On a recent trip through Montreal, I finally had a chance to stop by Air Canada’s new International Lounge and was pleasantly surprised! AC has been aggressively pursuing premium long-haul passengers and this is one step in that strategy.
The Good News
It’s a beautiful lounge; large, airy and well-appointed with a catering section on par with any North American lounge aside from the Centurions.
Air Canada is notorious for leaving out nothing much more than a few urns of soup complete with heart-shattering salt content, a bit of bread, a parsley salad, and a cookie jar, so it was a real surprise to see a chef preparing fresh pasta to order with shrimp and chillies. There was even a properly-stocked buffet of appetizing food.
The lounge offers both a self-serve bar for those seeking just a bit of beer, wine or soft drink, as well as a large, fully-stocked bar that was turning out what looked to be properly-constructed cocktails.
Air Canada has done a decent job of raising their beverage game, adding premium-but-inexpensive brands like Bulleit Bourbon and the occasional craft beer. Hopefully, this will continue and maybe, just maybe, we’ll see local Canadian microbrews in each city!
The Bad News
As with the previous International Lounge, the access policy for this lounge is a bit convoluted; only business-class passengers and those with Star Alliance Gold status or higher, with a same-day departure on a Star Alliance partner airline, where the departing gate number is 50 or higher.
This is a bit clumsy on Air Canada’s part. All flights outside Canada, including those to the USA, depart from 50 or higher, so this restriction is essentially meant to exclude domestic passengers who are relegated to Air Canada’s tiny, worn-down, ill-equipped Domestic lounge at the far end of the airport.
…except that several domestic Air Canada flights depart from Gates 50 and higher, specifically those operated by aircraft that have recently arrived from overseas.
I wouldn’t normally devote this much of a review to access rules, but this is just plain weird.
Hopefully, Air Canada will give the Domestic Lounge its sorely-needed overhaul so all of these rules won’t matter, but I’m not holding my breath.