- Air Canada has earned several awards, including being named the “Best Business Class in North America” during the 2019 Skytrax World Airline Awards.
- I flew the airline’s Business Class – Signature Class for one leg of the trip and standard business for the other – on a trip from Vancouver to New York to see if it lived up to the hype.
- But after spending several hours in two Maple Leaf lounges – Air Canada’s standard business class lounges – I was left feeling somewhat disappointed.
- The food I saw and ate was solid and served its purpose. But the sparse buffet and self-service liquor were far from what I expected after taking a look through Air Canada’s Instagram.
- Here’s a look inside the lounge for Air Canada’s award-winning business class.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
On a recent trip to Canada, I was scheduled to leave Vancouver for New York at 10:30 p.m., and I planned on exploring a bit in the morning. Alas, it was the beginning of the city’s rainy season, so I decided to work instead.
Rather than work from a coffee house or my hotel room, I figured I would head to the airport and spend the day seeing how I could taking advantage of Air Canada’s award-winning business class.
Source: Skytrax World Airline Awards
Air Canada was voted 2019’s “Best Business Class in North America” by passengers, according to the world airline survey conducted annually by Skytrax — a company that surveys more than 20 million travellers — as well as TripAdvisor’s Travellers Choice Awards.
After hearing about the renovations made to Air Canada and the addition of its Signature Class, I thought I would try flying what was voted the Best Business Class in North America — and 18th best in the world. And the class experience includes the lounges.
Rachel Askinasi/Business InsiderThe priority check-in counter for Air Canada in the Vancouver airport.
I had a two-hour layover in Toronto …
… so I made use of the Maple Leaf lounges in both Vancouver and Toronto airports. Air Canada has Maple Leaf lounges in several airports along its various routes available to both long- and short-haul business class travellers, as well as a Signature Suite in Toronto available only to international business class travellers flying in the newer Signature Class.
Even though I flew Signature Class for one leg of my trip, I wasn’t allowed to use the Signature Suite lounge in Toronto because Air Canada doesn’t consider the US to be international travel. Travellers flying to the US from Toronto leave from a domestic terminal and can’t access the international terminal, where the Signature Lounge is located.
Sharon M./YelpNot-so-frequent flyers, like myself, may not realise this until they’re at the airport searching for their gate.
The Maple Leaf lounge I visited in Vancouver is nestled inside a fake rock wall in the domestic terminal.
I arrived at 2:30 p.m. and the vast check-in area was pretty empty. It felt a bit odd to see only one person behind this giant desk.
After checking in, I headed upstairs using the elevator, of course, because I always have way too many bags to carry. There’s also a staircase travellers can use if they want to get some steps in before a long flight.
Desperate to put all of my luggage and cold-weather accessories down, I snagged a pair of leather armchairs and set up camp.
Rachel Askinasi/Business InsiderI definitely took up a lot of space, but there were plenty of empty seats.
Since the airline boasted “mouth-watering” food by an “award-winning culinary partner,” I went to check the food selection out right away.
Air Canada/InstagramThe post says there is food like this in the Maple Leaf lounges as well.
Source: Air Canada Instagram
There was a small buffet centrally located in the lounge with two hot soup options …
… some basic do-it-yourself salad fixings …
Rachel Askinasi/Business InsiderThere were tomatoes, mixed greens, cucumbers, red onion, radishes, and carrots.
… a selection of chips, salsa, hummus, and bread …
… and two bowls of what I’d call a featured side — there was a grain salad and a bowl of edamame.
I started the afternoon with a winning combo of chips, salsa, cucumbers, and hummus. I figured as dinnertime approached there would be a change-over at the buffet.
On one side of the buffet, there was a fully-stocked refrigerator with different soft drink options …
… but there was also a pair of drinks in dispensers — watermelon and basil-infused water and jalapeño lemonade. I love fruit-infused water so I opted for that.
There was also a selection of wine …
… top-shelf liquor …
… and beer on tap.
Rachel Askinasi/Business InsiderThirsty passengers had plenty to choose from, including two local brews.
All of the alcohol was self-serve …
… which I thought was interesting considering the photos of another Vancouver airport Maple Leaf lounge show a full-service bar.
Air Canada/InstagramThis is what I thought all of the Maple Leaf lounges would look like.
Coffee was also do-it-yourself. Even though there wasn’t a barista to help make a cappuccino for my daily 4 p.m. craving, there was this easy-to-use machine that made it just as well — sans foam art.
I was able to pick my drink of choice …
Rachel Askinasi/Business InsiderTravellers could choose a latte, flat white, cappuccino, and a few others.
… customise it to add another shot of espresso and pick my milk.
It was actually pretty good!
Rachel Askinasi/Business InsiderI can be pretty judgmental of cappuccino, and I actually really liked this one.
After about an hour, I decided it was time for a treat. There were two options of cookies: chocolate chip and oatmeal.
I love a good taste test, so I loaded up a cocktail napkin with one of each and headed back to my seat. I was surprised that I thought the oatmeal was far superior to the chocolate chip — I’m a chocolate lover, but this cookie was unfinishable.
At around 5:30 p.m. a hot dish of penne pasta and tomato sauce was added to the buffet.
It was good, but it wasn’t particularly hot — definitely not what I expected from North America’s best business class experience.
I thought there would be more for dinner, so I didn’t take a full serving of the pasta. But, once that silver tray was empty that was it. It was back to hummus and bread for me.
I ended my day at the lounge with a glass of Merlot from British Columbia — it was the only local wine on offer. The two white varietals were from Australia and the Cabernet Sauvignon was from California.
While I wasn’t totally impressed by the food at this Maple Leaf lounge, the area itself was really nice and a pleasant place to hang out in.
Meanwhile, the Maple Leaf lounge in the Toronto airport looked a little more tired, so I ultimately chose to sit at the gate instead.
But not before I grabbed some breakfast. The food was fairly basic. There was a dish of hard-boiled eggs next to two types of melon and some yogurt containers …
… cereal dispensers …
… bread and jam …
… and two large pots of oatmeal.
I went for toast with apricot jam and a hard-boiled egg. It did the job at 5:30 in the morning.
This lounge had taps for beer as well, but they were closed because it was so early in the morning.
They did have the watermelon water, though!
Overall, I thought the food at the Maple Leaf lounges was just fine. It can fill a traveller’s need for a snack but definitely not a meal. Considering Air Canada holds the title of the “Best Business Class in North America,” I found the food in its Maple Leaf lounges pretty disappointing.
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