Is there anything worse than slumping around the hard plastic seats of an airport gate, sipping lukewarm coffee out of a paper cup while you wait for news of your delayed flight? Contrast that with the cushy sofas, open bar, buffet meal, real coffee cups and WiFi of a first class airport lounge. With a new breed of Airport lounges, even economy class schleppers can travel like George Clooney.
Some airlines are offering entry to anyone willing to pay a fee – which is reasonable considering there are fewer premium flyers who fit the admissions profile. There are also common-use, pay-as-you-go lounges springing up in airports around the world, including Toronto and Vancouver.
Pay As You Go
Plaza Premium Lounge offers “the world’s first commercial VIP lounges open to airport users irrespective of the airline or class of travel.”
- 40 lounges in 12 cities in six countries
- 7 lounges in Canada: five at Toronto’s Pearson International and two at Vancouver International.
- TakeOffeh’s Take: Plenty of space, comfortable seating, free Wi-Fi, hot and cold snacks and drinks and a self-serve bar with a choice of liquors, wines and beers. There are workstations with PCs, LCD TVs and a selection of newspapers and magazines that can be enjoyed in the lounge and taken with you when you go if desired.
- American Express Platinum Card: Free admission (other classes of cards offer discounts)
- One Time Cost: $30 before 11 a.m., $35 after the bar opens
- Coupon: various travel providers such as travel agency chain Flight Centre and tour operator Encore CruiseEscapes offer a downloadable coupon offering a 20% discount — reducing the entry fee to $24 and $28.
Another option for travellers leaving Toronto is the KLM Crown Lounge in Terminal 3. It offers similar facilities to the Plaza Premium Lounges for a $25 admission fee, and KLM is known for its warm hospitality.
Air Canada’s Maple Leaf Lounges
Air Canada has recently opened access to its 20 Maple Leaf lounges, located at airports across Canada and at key international hubs.
- Executive First and Executive Class travellers: free access
- Other fare classes: $30-$55 per ticket
- Aeroplan Members: use miles for entry passes
- Annual Membership: $425. Gives access to over 50 lounges around the world, including those of Star Alliance partners United Airlines and Lufthansa.
- Lounge access can be purchased at time of online booking, or online anytime up to 24 hours before travel.
- TakeOffeh’s Take: Maple Leaf Lounges are the gold standard for Canada’s top loungers. Ergonomic seating, cell free zones, great snacks, drinks, check-in facilities and business centres.
Priority Pass is a membership-based club that gives access to 600 airport lounges in over 100 countries.
- Membership: three levels priced between $99 and $349 per year
- TakeOffeh’s Take: Our product testers have not tried the service, however, with airports charging upwards of $15 for a ham sandwich, it’s worth checking out.
TV’s Seinfeld offers the best perspective on lounges. There is an episode where Kramer sits in a first class lounge looking like the cat that swallowed the canary. When another lounger asks him where he’s going, Kramer gives him an uncomprehending look: “Going?” he replies. “I got nuts, free beer and TV – why would I want to go anywhere?”
For anyone in a Kramer frame of mind, LoungeGuide.net is a Wiki-style website offering listings and reviews from seasoned travellers about airport lounges around the world.
Photo Credits: plaza-ppl.com, aircanada.com, prioritypass.com