kafka index Air Canada puts procedure ahead of profitsAir 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.


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Categorized in: Air Canada, airport lounges

9 Responses to “Air Canada puts procedure ahead of profits”

  1. Eric Says:

    AC has one perk that I haven’t seen at any other lounge: a discounted rate for extra guests.

    It is $15CAD in the morning, $25 in the afternoon, for each additional guest beyond those you are allowed. For example, as a *G, I was able to bring in one guest for free and a second guest for $15CAD. Not a bad deal at all. United would have wanted $50USD for a crummy Red Carpet Club.

  2. Jimie Says:

    @#$% AC and their elitist ways (loyalist roots). The MLL is good i.e. four types of FREE draught beer (incl. Guiness) plus mini-buffet.

    If you cannot make it try the following club:

  3. Tino Says:

    How to kill time at YYZ? Two words. Tim Hortons.

  4. Gregor Samsa Says:

    Just sit down with your headphones with Rush’s YYZ blasting on your headphones. On repeat. For the whole 5 hours.


  5. Spendstoomuchtimetherealready... Says:

    I am Aeroplan ‘Gold’, and live on Canada’s East Coast. Therefore, thanks to AC’s less-than-efficient hub system, have wasted countless hours in the AC lounges in TO Pearson.

    My best advice? Take the quick and convenient tram to Terminal 2, the ‘Westjet’/US FLights/International terminal, and then take the escalator to the Sheraton Hotel. Their restaurant features real menus, plates, edible food etc., and is miles away from the stress of the waiting area. A pleasant meal with a glass of wine should be had for $40 Canadian, and will be more relaxing than any lounge.

  6. Weary Traveller Says:

    Yeah, A/C doesn’t seem to keen on revenue. I am a musician, and have a keyboard, which, in it’s flight case weighs 72 lbs. I arrived at YYZ for check-in for a flight to LHR. Was told keyboard was over. I said, “I’m willing to pay the overage costs”. They said no, it must go cargo. (Outside the airport property) No time to do that. I said I was willing to pay an extra seat’s fare…even spoke with a manager. Still no. But hey, charge me for a pillow and blanket. So sadly I paid the baggage storage people…rented a similar keyboard in London, and everyone was glad to accept THAT money. All but A/C. I was an Gold member with Aeroplan, but now avoid A/C at all costs…no pun intended!

  7. James Says:

    There’s a hooters almost within walking distance of YYZ and if you have status with Marriot there is a Rennaisance and full-service Marriot also close by to YYZ.

  8. Darcie Says:

    Do you have any Aeroplan miles? You can redeem them for a one-day lounge pass: http://www.aircanada.com/en/news/090217.html?src=hp_wn

  9. Mark Ashley Says:

    Thanks for all the comments and suggestions. Will do some exploring at YYZ.

    Darcie, thanks for the heads-up re: using miles to get into the lounge. I wasn’t aware that they had that option for day passes. It’s interesting, at least. I haven’t collected any Aeroplan miles, but even if I did, I’m not sure I’d spend 7000 miles for a day pass. That’s pretty steep, on a cents-per-mile basis, considering $35 Canadian gets you into a different lounge a few feet down the concourse.

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