At Vancouver International Airport (YVR), travelers with Star Alliance Gold Status can access the Maple Leaf lounge in the transborder/US departures zone. I was initially worried since I’ve previously encountered problems accessing this lounge as a United Club Card member, but as it turned out, access was a non-issue this time around.
The facilities at YVR are a pleasure to inhabit in general, but the MLL takes it to another level. It is, by far, one of the nicer Star Alliance lounges I’ve experienced in North America.
Guests can access the lounge by taking an elevator to the 4th floor, where they are greeted by the concierge and a replica model of an Air Canada Boeing 777-300. The above-level platform offers fantastic views of the tarmac and allows ambient light to fill the area. Air Canada has also done an excellent job decking out the lounge with plants and trees to give it a more calming feel.
There is ample room for eating, relaxing, working or socializing within the allocated space. The furniture is comfy and is kidded out with plenty of electrical outlets to charge up devices. WiFi is free at YVR for all passengers, but the MLL provides a separate complimentary network for users. Either network option is pretty rapid. It’s just too bad that US airports have not adopted similar measures.
I was very impressed by the vast array of reading material offered. In addition to standard complimentary newspapers, Air Canada has also stocked the racks with the En Route magazine, BusinessTraveler and even included local varieties such as the Toronto magazine, which made for a delightful read. Hats off to AC for giving the non-Smartphone/E-reader/Tablet people some hard-copy things to enjoy 🙂
Now onto my favorite part: the food.
Luckily for me, I arrived at the tail end of the breakfast service at the MLL (which ends at 11 AM) and also was able to stay for the beginning of the lunch service. The breakfast offering was similar to that in the United Club, but there were some noticeable differences. There were more cold cereal offerings (and the options were also a bit healthier) along with muffins, pastries, and grapefruit juice (my favorite).
Although United offers bagels with a toaster, the MLL provided customers three selections of breads alongside three different jams. Again, just some subtle differences here, but it is nice to have fresh jam to scoop from the jar rather than using standard Smuckers packets.
The coffee/espresso machine was phenomenal. I enjoyed a delicious Capuccino along with my meal. Otherwise, the MLL also offered the standard selection of fruits, yogurts, juices and sodas (from a refridgerator-cooler) for guests.
One difference between the YVR MLL and the United Club was that no alcohol is available during the breakfast window, so that means no breakfast drinks nor beers, unfortunately. Although I believe it varies by club, the MLL provides a self-service bar for afternoon guests starting at 11 AM.
So, in general, breakfast options are pretty consistent with the UA Clubs for the most part, with a few key differences/upgrades.
However, the afternoon services is where the MLL really stands out. I was blown away by what was on display.
In a stark difference to the breakfast display, which provided mostly continental and cold items, the lunch provisions are full-fledged and offer an array of hot and cold items for lounge members, and with offerings catering to all tastes and diets.
The sandwich tray featured a delicious turkey and goat cheese triangles stuffed with plenty of crisp vegetables in between flat bread. There was also two full pasta salad bowls with the good ‘ol cold starches mixed with veggies, and another one featuring chickpeas and grilled fibers. I, of course, immediately attacked the vat of Hummus and pita chips (I pretty much consume Hummus on a daily basis) and I was delighted to see two hot soup offerings: creamy tomato and roasted pepper, as well as Chicken Noodle.
In addition, the MLL provided chips and salsa as well as iceberg lettuce, allowing passengers to create their own salad or just enjoy a savory snack. Side items also available included crackers, condiments, and those delicious buttery Pretzels that can ONLY be found on Air Canada flights 🙂
The bar station was also open at this time, providing a full-offering to customers. Noticeably, the MLL did a great job providing frills like tabasco and worchester sauce to prepare Bloody Marys (or Ceasar’s, as they are called in Canada, since they are prepared with Clamato, which has clam juice, instead of standard Bloody Mary Mix). The draft pump for Molson’s beer was also unchained and now accessible to customers.
I did not get a chance to use the self-service bar from the bottles with the funky pumps displayed from the ceiling, unfortunately, but the concept looked pretty cool!
The front desk staff was polite, but they are pretty strict with their guest policy. I was under the impression that one is allowed +2 guests, but the club only allows one person. Technically, the guest must also be traveling on the same flight, which was obviously a dissuading criteria for me since I was trying to bring in my cousin who lives in Washington, D.C. and was on a separate flight as I. However, since her flight was boarding soon, it was a non-issue for the most part.
In general, Air Canada has done a fantastic job designing a simple, yet elegant, lounge service for Star Alliance elites in Vancouver airport. If you are traveling transborder on AC, United or US Airways (for a few months, at least) then I highly recommend visiting this lounge.
Noise levels: 9/10
Ease of access: 7.5/10