Through an email sent to Aeroplan members, Air Canada has announced that it will introduce a three-hour time limit for some lounge visits. As of June 13, 2023, passengers will be able to access Air Canada’s lounges within three hours of their scheduled departure time.
This move is meant to address some of the crowding issues that have affected the airline’s lounges in the recent past.
Air Canada Introduces Three-Hour Time Limit at Lounges
Effective June 13, 2023, passengers that would usually be able to access an Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge, whether through an eligible fare, premium Aeroplan co-branded credit card, or Aeroplan Elite Status, will be subject to a three-hour maximum in advance of their original departure time. The change also applies to Air Canada Cafés and the Air Canada Signature Suites.
However, if your flight is delayed, you’re still eligible for lounge access three hours prior to your original departure time. This means that you won’t be stuck waiting out the delay in the terminal in the event of a delay.
For example, if you arrive seven hours early for your flight, you won’t be allowed access to the lounge for another four hours; however, if your flight is delayed seven hours, you would be granted access, as long as you’re within the three-hour window of your original departure time.
In addition, if you’re connecting between flights, you’re still eligible for access for the entire duration of your layover, regardless of how long it is. For example, if you fly from Toronto to Vancouver and then onward to Sydney after a 10-hour layover, you’d be eligible for lounge access for the duration of your time in Vancouver.
Keep in mind that this measure doesn’t impact the on-arrival access of Aeroplan 50K members and higher; they’re still welcome to use the lounge upon landing at their leisure.
While this change may seem like a negative upon first glance, it’s really aimed at passengers who arrive unusually early for a flight later in the day, and use the lounge as a day-working space. It’s likely that the vast majority of travellers won’t be affected by the change, while delayed and connecting passengers enjoy the same access privileges that they’ve always had.
Will This Help With Overcrowding?
With post-pandemic travel demand not letting up anytime soon, lounge overcrowding is the reason for this change on lounge access rules. As we’ve seen in the past few years, some passengers have had to wait in line outside to enter, and even wait for seats once inside, since some lounges are often at or near capacity.
Hopefully, the three-hour window will help begin to address this issue. However, it’s unlikely that these passengers up a significant portion of the lounge populace – after all, the majority of passengers don’t arrive at the airport more than three hours before their flight.
There are other factors that affect lounge crowding, including flight schedules, limited space to expand to meet demand, high volumes of passengers, and expanded access through credit cards and elite status. In order to fully address the issue, airlines will need to take a holistic look at what they can do to alleviate lines and crowded spaces.
However, it’s still a step in the right direction, and with the summer peak travel season almost upon us, we’ll soon see if this rule change will address overcrowding.
Note that this rule change is not the first measure undertaken by Air Canada to curb overcrowding at its lounges. As of June 1, 2023, Aeroplan 35K members have lost their ability to access the Maple Leaf Lounges without exhausting one of their lounge passes.
The airline has also begun to install new furniture in some lounges that makes better use of the space, as well as repurposing underused spaces within lounges to increase capacity.
As of June 13, 2023, passengers accessing Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounges, including Air Canada Cafés and Air Canada Signature Suites, will be limited to a maximum of three hours prior to their originally scheduled departure.
However, this rule doesn’t apply to passengers who are experiencing delays or are accessing the lounge during their layover as part of a larger itinerary. It also doesn’t apply to the on-arrival lounge access benefit of Aeroplan 50K members and above.
This change is one step Air Canada is taking to hopefully curb overcrowding at its lounges. A three-hour limit is reasonable for most passengers, and passengers should still have a lot of time to enjoy what Maple Leaf Lounges have to offer.