Having access to an airport lounge is always more pleasant than waiting at the gate. It gives you a quiet place to relax, get some work done and enjoy a complimentary bite to eat before your flight — or even upon arrival in some cases. Depending on the lounge's setup, it can also be a great place to socially distance from others.
Gaining access to lounges is easier than you might think. Today, we're going to review everything you need to know about accessing Air Canada's network of Maple Leaf lounges. As you're going to see, there still are plenty of ways to get into these lounges without a premium cabin ticket.
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Air Canada Maple Leaf lounges overview
Air Canada has Maple Leaf lounges in 17 airports across Canada, the U.S. and Europe, including:
- Toronto (YYZ) — Four locations, all in Terminal 1 (one for international flights, one for domestic, one for transborder and one for express)
- Montréal (YUL) — Three locations: One in the international terminal, one in the domestic terminal and one in the transborder area
- Vancouver (YVR) — Three locations: One in the international terminal, one in the domestic terminal and one in the transborder terminal
- Los Angeles (LAX) — One location in Terminal 6
- Newark (EWR) — One location in Concourse A
- New York LaGuardia (LGA) — One location in the Central Terminal Building, Concourse B on level three
- London Heathrow (LHR) — One location in Terminal 2B (Queen's Terminal) on level one
Note that Air Canada also operates Signature Suites in Toronto and Vancouver, but those are reserved exclusively for paying business class passengers on long-haul routes. However, the "Air Canada Café" in Toronto follows the same access rules as standard Maple Leaf lounges.
Related: The 8 do’s and don’ts in an airport lounge
Usual amenities of Maple Leaf lounges include complimentary food and drinks, cell-free quiet zones, showers and business centers. However, due to the pandemic, the experience is a bit different than usual. For instance, instead of a self-serve buffet, food is now delivered straight to your table. Additionally, many lounges are temporarily closed.
For complete details on all locations, including information on which ones are currently open, you can visit this page. Regardless of which method you use to gain entry, you’ll always need a same-day boarding pass for an Air Canada, Air Canada Express or a Star Alliance flight.
While no location participates in the Priority Pass program anymore, there are still credit cards that can grant Maple Leaf lounge privileges.
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Right now, the easiest way for U.S.-based travelers to unlock Maple Leaf lounge access is with the United Club Infinite Card. The card comes with a full United Club membership for the primary cardholder, which gives you access to United Clubs and Star Alliance partner lounges, including Maple Leaf. United Club members are allowed to bring one guest when visiting partner lounges, though keep in mind that starting May 3, the guest must be traveling on the same flight as the member.
Related: Best credit cards for airport lounge access
In late 2021, Air Canada and Chase will unveil a lineup of Aeroplan credit cards for U.S. residents. While details about the cards are limited, it's possible that at least one of the cards might offer Maple Leaf access as a benefit. When Aeroplan revamped its Canadian-issued credit cards in 2020, it added access to Maple Leaf Lounges in North America and the Air Canada Café to premium Aeroplan Black cardholders. Other Canadian cards offer one-time lounge passes.
While typically not the most cost-effective option, you can also purchase a Maple Leaf Club membership outright with cash or Aeroplan points. (Note, sales of new memberships are temporarily suspended and those memberships purchased before April 6, 2020 were extended by six months.) There are three types of memberships available:
Maple Leaf Club Canada
Members have access to all Maple Leaf lounges in Canada and Air Canada’s priority check-in lines. Individual memberships cost 375 CAD (about $298) per year, while partner memberships (membership for you and your spouse) cost 550 CAD (about $437). Members are allowed to bring guests for an additional fee.
Maple Leaf Club North America Plus
Members are invited to visit over 60 lounges in Canada, the U.S. and Europe. This includes access to all 17 Maple Leaf lounges worldwide, as well as United Clubs in the U.S. Again, members have access to Air Canada’s priority check-in lines. Individual memberships cost 495 CAD (about $393) per year, while partner memberships cost 730 CAD (about $580). Guests are allowed for an additional fee.
Maple Leaf Club Worldwide
This membership offers the complete package. It provides access to all Maple Leaf and Star Alliance lounges worldwide. It also allows members to bring one guest free of charge. Individual memberships cost 665 CAD (about $528) per year, while partner memberships cost 970 CAD (about $771).
Related: The best ways to maximize Air Canada’s Aeroplan program
For a limited time, Air Canada is offering walk-in access to some of its Maple Leaf lounges. The day passes cost $55 per passenger and may be purchased regardless of the airline you're flying (even if it isn't a part of the Star Alliance). The following lounges are participating:
- Toronto-Pearson Airport, Terminal 1 near D gates
- Vancouver International Airport, Pier C
- Calgary International Airport, Concourse C
All Air Canada elite members with Aeroplan 35K status or higher are entitled to some form of lounge access.
Aeroplan 35K elites enjoy unlimited access to lounges in domestic and transborder departure areas of Canadian airports (lounges in international departure areas are excluded), as well as all Maple Leaf Lounges in the U.S. Access to the Air Canada Café is excluded.
Meanwhile, Aeroplan 50K, Aeroplan 75K and Altitude Super Elite members have access to all Maple Leaf and Star Alliance partner lounges worldwide (excluding the Signature Suites). So long as you have a same-day Star Alliance boarding pass, you always have access regardless of the cabin or route your flying. You're allowed to bring your domestic partner, up to 5 dependent children, as well as one guest at no charge. Just remember that effective May 3, Star Alliance will require guests to be traveling on the same flight as the elite member.
Similarly, Star Alliance Gold members who hold status with another partner airline can use Maple Leaf lounges with any same-day Star Alliance boarding pass. One guest is allowed at no charge.
All levels of Aeroplan elite status include the opportunity to earn one-time guest passes. Aeroplan 25K elites can select guest passes as their "Select Benefits," while all other status levels include them as Core Benefits.
Related: How to earn Air Canada elite status without flying
Those flying in business class or Signature Class on Air Canada are always are granted lounge access regardless of elite status or membership. Business and first-class customers traveling on a same-day flight operated by a Star Alliance member airline get access as well, but only at the airport where the eligible flight departs.
Premium Rouge customers only get complimentary access on flights within Canada, to the U.S and Sun destinations (Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean). You'll need to pay for access when flying to Europe, Asia, Africa and South America.
Related: What airline fare classes tell you about your ticket
Lounge access can make all the difference when you're traveling. Luckily, Air Canada offers a variety of different ways to access its network of Maple Leaf lounges. In addition to a premium-cabin ticket, you can get in with various memberships, credit cards and forms of elite status. Ironically, for U.S.-based flyers, the most cost-effective option might be to get the United Club Infinite Card — at least until Aeroplan releases its U.S. lineup of cards.
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.