Review: Air Canada Signature Suite Vancouver [2022]

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.

air canada signature suite vancouver

air canada signature suite vancouver

Gaining Access

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.

air canada signature suite vancouver vip dining room

I had seen claims that the VIP room is highly restricted for access and also that it is available to families with young children.

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.

air canada signature suite vancouver tarmac views

And here’s the bistro seating area beside it, which you can see has the same windowline.

air canada signature suite vancouver bistro

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.

Amazing Dining

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:






If you can, though, take he time to order off of the menu:
air canada signature suite vancouver menu

air canada signature suite vancouver menu

air canada signature suite vancouver menu

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.

air canada signature suite vancouver meal

air canada signature suite vancouver meal

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.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. @ Gary — Didn’t the extra 10,000 pp also cover free cancellation and redeposit? That carries significant value. In fact, that is my go-to award type for many Aeroplan awards.

  2. Do you have the hard liquor menu photo? Wine list doesn’t do much for me (I’m a traditionalist for Italian wines and Meh et Chandon is not exactly a great champagne.

    Since I’m not a steak eater and Vancouver is such an amazing good city, it’s a tough sell in me. Glad you expressed it in $$ terms!

    Just like a day pass to the First Class Air France lounge, opportunity host is immense. The value is in the relaxed aspect of eating after transfer to airport and clearing security.

  3. I’ve never seen that nice of a steak in my lifetime in an airline club
    No clue if tastes good or where they source from but looks amazing in the pics
    That’s a waddle to the plane after all that food!

  4. The buffet looks comparable to UA Polaris which costs zippo and is available to all biz class incl awards.

    The steak looks fabulous – maybe worth it if you plan to skip dining on the plane. Never seen anything that good in a lounge except maybe table dining at Qantas F lounge in Syd.

    Has the govt legalized travel for unvax Canucks yet?

  5. I would pay that premium in a second. That steak looks amazing. I just had an ATH-YYZ-ORD flight on AC and didn’t spend the extra for access. Can connecting from Itnl still get access or is it only pre-departure? In our case didn’t matter as our flights were late and we had to run. Plus the lounge in the USA gates had Guinness on tap…so drank my tomahawk calories beer.

    Great review so far! As long as there is no pics of you in pajamas it’s nice to see a trip review from Gary and look forward to his thoughts. I LOVED the AC 787-9 hard product on our 10+ hour day flight from Athens. The FAs we’re either super nice or stone. Food was edible. But I would take it above my last UA Polaris, AA 787-9, BA 777, and LH 747-800 flights

  6. Gary, the problem with these lounges is that too many of them serve Airport food.

    Airlines need to get the flights to fly on time, have live human beings that can answer the phone in 5 minutes or less, and treat every class like human beings. Not cattle or sardines.
    All of these 1st class Lounges are mere window dressing. Like being in first class on the Titanic.

  7. Wine list looks lackluster and the while the steak looks good, seems like it was a one-off so not something one can count on.

  8. Looks great. Did you prefer the YVR or YYZ suite, both space-wise and food-wise? And is your preference strong enough to influence which city you connect in, if all else is (mostly) equal?

  9. Beats the SkyTeam & Plaza lounges I was in today @ YVR. Might havet try if it’s on par with Polaris. Nice review.

  10. @Derek – I loved the windows at YVR, YYZ is much larger, while in my memory the YYZ buffet was better I haven’t been in 4+ years so it’s not a fair comparison. The menus were comparable. I imagine earlier in the day the YVR lounge could get crowded. For Air Canada Super Elites flying international business there’s the chance of a car service out to the international terminal with the lounge..

  11. It was dwondermeant’s comment about “waddling to the plane” that made me add my two cents.

    For those of us who aren’t foodies, I wouldn’t suggest spending the extra miles to get into the Signature Suite lounge. Apart from the exclusive dining provided, nothing else is special. There still aren’t private showers available in Canada (still using covid as an excuse). If I was given access to a private room like the first class “cabanas” in Hong Kong on CX, only I will spend the extra miles.

    Gary will gasp I don’t even use the Flagship F at JFK often despite having access because I just can’t be bothered with fine dining lol.

  12. Champagne is pretty weak. It’s nice to see some very good Canadian wines offered, although I suspect international customers want wines from better-known appellations. Still, this sure puts Delta One business-class to shame. Delta better up its game with those new Delta One/360 lounges. It’s also nice that Air Canada allows takeout food from one of its Toronto lounges. I wish more airlines would embrace this as it would help with lounge overcrowding.

  13. If you take the steak et al, as a fine dining experience equivalent of a meal at Peter Luger/Smith&Wollensky, then $420 seems reasonable. It all depends on the quality of the meat.

    Although eating such a heavy meal at 11PM is not something I would enjoy.

  14. I’m several days late here but agree with Gary that I find it more than worth it to spend a few thousand miles more to have flexibility (which I’ve put to use many times). I haven’t had the chance to try the premium dining though, but Air Canada has become my favorite airline in this hemisphere. Grabbed a $1800-ish biz class RT from west coast to Paris. Leaving this coming Wednesday. Happy Bastille Day in be France!

  15. The AC Signature Lounge was a great experience.today. The food selectons from the main menu were very tasty and elegant. I was very impressed by the mixologist’s stirred bourbon mandarin creation. Best bourbon cocktail in a long time

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