Two years in the making, WestJet’s flagship premium airport lounge in its home of Calgary is finally ready to open to the public.
Styled as the WestJet Elevation Lounge, this 9,300-square-foot space will provide WestJet passengers and other travellers passing through Calgary International Airport with a revolutionary premium experience prior to their departing flight.
The lounge will officially open to travellers on Monday, November 2, 2020, although WestJet hosted a media preview event today, where I had the pleasure of being in attendance and bringing you the first look at what will rank, in my view, as one of the best airport lounges in all of Canada.
In This Post
- Entry & Access
- Main Seating Area
- Dining Area
- Quiet Area
- Family Space
- Wellness Area
- Shower Rooms
- COVID-19 Measures
WestJet Elevation Lounge Calgary – Background
In 2018, WestJet embarked on a strategy to leave behind its roots as a low-cost carrier and transform into a full-service airline, and the opening of a flagship lounge in their home of Calgary was always seen as a major landmark in that journey.
Over the past couple of years, we’ve heard ongoing whispers that WestJet was planning something special for its lounge, although the airline did a great job of keeping everything under wraps.
A proposed opening date of Summer 2020 was delayed due to the pandemic. But as the end of 2020 approaches, and the recovery in global travel inches forward (as exemplified by Calgary International Airport’s rapid testing initiative which will also kick in on November 2), it’s finally time for WestJet to lift the lid on its best-kept secret.
In choosing the name “Elevation”, WestJet pays homage to our treasured land here in Canada – and in particular, the rugged mountains and sprawling plains of Alberta – all while signalling to guests that an elevated experience awaits them inside.
Naturally, a wide mix of Canadian-inspired elements are woven into the interior design, too, as you’ll see below.
WestJet Elevation Lounge Calgary – Entry & Access
We’ll begin our tour of the lounge at the front entrance, which will be located at Calgary International Airport’s Concourse B, from which the majority of WestJet flights depart.
To one side of the door, the WestJet Elevation Lounge signage is on prominent display; to the other side, a set of LED screens lists the access criteria and pricing, as well as showcasing some of WestJet’s other premium services like the 787 business class product.
As you can see, the lounge entrance (which is boarded up at the moment, but will be revealed net week) will be right opposite the Concourse B YYC Link station.
The eligibility rules for the WestJet Elevation Lounge are quite generous if you ask me. The following customers are eligible for complimentary access:
- WestJet Rewards Platinum, Gold, and Silver passengers with a departing WestJet flight may use the lounge as part of their status benefits:
- Platinum and Gold members receive unlimited complimentary lounge access for themselves and up to five family members, along with two guest vouchers
- Silver member receive four lounge access passes per year
- Passengers travelling in WestJet 787 business class (including on connections when a business fare has been purchased)
- Priority Pass, LoungeKey, Lounge Club, and Diners Club members, based on their respective lounge memberships
In addition, any passenger departing out of Calgary International Airport may also pay for access:
- Passengers travelling on WestJet may purchase access for $59 plus taxes
- Passengers travelling on other airlines may purchase access for $65 plus taxes
The lounge may be used prior to both domestic and international flights; however, passengers on US transborder flights are not eligible as they must go through US pre-clearance in a separate sterile zone.
No matter how you access the lounge, there is a three-hour maximum stay, which means that access will only be granted within three hours of your departing flight. In light of the generous eligibility criteria, I imagine that this rule will go some way towards alleviating overcrowding in the lounge.
Upon entering, WestJet members who are entering on the basis of their status or a business class ticket can simply scan their boarding pass at one of two touch-free readers.
If assistance is required or if a passenger wishes to purchase access, then the staff member stationed at the front desk can help.
Let’s take a look around, shall we?
WestJet Elevation Lounge Calgary – Main Seating Area
Seating in the Elevation Lounge are scattered into different pockets of varied seating types throughout the space. The main seating area is concentrated at the front of the lounge, looking out into the airport concourse and the tarmac beyond.
A curved wooden screen greets every guest as they walk into the lounge, providing a moment of inspiration in the form of the first peek at the space. Tucked behind that wooden screen is the first seating zone: a handful of stylish chaises longues, ideal for guests to sit back, relax, and maybe sneak in a quick nap prior to your flight.
From there, the seating wraps around the lounge’s circular central space – which hosts the dining area and the bar – taking the form of an extended booth seat punctuated with individual surfaces.
Although the WestJet Elevation Lounge doesn’t offer direct tarmac views, you still get to see a fair bit of the action beyond the concourse, so it still gets the job done for watching the planes go by with a drink in hand.
Importantly, the lounge is fitted with one-way glass panes, allowing lounge occupants to look through but keeping out the gaze of the passers-by.
WestJet Elevation Lounge Calgary – Dining Area
Continuing the walkthrough, we move seamlessly into the central dining room.
There’s a variety of dining tables set up. Booth-style seating on both sides can serve solo and couple travellers, while the high-top communal dining table in the middle serves larger groups of passengers.
To one side of the dining room is the coffee and tea station, which is equipped with fresh brews from Calgary-based Fratello Coffee Roasters, premium teas and infusions, and an espresso machine.
Now, the dining concept at the WestJet Elevation Lounge Calgary was originally meant to revolve around the “walkthrough kitchen”, a key feature of the lounge located adjacent to the dining room.
The idea is that guests could come through the space at their leisure, grabbing whatever they pleased along the way: some snacks or desserts from the central millstone countertop, some cold items from the self-serve stations, and some hot items from the open-concept kitchen counter (where you could also engage in conversation with the chefs).
The entire dining experience was meant to make guests feel as though they were enjoying a meal at WestJet’s home, rather than in WestJet’s airport lounge.
Obviously, however, buffets are off the table for now due to the coronavirus situation, so WestJet will instead be offering table service when the lounge opens as of November 2020. Tables in the dining space will be equipped with QR codes, which guests may scan and order food delivered to them in-person.
During our tour of the lounge, we were treated to a tasting of the breakfast items: a Canadian breakfast sampler with French toast, oatmeal with vanilla yogurt, and a chia seed parfait.
The quality of the food was excellent, and I was very impressed that the WestJet Elevation Lounge will feature proper tableware – straight from the airline’s Dreamliner business class product – as part of the meal service.
Here’s a sample of the dining menu:
It’s my understanding that WestJet still plans to reintroduce the buffet concept when it is safe to do so. However, part of me wishes that the à la carte table service is here to stay, since it definitely makes for a more premium experience, and puts the WestJet Elevation Lounge on par with some of the best lounges in North America.
WestJet Elevation Lounge Calgary – Bar
On the opposite side of the dining room is the WestJet Elevation Lounge’s signature bar. So many airport lounges around the world are distinguished by their beautiful bars, and WestJet’s is no exception.
Staffed by hand-picked local mixologists, the bar features a premium selection of beer, wine, spirits, and cocktails. Calgary’s vibrant brewery scene is proudly showcased here, including a signature Elevation beer on tap by The Dandy Brewing Company.
A signature Elevation cocktail is also offered, among many other types of concoctions.
Here’s a sample of the drinks menu:
Here in the morning, though, I decided to keep things low-key with a Bailey’s coffee to start the day.
In ordinary times, the bar is meant to serve as a casual social space, exemplified by the slow-burning faux fireplace adjacent to it and the whimsical hand-drawn design of the Three Sisters mountain range in Canmore on the glass panes behind the bar that serves as the lounge’s statement graphic.
WestJet Elevation Lounge Calgary – Quiet Area
Towards the far side of the lounge, fenced-off from the dining room and bar by a half-wall, is another pocket of seating that’s designed to be quieter by nature.
The first half of this space consists of a few casual single-person seats, where guests might sit down to unwind after enjoying a meal or a drink.
Then, beyond another wooden partition lies a series of private seating pods, which are well-suited to catching up on work in an environment free of distractions. For maximum productivity, each pod is equipped with a sliding table for your laptop and its own embedded power and USB outlets.
(Indeed, all seats in the WestJet Elevation Lounge are equipped with their own charging capabilities. That’s a minimum expectation in this day and age, yet one that many airlines fail to deliver on, so it’s great to see WestJet coming through in this regard.)
In the back of this space are two private nooks, known as “Focus Spaces”, ideal for taking a call or simply having a quiet moment to yourself. These are available on a first-come, first-served basis.
Finally, there’s a dedicated meeting room with occupancy for six during normal times (but currently limited to four), and is equipped with video-conferencing capabilities, including Zoom calls.
The meeting room will need to be booked in advance, either with a staff member upon arrival, or up to seven days in advance if you’re a WestJet Rewards Platinum or Gold member.
WestJet Elevation Lounge Calgary – Family Space
Continuing our walkthrough beyond the bar and fireplace, we arrive at a few spaces dedicated to guests’ wellness. First up is the Family Space.
Unlike the cookie-cutter kids’ areas you’ll find in other airport lounges, the Family Space isn’t necessarily intended for parents to leave their kids to play on their own, but rather for the family as a whole to spend meaningful time together.
There is a television with kids’ channels and WestJet-themed interactive play screens to keep your kids occupied, as well as seating booths along the walls for parents to relax and watch their kids have fun.
And check out those lovely little reindeer-shaped chairs for the kids – another example of the “Canadiana” that WestJet proudly shares with the world here in their Elevation Lounge.
WestJet Elevation Lounge Calgary – Wellness Area
Finally, in the very back of the lounge is a final pocket of seating space, with another handful of chaises longues for guests to sit back and relax in.
This space is dominated by a striking piece of artwork by Calgary artist Mandy Stobo, which is not only impressive in real life, but also provides an interactive experience when you look at it through an augmented reality app.
Also situated towards the back here are a few of the lounge’s other facilities, such as the luggage storage room and the dedicated concierge desk where passengers can sit down to change their flights, select seats, and so on.
WestJet Elevation Lounge Calgary – Shower Rooms
That brings us around to the final hallway, branching off from the other side of the bar and fireplace, which leads to the bathrooms and showers.
The WestJet Elevation Lounge Calgary will offer two shower rooms that must be booked in advance upon arriving in the lounge. These shower rooms are beautiful, and I was almost in disbelief that they were part of a domestic lounge here in Canada!
Decked out in gorgeous cuts of marble, both light and dark, the shower room offers a luxurious sloped sink, a spacious shower with a sliding door and the option of either handheld or rain-shower water flow, toiletries by the local Rocky Moutnain Soap Company, and premium towels embroidered with the WestJet logo.
It’s the kind of shower room where (outside of pandemic times, of course) you’d be tempted to take a shower even if you didn’t actually need one, just to try it out. Kudos to WestJet for investing in these showers rooms and thereby adding another layer of luxury to the Elevation Lounge experience.
The restrooms are designed in a similar style, refined but casual.
WestJet Elevation Lounge Calgary – COVID-19 Measures
Concluding our tour of the new WestJet Elevation Lounge, let’s talk about the COVID-19 protective measures that will be in place as of the lounge’s opening next week.
The lounge currently isn’t fitted with its full furniture capacity, and WestJet doesn’t expect to do so for some time. While the true maximum occupancy in this space of almost 10,000 square feet is 190 passengers, the actual maximum occupancy will be limited to around 100 passengers for the foreseeable future.
Hand sanitizer – individual bottles as well as automatic dispensers – are dotted throughout the lounge, and guests must wear masks at all times outside of eating and drinking.
Enclosed rooms like the Family Space or the meeting room will have their occupancy restricted, and staff will regularly come through the Family Space to offer parents sanitizing wipes for any surfaces that their children might frequently touch.
Finally, as we covered before, touch-free entry checkpoints and a temporary table service with mobile ordering will help to ensure guests’ safety as an utmost priority.
The WestJet Elevation Lounge left me extremely impressed after the preview event, and I simply can’t wait to visit the lounge as a passenger and experience all of its features for myself.
As a lounge that’s available to both domestic and international passengers, I think it’s safe to say that the brand-new Elevation Lounge outperforms many other domestic lounges here in Canada, and it might just incentivize Air Canada into refurbishing some its older Maple Leaf Lounges with greater urgency.
Moreover, with its diverse spaces for relaxation, work, and play; its well-appointed wellness facilities, including a couple of shower rooms; its (albeit temporary) à la carte dining service; and its beautiful visual identity exemplified by the central bar, I’d even go so far as to say that the WestJet Elevation Lounge rivals some of North America’s best business class lounges (like United Polaris Lounges) in terms of the ground experience prior to international flights.
The overall strength of the lounge perhaps stands in contrast against its generous entry requirements, as anyone with a Priority Pass membership from credit cards like the Amex Platinum can visit. I’d be curious to see whether this arrangement is sustained in the long-term or whether WestJet tightens up the eligibility rules as it continues to strengthen its premium product.
In that regard, with the opening of its first airport lounge at its home in Calgary, WestJet has certainly taken another giant step in its trajectory towards a full-fledged mainline carrier that can represent Canada on the world stage.
If you’re travelling through Calgary from November 2 onwards, make sure to pay a visit to the Elevation Lounge – I don’t think you’ll regret it!