels of membership at http://www.aircanada.com/en/travelinfo/airport/maplelounges/pop_mlclounges.html
You can see it’s fairly easy to figure out the best option as long as you know where and how much you will be traveling. If you’re flying a lot, eventually the AmEx card will be cheaper than buying lounge access each time. Given the high cost of just getting the Maple Leaf Club card, it appears to make more sense to get the AmEx card in most cases.
For one person if you have e.g. two trips to London it’s cheaper to add on CIBC Club Privileges Travel ($189) assuming you have an Aerogold card, than it would be to purchase the lounge with your ticket (it’s per-direction, so it would be 4x $55 = $220).
UPDATE 2013-02-10: The higher levels of Air Canada’s Maple Leaf Club get you access to more non-Maple Leaf lounges. But that’s only if you have that specific Club membership (yes, I know it’s confusing). This access is specific to the Air Canada membership card; you don’t get the same levels of other lounge access with the
CIBC and AmEx card s. ENDUPDATE
Business Class and Elite
Although not the focus of this post, the low-level Elite options are so complicated I decided I would explain them too.
UPDATE 2014-02-23: If you have a business-class ticket you get lounge access automatically. For Air Canada Altitude Elite 50k and above, you get lounge access automatically.
For Air Canada Elite 35k you have to choose “Complimentary access to International Maple Leaf Lounges and Star Alliance Business Lounges” as a Select Privilege. ENDUPDATE
UPDATE 2015-08-30: Starting in 2015 Air Canada Elite 35k will no longer be able to add International
(outside of North America) Maple Leaf Lounges as a Select Privilege. Instead there is a Select Privilege to get 50% off Maple Leaf Club.
Complimentary access to International Maple Leaf Lounges and Star Alliance Business Lounges
Altitude Elite™ 35K members will no longer have the option to choose complimentary access to International Maple Leaf™ Lounges and Star Alliance Business Lounges as part of their Select Privileges. Instead, members will be able to select a 50% discount on any Maple Leaf Club membership.
As part of their Core Privileges, they will continue to enjoy the comfort and amenities of select Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounges located in the domestic and trans-border departures zones of Canadian airports, along with those in Los Angeles and New York (LaGuardia).
UPDATE 2016-04-11: Air Canada now distinguishes between International and Domestic lounges even if the lounge is in Canada. International lounges, e.g. the lounge for international travellers in Montreal, are now for Elite 50k and above ONLY (or those travelling on a business class ticket, or with Star Alliance Gold). If you only have Elite 35k they will send you to the Domestic lounge even if you are on an international flight.
UPDATE 2016-09-18: As a reminder, international is a lounge type, not necessarily a lounge location. For example, in Montreal there is both a (often very crowded) domestic lounge and a nice international lounge. If you are Elite 35K and travelling internationally, you will have to pay in advance for MLL access on your ticket, otherwise they won’t let you into the international lounge. (Assuming you haven’t bought the Maple Leaf Club membership.)
UPDATE 2014-03-02: Air Canada Altitude Elite have “additional privilege of access to the domestic Maple Leaf Lounge upon arriving at airports in Canada”. ENDUPDATE
Comparing Maple Leaf Club Options IF ElITE
Maple Leaf Club Canada – $375
Maple Leaf Club North America Plus – $495
(A bit confusingly named.)
- all Maple Leaf Lounges – Canada, USA, and Europe
- United Lounges in the US
Maple Leaf Club Worldwide – $665
- all Maple Leaf Lounges – Canada, USA, and Europe
- all United Lounges
- All Star Alliance™ member airline business lounges
- Air Canada Contracted Lounges
- one free guest
It doesn’t make any sense to me to get these as standalone club memberships at full price or by using Aeroplan points. For example, you might as well get AmEx AeroplanPlus Platinum for $499 and have a credit card AND lounge access, rather than just getting North America Plus membership for $495.
The only scenario where these memberships make sense to me is if you use Altitude Select Privileges: Prestige 25K Select Privilege (35% off: $244, $322, $432) or the Elite 35K Select Privilege (50% off: X, $248, $332). Then it’s a matter of estimating whether you will be travelling enough to justify the membership rather than paying the per-trip access cost, and weighing the pros and cons of this option versus many other Select Privilege options.
Note that for Elite 35K, North American lounge access is already part of the privileges; only international Maple Leaf Lounges require either a per-trip access or a club membership.
Other Air Canada Elite Options
You can also get lounge access through the “aircanada.com Travel Options” Select Privilege, at the cost of giving up many eUpgrade credits, and only for flights booked through aircanada.com
Also note that the Guest Passes available as privileges and Select Privileges are for North American lounges only.
Premium Rouge has Maple Leaf Lounge access for North American domestic lounges only, when flying to Canada, US, or sun destinations. You have to pay $25 per person for lounge access when going anywhere else.
Pay Lounge Options
In general European airlines don’t have an option to pay for access to their lounges.
However, there are various paid lounge options for international travel. There are both lounge subscription services, where you pay a yearly fee, and one-time lounge access (day pass) options. The higher levels of Air Canada Maple Leaf Club are effectively a subscription lounge access service.
Typical one-time prices are US$50 for a day pass, or 30 Euros/C$37 (sometimes for a day, but be careful, sometimes it’s only for 3 hours).
Note that you should check which terminal a lounge is in, and whether it’s for domestic or international departures. Buying lounge access is no use if you have to clear security into the international departures area and the lounge is in the domestic terminal.
United, American, and Delta lounges
UPDATE 2014-02-23 and 2015-08-30: United Club, American Airlines Admirals Club, and Delta Sky Club all let you purchase a pass for access to their lounges for US$50 (per person). You do not have to be flying with that airline, but you will need a ticket with some airline for that day.
You can buy the pass at the lounge front desk, or you can buy passes for the lounges online (for United and Delta only with the app, not website).
Passes purchased online can be used once (on one travel day), any time within a year of purchase. (Not sure if passes purchased at the door are also valid for use anytime within a year, if you don’t use them immediately.)
The American Airlines One Day Pass and the Delta Sky Club One-Day Pass is valid at any lounge during your travel day (i.e. lounges in multiple airports if you have multiple stops). For United One-time pass it’s only valid at one lounge. (American Airlines terms are much clearer than Delta’s.)
These airlines have many lounges around the world.
The American Airlines Paris lounge is between Terminal 2A & 2C (connector building) as of 2013.
GoSimply lounge service
GoSimply provides access to a range of for-pay day pass lounges, including in Canada: http://www.gosimply.com/airport-lounges/
It’s not a standalone lounge brand, it’s a way to get access to other brands of lounge. GoSimply has no eligible lounges in Helsinki or Frankfurt. It has lounges in France including Paris Orly and Nice, but not Paris CDG.
Servisair is now “Executive Lounges by Swissport” with a branding of Aspire Lounge for some of its lounges. There are Swissport lounges in airports around the world, including Canada. You can pay for (3 hours of) lounge access, e.g. Helsinki is 35 euros (about C$43).
Swissport has no lounge in Frankfurt and no lounges in France; the majority of their lounges are in the UK.
Plaza Premium Lounge
Plaza Premium Lounge operates lounges mainly in Malaysia, China and Saudi Arabia. It does however have three lounges in Canada (Toronto, Edmonton, and Vancouver) and one at London Heathrow. A lounge in Winnipeg is reported to be coming Q3 2015. It is expensive. In Toronto 2 hours is US$33 and 6 hours is US$62. The AmEx regular Platinum card provides Plaza access, the AmEx Aeroplan Platinum card does not. The Priority Pass (described below) also provides paid access to some Plaza Premium lounges.
Priority Pass has many many lounges worldwide, including Canada. It is a yearly subscription service. At the Standard level you pay $100/year and then $27 per person per lounge. Priority Pass members can add accompanying guests for the same $27 per person per lounge. The Standard level $100 membership is included with the AmEx AeroplanPlus Platinum card.
It’s not a standalone lounge brand, it’s a way to get access to other brands of lounge. There are Priority Pass eligible lounges in Helsinki, Frankfurt, Paris and Nice. In Paris CDG the Terminal 2 lounge is the Maple Leaf Lounge.
Airport Angel has lounges worldwide, including Canada. It is a yearly subscription service. At the Standard level you pay £60 per year (approx C$110 per year) and get two included visits. Additional visits are £15 per person per visit (about C$27 per person). Some level of membership is included with the TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite Privilege card.
It’s not a standalone lounge brand, it’s a way to get access to other brands of lounge. There are Airport Angel eligible lounges in Helsinki and Frankfurt. In Frankfurt the two lounges are the Air Canada MLL Terminal 1B lounge and the Sky Lounge in Terminal 2.
Airspace is a US-only lounge company. Just four airports: New York JFK, Baltimore, Cleveland and San Diego. Pricing depends on the aiport, roughly US$20 to US$25. Free access if you have a regular AmEx Platinum card.
List of Paid Access Lounges
RewardsDB has a great Paid Lounge Access by Country & City list covering Priority Pass and day pass options, however note it is sometimes out of date.
Airport-specific Paid Lounges
Individual airports may have lounges where you can pay on-site.
For example Frankfurt lists: LuxxLounge Terminal 1 at 30 Euros/day and Sky Lounge Terminal 2 at 35 Euros per every 3 hours (e.g. 70 Euros for 6 hours).
Air Canada Premium Economy
Air Canada Premium Economy is still economy; it doesn’t include lounge access. You can pay $25 per direction to get lounge access, e.g. when booking your ticket.
Booking Business Class
Booking Business class just to get lounge access doesn’t make any sense. But there might be other reasons you book a Business class flight.
If you buy on the Air Canada site, you can split the class of travel per direction. For example, you can book your outgoing flight Business class (to get a bed for overnight flight to Europe) but your return flight Economy (since you will be awake during the day flight anyway). This includes splitting class of travel using Aeroplan miles (there used to be a penalty for this but now each direction requires 50% of round-trip miles as you would expect – you may need to book two one-way flights to do this with Aeroplan miles).
Business class roundtrip to Europe using Aeroplan miles is a good deal. It costs
90,000 110,000 miles to Europe with about $1000 in fees. You can also change your booking for about $100. The booking window is very tight though. The moving Aeroplan window is a year minus 10 days (e.g. on July 19, 2012 you can book flights up to July 9, 2013). At least for high season to Europe, you have at most a couple weeks to book before all the Aeroplan business class flights at 110k are gone. Basically you need to book about a year in advance of your flight dates.
Typically if you have an economy ticket that you have upgraded to Business class, you DO NOT get lounge access (they base the access on the original class of the ticket, not the upgrade).