I am the only person in my circle of family and friends in Canada who prefers Air Canada over other airlines available to me. No, really….I am. Everyone else bitches about lack of service they have received, rude employees, bad flights, and more. Well, maybe I am just lucky, but any flight I have flown with Air Canada has gone fairly well. The only time my luggage got “lost” was when my connection was too close and I did not have time to wait for it in Toronto to clear through customs. But since they had switched my flights that day and my connections got shorter due to delays, I talked to the right people and was persistent in emails, and I got a cash voucher valid for future travel. See—I was nice. And it paid off.
Anyway, I am flying Air Canada to Orlando for my Disney trip. Before you Canadians start saying “Fly Westjet!”, yes, I realize they fly to Orlando, but I found a better deal with Air Canada, and I am accruing miles by flying with them. I fly Air Canada also whenever I book a flight using my Air Miles reward card, so if I had to estimate how many times I have flown Air Canada since meeting Dan, it would have to be about 16+ times.
This trip I decided to take advantage of a flight “enhancement.” While I can no way afford first class on an airline, I can afford $40 to have access to the first-class lounge. The lounge is designed for the passengers flying first class or executive, or are elite/super-elite mileage flyers. Air Canada has their Maple Leaf Lounges in major airports across Canada, a few hubs in the US, and also in a few international spots. After checking in for my flights in Calgary and going through security, I approached the tall double doors into the lounge. I just had to present the lady at the reception desk my ticket, which had the authorization code for access to the lounge. The lounge was larger than I expected—-it had a dedicated table and chairs area, a ton of comfy chairs with end tables in between, and many tall bar-height tables. I found a spot to set my stuff down and headed to the continental breakfast.
There were all the typical continental items—-fruits, breads, muffins, cereal, oatmeal. There were juices and coffee and tea and espresso. I helped myself to a banana, a muffin, some seasonal fruit, orange juice and coffee. While this doesn’t make you see the $40 value, the fact I had a private seating area and restroom access, different wifi than the general public in the airport, and I would have access to Toronto’s lounge during my layover, made me feel real good about my purchase.
So I made it through Toronto and through customs. The lounge is hidden just past security into the departures wing. You needed to take an elevator up to the third level, and you get let out to a reception desk. I had no idea whether to press up or down, so I pressed both, but a nice gentleman told me it was third floor. I gave the reception lady (who did not seem happy to be there, but not rude at least) my ticket, but it took longer than at Calgary. I got nervous for a split second that I did something wrong and I did not have access to the lounge in Toronto also. Imagine—being rejected to this would be worse than when Dan and I went to Costco with a possibly expired card from when he worked for another business, only to be denied at checkout with the three things we had. That was a low moment. Nonetheless, she scanned my ticket and I was in.
This lounge is about four times the size as Calgary’s, and they even have another one in the domestic flight area. There are two self-serve bar areas, fully stocked, and a serving station with quick bites. I helped myself to cream of mushroom soup, a salad loaded with olives, chips and salsa, and a glass of Chardonnay. (Or more…) Cheers!
The thing I was concerned about, being out of place, isn’t an issue. I am not sure how many people in here are executive or elite flight members, or how many buy day passes, but there is a wide range of people and I don’t look like a fool. It is interesting being here on my own and overhearing all the “business” conversations…some to do with housing and construction, trailers, some stuff I don’t understand, some stuff with stocks. The one thing I had to do different in preparation for the airport is I am actually wearing a normal outfit of coral khaki shorts, a striped t-shirt, and Steve Madden sandals. I couldn’t come in here wearing garbage like I sometimes do when I fly! If we were to go back to the 50s and all get dressed up to fly, I would be all for it if everyone took part-that era seemed magical…
I still am going to be hanging out here for another 45 minutes, but I am concluding this entry now by saying YES I would do this again. But ONLY if I have the same flight gaps or greater. If you have tight connections, it would not be worth it. Also, if you do not drink alcohol, you would be laying for a more respectable area than general concourse junk, and food privileges. But at least you aren’t paying an exorbitant amount for a Coke. I was dropped off at Calgary this morning by a friend who lives 10 minutes from the airport, so I was able to enjoy my breakfast morning routine in full. And with a 3 hour layover from landing to takeoff, I had about an hour and a half to enjoy the lounge (even after taking customs into account.)
I do a lot of traveling on my own—-usually flying back to Milwaukee to see family, to Disney World with Maureen or for RunDisney events, California to see my friend Ali….and if I have a layover during a lunch time I sit solo at a airport sports bar and have an overpriced appetizer and a glass of wine or two. So the cost of the Maple Leaf Lounge is nothing. Treat yourself next time you fly on Air Canada…maybe you will have a better attitude about them-I recommend it.