I recently regaled you with my journey to the Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge Edmonton, which lived up to its name in being both owned by Air Canada and a lounge.
While I was there, I also took the opportunity to peruse its main competitor, the Plaza Premium Lounge Edmonton, and took note of the similarities and differences between the two.
I think both are worthy of popping into should you find yourself in Alberta’s capital, but neither is aspirational or travel selfie-worthy. Let’s take a look.
Plaza Premium Lounge Edmonton (Domestic & International) – Access
The Plaza Premium sits right across the hall from its friendly rival, the Maple Leaf Lounge. Both are located between Gates 54 and 56, which are the main ports for passengers embarking on flights to Toronto or Vancouver.
As hawk-eyed travel aficionados may recall, there’s been a lot of back-and-forth lately about who can (and cannot) get into a Plaza Premium lounge. Sadly, the venerable Priority Pass program no longer includes entry to Plaza Premium Lounges Canada-wide, and the Plaza Premium in Edmonton is unfortunately no exception.
The lounge opens early at 5am, but closes at 4:30pm. The Maple Leaf Lounge stays open until after midnight, so if you have an evening departure, you won’t be able to enjoy the Plaza Premium Lounge Edmonton.
I gained admission by showing my personal American Express Platinum Card to the attendant at the front desk, in conjunction with my boarding pass. Even if I were not packing such a premium card, then I could have entered with an eligible Visa or MasterCard on the DragonPass program.
Plaza Premium Lounge Edmonton (Domestic & International) – Seating
You’ll love the colour palette of the Plaza Premium Lounge Edmonton, as long as you love beige and black. Everything is beige and black. This may be a petty gripe, but it’s so much more noticeable than in other airport lounges — the lounge is just so beige!
Putting the colour palette aside, the chairs were highly comfortable and there were lots of them. I’d estimate that there are around 50% more seats than the rival Maple Leaf Lounge, and most of them overlook the gates, too.
I decided to explore further into the lounge, and found it went much deeper than I had expected. There’s a second room to the back left of the dining area, where there are even more couches and a much quieter atmosphere, also overlooking the main gates.
This second seating area also hosts access to the bathrooms, which is a little annoying as it requires one to answer the call of nature by shuffling all the way to the back of the lounge. This can be annoying if a plane is about to board on the other end of the terminal and that call is urgent!
The bathrooms were clean enough. They didn’t sport any showers that I could see, which is a pity.
Overall, the lounge’s ambience was decent and comfortable, albeit very beige.
Plaza Premium Lounge Edmonton (Domestic & International) – Dining
The food was adequate. If you’ve ever been to a Plaza Premium lounge, you’ll know what I’m referring to.
In this case, the cafeteria-quality food selection (salty, nourishing, and tasty enough to be inoffensive) decided to forego the ubiquitous mystery curry in favour of a chicken and vegetable stew with rice or noodles. They hit the spot well enough.
There was also a salad bar, which was restocked intermittently to retain freshness. This is always important, as lettuce can wilt.
Lastly, there was a dessert cabinet. I didn’t have any of the cakes, but I can state that the rice pudding was superlative.
Generally, I’m a huge sucker for rice pudding, and even like the Costco-branded stuff that can be purchased by the metric tonne, but this dessert was outstanding. It was head and shoulders above what I’d expect in any airport lounge, let alone one as humble as the Plaza Premium Lounge Edmonton.
I’ll note that the staff noticed me taking lots of photos.
While I ate my stew, the manager approached me and asked if everything was OK, seeming concerned that maybe something was wrong. I answered in the negative and told her everything was good, as overall, the lounge experience was decent (except for the bar policy, which I’ll get into later.)
It was good to see staff being concerned about guest comfort, although I found it to be slightly odd in the era of social media where people will take photos of just about anything. Still, I understand the desire for caution and applaud the staff for being proactive.
Plaza Premium Lounge Edmonton (Domestic & International) – Bar
When talking about the bar, I need to rewind to when I first checked into the lounge.
I was advised by the front desk concierge, in absolutely crystal clear terms, that there was a four-drink limit at the bar. I got the impression that the staff must be more cautious about the imbibing of alcohol in this facility than at the Maple Leaf Lounge across the hall.
I’d like to note that it wasn’t quite lunch time yet when I was told this, and while it’s always five o’clock somewhere, this caution felt slightly unfriendly. I then got the strong sensation that this decision wasn’t based around fear of the collateral damage, potentially caused by over-consumption, but rather based the desire to cut costs, instead.
The draft beer in the above photo was available as one of four free alcoholic beverages, as were the bar rails and house wines displayed on the bottom of the bar cabinet. Oddly, they also provided free Caesar cocktails (assuming you’re OK with Smirnoff vodka), but wanted to charge for bottled beer like Molson Canadian.
Shortly after this scolding, I noticed the following sign, which had odd capitalization conventions.
I respect any business following its policies, but this seems like penny-pinching. Why? Because I’ve taken the Alberta Gaming, Liquor & Cannabis’s ProServe, and there’s nothing in the manual about a four-drink maximum in airport lounges.
Even if there is, it’s discriminatory nonsense targeting the airport hospitality industry unfairly, and I know for a fact any such limit was not being enforced at the Maple Leaf Lounge.
I contented myself to a ginger ale from the cooler, while taking pictures of the other beverages this lounge charges for even before you’ve hit your limit. Such a practice is common at North American lounges as a whole. To add confusion to this situation is that I’ve definitely ordered Coors Light here before without being dinged, but have seen patrons asking for Crown & Coke be immediately up-charged unless they downgraded their rye to Alberta Premium. Your mileage may vary.
When visiting a lounge at a smaller airport, it’s important to temper your expectations. Not every lounge in the world can be as extravagant as, say, Air France La Première’s ground experience.
At the Plaza Premium Lounge Edmonton, there were some pleasant surprises, like the rice pudding, and some annoying limitations, like the drink policy. Everything else, from the food to the décor, fell squarely in the middle.
On the plus side, the staff seemed to be motivated to provide customers with a decent overall experience.
Would I return? Absolutely. Would I go out of my way to make a visit? Not at all.