Wow. The Air Canada Signature Suite Vancouver provided me with one of the best meals I’ve ever had in an airport.
After spending a couple of nights in Vancouver, breaking up the trip from Austin to Sydney on an Air Canada Aeroplan business class award, we were on our way to visit family Down Under. Air Canada has one of the best lounge experiences anywhere for business class passengers at their Toronto and Vancouver hubs, dubbed ‘Signature Suite’ dining.
These lounges are only open to paid business class tickets, and to Aeroplan flexible award tickets (generally a 10,000 – 12,000 mile one way premium). Upgrades and partner award redemptions don’t gain access. The introduction of access to Signature Suite dining as an option on award tickets came with the launch of the new Aeroplan program.
I paid the extra miles on our Australia redemption so that we could visit the Signature Suite in Vancouver because I enjoyed the lounge in Toronto so much five years ago. Once you’re already spending 80,000 miles the extra 10,000 miles per ticket doesn’t feel like that much (really, an extra 30,000 miles on top of the quarter million I was already spending for the 3 of us). At a value of 1.4 cents per mile I was actually spending $420 for my family’s dinner, which seems nuts, but it didn’t ‘feel’ that expensive. That’s an actually really important point about the psychology of loyalty programs.
Arriving At Vancouver Airport
The Vancouver airport isn’t super busy in advance of an 11:00 p.m. departure. In fact, the international check-in area was deserted and a single premium check-in queue was operating for domestic and international business class and elites.
All things considered I was happy being assisted after about a 10 minute wait. It didn’t take long to work through our Australian predeparture approvals. Security for the international terminal was quick and painless. And we were on our way to the Air Canada Signature Suite.
Visiting The Air Canada Signature Suite Vancouver
The lounge is located just past security near gates 52 and 53. It is upstairs from Air Canada’s Maple Leaf Lounge.
We showed our boarding passes at the desk downstairs and were invited up to the Signature Suite. We took the elevator rather than the stairs.
Inside we were welcomed. My wife and daughter were with me. It was late – about 11:30 p.m. Central time (our home time zone) at this point – and our daughter was tired so she was in her stroller.
Lounge staff invited us to use the private dining room. The lounge was mostly empty, but I presumed this invitation (which would allow us to be more comfortable) was more for the benefit of other passengers in the lounge.
I absolutely loved the Signature Suite in Toronto when I was there in late 2017, but it was a dark space without windows. The Vancouver Signature Suite has a fantastic windowline.
Here’s the view from inside the VIP dining room.
And here’s the bistro seating area beside it, which you can see has the same windowline.
The bar is actually situated between the bistro area and VIP room.
Beyond the bistro area, bar and VIP dining room is the lounge’s dining room.
What the space lacks, at just 4400 square feet and seating for 105 guests, is work or relaxation areas. This really is a special dining room inside of a lounge rather than a standalone lounge as such.
What makes the Signature Suite special isn’t that it’s an exclusive space within the Air Canada lounge. What makes the lounge is the food – a nice buffet, sure, if you’re in a hurry but a menu to order from that’s a cut above other lounges with sit down dining.
The food here is better, for instance, than I’ve had in United Polaris lounges or Qantas First Class lounges (and the latter can be quite good). Signature Suite dining is curated by Canadian chef David Hawksworth.
First, here’s a look at the buffet:
My Meal At The Air Canada Signature Suite Vancouver
I had really been looking forward to seared foie gras. I tried it in the Toronto Signature Suite four and a half years earlier and remembered it as very good. I had just been talking to my wife a week earlier about how I had a craving for seared foie gras, not thinking that I’d have an opportunity here.
I didn’t order it, though, because we were told they had a special tomahawk steak available, and would we like them to prepare it for us along with some sides? I didn’t feel like I could say no to that, and indeed it was excellent, but I missed out on the foie.
First, though, cocktails. I ordered the mandarin old fashioned which was excellent.
To pair with dinner we went with the Domodimonti Passione e Visione petit verdot. I was told they were down to a few cases, and they’d been cellaring since right before the pandemic when the lounge first opened.
Often in lounges and on planes they’re dealing with such quantities of wine that they are served too young. This bottle was aged perfectly, so I guess the lounge being closed for two years had an upside. It was enjoyable on its own and complemented our steaks perfectly.
We started with an amuse bouche and then staff brought out a couple of sides and salads served family-style for the three of us to eat (my three year old skipped the amuse’). The lounge chef proudly brought out the tomahawk steak, which isn’t something they normally have.
The meal was fantastic and our hour in the lounge was just enough time, or so we thought (the flight wound up being delayed about half an hour but there was no advance indication of this).
Enjoying dinner before such a late departure is perfect, in order to skip the onboard meal and go right to sleep. Enjoying dinner before such a long flight is perfect, too, because we were able to ask the crew to save our meals for later in the flight.
For a roughly 15 hour flight a meal at the start, one at the end, and 11 hours in-between really doesn’t seem like enough. To be sure there are snacks but it was so much nicer to have dinner, then have the inflight dinner around 8 hours later.
I questioned my sanity spending an extra 10,000 miles per person for access to this lounge, but I definitely enjoyed it enough that it was worth it and would pay the premium again.