Air Canada baffles me. They have been very innovative (for better or worse) in pushing the a-la-carte model of airfare, but when presented with some seemingly simple opportunities to collect a few bucks, they decline.
What I’m talking about is day passes to their Maple Leaf Lounge in Toronto. With a nearly six hour layover in Toronto on a trip later this year, I was checking my options for lounges or other time-wasters at the airport. My Star Alliance status, which used to get me into airport lounges on all international flights, isn’t what it used to be. My recently-demoted (and “lowly”) silver status won’t get you into a lounge on an international economy ticket.
Air Canada sells day passes to its Maple Leaf Lounge, but only during the ticket purchase process. When you book a flight in their “Tango Plus” or “Latitude” fare levels within North America, or at the fully-refundable “Latitude Plus” fare level when traveling internationally, you can add a lounge day pass to your ticket cost for $25 to 40 (CAD).
But since our flights were Star Alliance tickets booked with frequent flyer miles, I inquired about the possibility of day passes after ticket purchase. The agent informed me that this wasn’t possible: I could neither buy passes in advance over the phone or via the web, nor could I buy a day pass at the lounge. Why not? “They’re just not sold that way.”
The airline, in other words, is willing to put procedure ahead of profit.
If it were just an effort to keep up the velvet rope and limit access to the lounges, then they wouldn’t be selling the passes to rather low-fare Tango Plus North American customers. So clearly they’re willing to allow for buy-ins.
If it were a technology problem, I could understand, too. And in fact, that’s part of the issue, since our tickets weren’t bought online, so there was no opportunity to buy passes online. But that doesn’t explain why it’s impossible to buy a pass at the gate.
That’s really what I don’t understand: Why wouldn’t the lounge sell day passes at the door? That way, the lounge attendants are given discretion, and can gauge whether or not there’s space available, to prevent overcrowding. Instead, it’s an inconsistent policy that allows people on some cheap fares to buy their way in, but not others.
Instead, I’m eying a third-party lounge at Toronto Pearson Airport, the Plaza Premium lounge that opened on November 1, 2008. They’re open to all, at a cost of $35 CAD per person. I’m not hung up on sitting in a lounge for five hours, either, so if readers have any suggestions on how to pass the time at YYZ, the comments, as always, are open.