As a traveller based in Calgary, I recently made my very first visit to the newly-opened WestJet Elevation Lounge at Calgary International Airport prior to a morning domestic flight to Vancouver. Having heard a lot of buzz about the new flagship WestJet lounge, I was curious to finally try it out in person.
Ricky had attended the Elevation Lounge’s opening event in October 2020 and has an excellent writeup on the hard product, so I would suggest you take a read through that review as well. But keep in mind that things tend to “perfect” during any launch, as the airline is trying to put their best foot forward.
My review will be my actual real-world experience at the lounge – and I tend not to pull any punches.
WestJet Elevation Lounge Calgary – Access
The WestJet Elevation Lounge is located just after security at the domestic B gates at Calgary International Airport.
What most people don’t know is that WestJet had worked very closely with the the Calgary Airport Authority to open an additional security checkpoint at the B gates to allow WestJet guests to clear security and access the lounge all in one go.
Access to the lounge is complimentary for those flying on WestJet 787 business class or for WestJet Rewards Gold and Platinum members, who have unlimited access regardless of the class of service or fare class paid.
WestJet Silver members, on the other hand, are given four lounge passes per status year. If you wish to use your WestJet status to access the lounge, you must be flying on a WestJet issued ticket.
If you aren’t a WestJet Rewards status holder, or if you are flying on an airline that isn’t WestJet, you have the option of accessing the lounge using Priority Pass, LoungeKey, Lounge Club, or Diners Club. If you’re looking for an easy way to access Priority Pass, it’s part of your card benefits when you are approved for either an American Express Platinum Card or American Express Business Platinum Card.
Lastly, if you don’t hold WestJet status and don’t have a membership to the many lounge programs listed above, you can easily purchase access to the lounge for $59 plus tax if you are flying with WestJet, or $65 plus tax for all other airlines.
One very positive development with COVID is the use of touchless entry to many events and locations, including the Elevation Lounge. When you enter, you are greeted with a scanner that will read the QR code on your airline ticket.
As I was flying with Air Canada, the attendant also scanned my Priority Pass membership that was earned as part of my American Express Platinum Business Card.
WestJet Elevation Lounge Calgary – Seating
I’ll be sharing some of my pictures and observations, but I would be remiss to try and recreate the excellent 3D tour of the lounge that WestJet has put together. I highly recommend you check out the tour here to get a real sense of the layout and grandeur of the lounge.
What you immediately notice in the lounge is the wide variety of seating options throughout the lounge. You are given seating choices to relax, eat, or work and the spaces are well divided to allow for an ambiance to be set in the area.
To me, there is nothing worse than someone taking a business call in an area meant for relaxation and sleep, but WestJet’s lounge has that problem fairly well-managed.
I chose to sit in the relaxation area, and while the seating was very comfortable, one big letdown was that the lounge occupies an interior space, so your view out of the lounge windows is that of the terminal walkways.
As you can see, if you really try, you can make out parts of the apron and some aircraft, but the location certainly falls short if you’re an aviation geek.
The food area of the lounge was quite empty due to COVID, but there were a few servers throughout the lounge along with kitchen staff cooking up food items to order, which was very impressive and something that I will cover in more detail shortly.
The remainder of the seating area was quite varied and really allowed you to choose your seating based on your personality and needs.
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The lounge is well set-up for business needs, offering a few private individual rooms for taking calls or holding meetings.
WestJet Elevation Lounge Calgary – Food and Service
The food and service is where the WestJet Elevation Lounge really shines. The staff at the lounge have managed to serve delicious, visually appealing food, all while observing COVID protocols.
As I was at the lounge at breakfast time, I did not partake in any alcoholic beverages, which is a good thing because it looked like nobody was manning the bar at the time of my visit.
What I did try was everything on the breakfast menu, because most of the items where small enough not to be a full meal, but large enough that it didn’t feel like a cost savings exercise.
When you first scan the QR code and click the associated link, you are told which table you are at and asked how many people are in your dining party. I assume this is to allow for multiple orders, but as I was travelling alone, I did not see that part of the menu.
On the breakfast menu, there were small plates including a fruit plate, as well as a smoked salmon and scone. Large plates included a breakfast poutine and Belgian waffles. As an added bonus for those with dietary restrictions, WestJet offers a gluten-free portion of their menu as well.
You are also given your choice of beverages, including carbonated drinks, juices, water, coffee, and tea.
One amazing feature of the lounge is that, due to COVID, all food ordered is à la carte and delivered directly to your table.
WestJet, if you are listening: please keep the à la carte ordering and tableside delivery even after COVID ends – it’s a differentiator and something that I am certain all your patrons are happy to keep.
My initial order was for the fruit plate and the breakfast poutine. While I was interested in the quality of the food, I was equally curious about how quickly the food would be served. I was astonished on both fronts.
The food arrived fresh within two minutes of my order. In fact, it was so fast that I timed it on my second order just to make sure it wasn’t a fluke.
Not only did the food arrive very quickly, it was plated beautifully! In fact, it was so well-presented, when I think back to my other lounge experiences, I can’t think of a more well-presented dish outside of the First Class lounges I have visited.
The fruit was pretty standard, and if I’m being honest, not that ripe – but as we approach the beginning of fall, it’s not all the surprising. What really blew my socks off was the breakfast poutine!
Consisting of a poached egg, breakfast potatoes, cheese curds, bacon, and a heavenly hollandaise sauce, the taste was spot on and probably one of the best things I have ever eaten for breakfast at an airport lounge. I ate every last bite of the poutine and left a few suspect pieces of melon.
As the food was so good, and I had a bit of additional time, I decided to try the other breakfast dishes that I hadn’t ordered: the Belgian waffle and the smoked salmon and scone. Again, both were a delight and again, beautifully presented.
The smoked salmon and scone was just the right amount of smokey, with a bit of tang from the pickled red onions accentuated by the fresh dill and the cheddar cheese scone. Everything about the dish was delicious!
The waffle was also very tasty, though one side of the waffle was a bit overly toasted and crunchy – but tasty nonetheless. The whipped cream and Canadian maple syrup was a sweet indulgence and really put me over the top in terms of being full.
WestJet Elevation Lounge Calgary – Little Touches
WestJet has really put in a lot of effort to address the small things in the lounge, and that really adds to the appeal.
As an example, as soon as my second food order arrived, the server stopped to clear my previous plates. Now this may sound like standard practice, but I can assure you that it is far from the norm in most lounges.
One thing I really appreciated was that as I walked to the other parts of the lounge, I did not see any used dishes laying around, lending to the exclusive feel of the lounge. There is nothing worse than a dirty lounge, which is very off-putting.
WestJet has also made the conscious decision to source their food and drink from local businesses whenever possible. The most apparent demonstration of this was their use of Fratello Coffee, a local Calgary roaster that was established in 1985.
I can’t profess to be a coffee expert by any means, but I can promise you, this is an amazing cup of coffee. I went with a cappuccino and I was very pleasantly surprised to see that right from the ordering menu, you could choose to have the coffee to-go, which is a huge convenience as you are about to board a plane.
As I only had a limited time in the lounge, I wasn’t able to explore the rest of the lounge, though WestJet’s website claims very interesting additional features of the lounge, including a dedicated family space, a spa-like shower space, and locally brewed beer at the bar.
From my perspective, all of the little details were considered and taken care of at the Elevation Lounge, which is truly a feat considering WestJet’s propensity to lean into its low cost carrier roots.
I’m happy to say that the Elevation Lounge is a step in the right direction for WestJet.
WestJet Elevation Lounge Calgary – Issues
One big issue I see with the WestJet Elevation Lounge is its lack of exclusivity. While the current access rules are great for Priority Pass members, it dilutes the motivation to become a WestJet Rewards status member.
This short-term way of thinking to garner as much cash flow as possible calls into question the long-term viability of WestJet Rewards as a whole.
Even based in Calgary, it makes virtually no sense to chase WestJet status, given that the best benefit you gain is lounge access that can be either purchased or earned as part of a credit card signup. That’s a real shame, because the lounge is actually so good that I believe many Calgary based flyers might actually try to earn status to access it.
Outside of fact that this lounge could potentially see large crowds due to its ease of access, the biggest issue with the lounge is its location.
I have flown out of the Calgary International Airport a few of time since the opening of the lounge, but all of those flights were transborder to the US. Even though some of those flights were on WestJet, I was unable to access the lounge because it is inaccessible to those guests travelling to the United States.
Guests flying to international destinations from Calgary can access the lounge, but need to exit the lounge and walk to the D gates at the International Terminal via the airside walkway – although at least they don’t need to re-clear security.
I don’t know if there is a solution in the works for this issue, but effectively, what WestJet offers is an international quality lounge “stuck” servicing the domestic terminals of the airport, with passengers who choose to fly with WestJet to the US having to settle for a subpar Aspire contract lounge.
Having worked at WestJet previously, I think it would be fair to say that I’ve been a vocal critic of the WestJet Rewards loyalty program since my departure from the organization. That should give you some context on how I find the flagship WestJet Elevation Lounge at Calgary International Airport to be truly outstanding.
It is one of the best lounges in North America, and I’m including the American Express Centurion Lounge collection as I’ve been to most of them. The only lounge that I believe beats out the WestJet Elevation Lounge is the Cathay Pacific Lounge at Vancouver International Airport, and that’s saying something.
The service was excellent, the food quality was very high, and the general layout and seating was fantastic. I would even say, based on the fabric choices in the lounge, that it will age gracefully even as travel picks up post-COVID.
When I was still at WestJet, plans to open the flagship Elevation Lounge were underway and were led by the incredibly talented Hannah Fairweather. Prior to joining the team, Hannah had a very large hand in choosing and sourcing the catering on board the new 787 Dreamliner, WestJet’s first foray into the a true business class.
By all accounts, she knocked it out of the park, and she has since followed up that decisive victory with another huge win in the Elevation Lounge. My hats off to Hannah and her team for their ability to understand what matters in a lounge and executing that vision flawlessly.
I look forward to visiting this lounge well into the future, and again, please, please, please keep the à la carte menu with table service. It truly sets things apart.