AC Chases Int’l Biz Travellers With New Signature Lounge At YYZ

By Martha Chapman

AC’s Benjamin Smith

The uber chic lounge is over 6,000 square feet

Top chef David Hawksworth and Duncan Bureau

An oasis of calm at Canada’s busiest airport

Chauffer-driven ramp transfer in one of 20 AC branded BMWs.

When it comes to courting the lucrative international business traveller, airlines are competing on the ground as much as in the air.  It’s not just about routes, slots and inflight service – it’s also about how top revenue clients are treated before takeoff.

Air Canada has had a concierge service for over 20 years, looking after business class travellers with assistance on departure and arrival.  But now the airline has taken that pampering to another level with the launch of a new Signature Suite lounge at YYZ accessible only to full-fare “business class” (i.e. points won’t cut it) long haul pax as well as some 170 global AC VIPs, most of whom are CEOs. The lounge will open to qualified pax on Friday 1DEC.

The new space spreads across some 6400 square feet adjacent to the AC international departures area in YYZ’s T1 and can comfortably accommodate up to 160 travellers.

The thinking, says Ben Smith, President, Passenger Airlines, was to take an under-utilized area of the airport and transform it into a hip oasis of food curated by Top Chef Canada David Hawksworth and offering sophisticated bar options including uniquely Canadian cocktails such as the Muskoka Maple which one appreciative guest declared “deliciously strong.”

The lounge will be open from 0630 until the last AC flight and will accommodate travellers not only with time-zone friendly foods (lunch time here might be breakfast time where pax are coming from) but also ethnic and diet-specific requirements with an elaborate a la carte menu. Around midday Toronto time, for example, there are five Asia-bound flights so the lounge will adjust its menu accordingly.

“Yes, there are other lounges, including our own Maple Leafs,” Duncan Bureau, Vice-President Global Sales says. “But the concept here is for a passenger to enjoy an excellent meal on the ground, perhaps have a pre-flight meeting with colleagues who will be travelling with you so you can all enjoy your sleep as soon as possible after you board.”

An eight-person board room is also available for lounge guests at no surcharge.

For pax connecting from domestic or transborder flights, AC has added a whole new level of service with chauffeur-driven ramp transfer in one of 20 branded BMWs.

Clearly AC is targeting the American business traveller as there are surprisingly few U.S. airports which handle a substantial number of international connecting flights.

 Next up? More Signature Suites in Vancouver, Montreal and perhaps another at YYZ. “I think we’ve hit a grand slam home run,” says Smith, “This will be a clear step up and I truly believe we’ve got the best in class service.”

Martha Chapman

Martha Chapman Columnist

An OJ columnist since 2006, Martha is responsible for the Biting Questions features as well as special seasonal series. A travel industry lifer known to all in the biz, she frequently covers industry events for Open Jaw.

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