Disclosure: Access was provided free of charge to the writer. All thoughts, opinions and words are those of the writer and were not influenced or reviewed by the company providing access.
The Air Canada Signature Suite at Toronto’s Pearson Airport redefines what a business airport lounge can be, setting the bar much higher for airlines and airports around the world.
Stepping into the Air Canada Signature Suite is a memorable experience. I was lucky enough to visit the suite on a recent trip to Scotland, and it was the perfect way to start my journey.
I felt a little like royalty with the warmth of the welcome and the meticulous attention to detail in customer service. I’ve never seen such quick, attentive service in any other business lounge I’ve visited. I immediately got the impression that the Air Canada Signature Suite was in a class of its own.
After a helpful tour of the suite’s different areas I was offered a seat immediately in the restaurant. Food and drink menus and a glass of water followed almost instantly.
Air Canada’s Airport Product Design Manager Andrew MacFarlane said: “Air Canada’s ambition is to become a top 10 global carrier and in striving to reach that goal we have launched a number of new products that provide our customers with an enhanced service offering. These include the Air Canada Signature Class and Signature Suite; Premium Check-in Aisle’s and soon to come a guaranteed BMW Valet Service for eligible customers connecting through Toronto Pearson airport. The Signature Suite provides our customers the option to dine in an elevated and relaxing environment which I think many travelers look for in a global airline carrier.”
The sit-down restaurant is the most impressive feature here. Award-winning Vancouver chef David Hawksworth created a series of different menus that cater to a wide range of dietary needs and preferences. I ordered from the à la carte menu which explores Canadian ingredients with an international inflection. The menu is executed extremely well. They also have on-the-go and buffet menus, a Cantonese-inspired noodle bar menu, a kosher menu and of course dessert.
What to order
To start I ordered the arctic char tartare with charred grapefruit and pickled vegetables. It was both as creative and interesting as it sounds and beautifully put together on the plate. Next I enjoyed a soy-marinated sablefish with bok choy, mushrooms and bacon dashi. The fish was delightfully rich and buttery, nicely balanced by crisp bok choy.
I had a hard time choosing, as mouth-watering options like seared foie gras with cherries and pistachios or lamb chops with yogurt and mint chermoula were also on the menu. I was impressed at how much variety the menu offered in its 4 choices for each course.
The menus even list helpful time guidelines (15 minutes for appetizers, 30 minutes for mains) for those watching the clock for their flight. “We have trained the staff to discretely determine the amount of time a guest has to spend in the ACSS before they have to board their flight,” says Macfarlane. So you never have to feel rushed or unsure whether you’re going to make it.
I didn’t even have to ask for a glass of wine, as my server suggested it, a white that would go well with the sablefish. Now that’s good service. The cocktail list is worth a glance too, and on-site mixologists are happy to go off-menu for your favorite tipple. Don’t forget dessert: I finished with a creamy buttermilk panna cotta with a tangy rhubarb compote and coconut-pecan crumble.
If you don’t have room for a full meal (though I advise you come with an appetite), try the bar menu and all-day buffet so you can leisurely graze as you work or relax. The best part? All food and drink is complimentary.
The Air Canada Signature Suite was designed by Montreal architect Heekyung Duquette and is filled with art from Canadian artists including a mural from Ottawa’s Gavin Lynch, works by Montreal’s Pascale Girardin and Nicolas Ruel, and a chandelier from Toronto design firm Moss & Lam.
The aesthetic channels Canada’s beautiful natural scenery with maple birch wood slates, Nienkamper furniture, rich fabrics and high-quality finishes that set the perfect backdrop to a peaceful experience. You’ll find one of my favorites, Molton Brown amenities, in the bathrooms. The space was under development for 3 years and the attention to detail shows.
Inside the suite it almost feels like you’re no longer at the airport. You could easily be in a nice restaurant in downtown Toronto or an upscale hotel in Montreal or Vancouver. It’s a welcome respite from the frenzy of the busy airport where it’s just as easy to finish off some work as it is to sit back and unwind.
Why it’s unlike any other lounge
I managed to get more work done in less time than I have in other business lounges, which I attribute to very well-designed seating areas, soft lighting and incredibly attentive service. This left me with more time to sit and enjoy my Corpse Reviver #2 before the flight.
Macfarlane explains that the experience the suite tries to offer is a “wow” moment for every guest. It’s all done through extremely high attention to detail and service. “Some of these details include recognizing your dominant hand so we can position your cutlery accordingly; or positioning the needed cutlery for your dish just before you’re served; or replacing a soiled napkin that’s fallen on the ground before you notice.”
It’s that “before you notice” that I love so much here.
Air Canada’s valet service
If you really want to travel in style you’ll want to get Air Canada’s valet service to usher you through the airport. They can take you to the Air Canada Signature Suite in just 10-15 minutes. I met with a valet rep who escorted me straight to the front of the security line. We strolled through security in under 5 minutes (no exaggeration). She then took me outside where a fully kitted out BMW complete with massage chair (!) was waiting to drive me straight to the suite, skipping the usual seemingly endless walk to the gates.
I arrived at the suite feeling just as energized as I had when entering the airport. I felt none of the typical stress and exasperation of previous visits. As so many frequent flyers can attest to, this is often a state of mind worth paying for!
The Air Canada Signature Suite is exclusively for international business class customers traveling to Europe, Asia and South America in J, C, D, Z, and P booking classes.
The Signature Suite is open from 6:30am to 11:30pm, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. They are typically quietest in the mornings and pick up through the afternoon and evening.
Air Canada has plans to open Signature Suites in Vancouver and Montreal, so stay tuned!