A look inside WestJet's first-ever airport lounge in Calgary
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Canadian airline WestJet has been upping its profile in a big way in recent years. It made a splash with its all-new business-class product that it introduced on its fleet of Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners that it typically flies between Canada and Europe.
I got the chance to fly that product last year and walked away very impressed. The one thing that was still missing from WestJet's transformation into a full-service carrier was a dedicated, airline-branded lounge for its elite members and top flyers.
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That's all about to change, however, with the imminent opening of its first-ever airport lounge, known as the Elevation Lounge, at its home base of Calgary, Alberta (YYC).
While I wasn't able to attend in person due to the coronavirus, WestJet gave a virtual tour of the new space. Even though I wasn't physically there, the tour of this brand-new lounge got me excited at the prospect of flying long-haul once again -- and for the future of WestJet.
Here's a look inside the all-new Elevation Lounge at YYC.
The Elevation Lounge opens its doors to travelers for the first time on Monday, Nov. 2, and will be open daily from 7 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. MT thereafter.
It will be open to the following groups of people:
- WestJet Rewards Platinum, Gold and Silver members receive complimentary access according to the benefits of each tier. Platinum and Gold members -- as well as their families and guests brought in with vouchers -- get unlimited access, while Silver members receive four vouchers for entry per year.
- Those flying WestJet business class on the Boeing 787-9, including anyone with a connecting itinerary booked in business class.
- Priority Pass, LoungeKey, Lounge Club and Diners Club members. (Enrollment required).
- Anyone flying any airline that wouldn't otherwise have complimentary access can pay a fee to get in. It costs 59 CAD (~$45) for those flying WestJet and 65 CAD (~$49) for those flying other airlines.
All guests are limited to a three-hour stay, and the lounge will not be open to anyone traveling to the U.S., due to its location in the airport in relation to the setup of the customs and immigration process.
The fact that this new lounge will participate in Priority Pass is great news for those passing through Calgary Airport, as it's a ubiquitous perk of many high-end travel cards such as The Platinum Card® from American Express and the Chase Sapphire Reserve®. (Enrollment required).
The Elevation Lounge is located in Concourse B of the domestic terminal at YYC. You'll be able to access it if you're departing from Concourses, A, B or C in the domestic terminal as well as Concourse D of the international terminal. As said above, due to the customs and immigration set up at the airport (YYC is a U.S. Preclearance location), those traveling to the U.S. will not be able to access it.
The lounge measures in at more than 9,300 square feet and is segmented into several different areas that are inspired by a residential home, according to the airline. The capacity is typically a little over 400 passengers but currently, it's capped at half of that, due to the pandemic.
There are a number of seating areas with long chaise loungers, chairs for working and very comfortable-looking armchairs for relaxing. You'll be able to spot planes, gaze at the Calgary skyline and even see out to the foothills of the surrounding mountains through the one-way glass next to many of the seating areas.
The lounge employs the signature WestJet color scheme -- rich browns, deep blues and calming grays -- which I loved on my long-haul flight with the airline last year, throughout the lounge.
There are spaces dedicated for eating, with a large communal table in the middle surrounded by smaller tables with benches and chairs.
Food will be served from an area called the "Open Market" with a kitchen open to guests so they can observe their freshly made meals being prepared -- in more-normal times, of course.
The centerpiece of the space is the horseshoe-shaped bar in the center which features beers and wine on tap as well as a full bar of crafted cocktails and coffees. You'll notice nods to Canada in the design as well, with a silhouette of Canmore's Three Sisters mountain peaks above the bar and a prominent fireplace adjacent to it.
WestJet worked with local artist Mandy Stobo to create statement pieces for the space -- one of them is a whopping 16-feet long!
Elsewhere, you'll find spaces for families, two reservable shower suites, meeting spaces and individual call rooms.
There's even a dedicated area that will be staffed with WestJet Priority Service agents to assist passengers with their travel.
Food and beverage
Food and beverages are a big focus of this lounge. As mentioned above, the intent is to allow people to choose from freshly cooked meals right from the open kitchen, but due to COVID-19, that's on hold. For now, guests can order meals via scanning a QR code at their seat, and it will be brought to them.
There's a chef-designed meal program that focuses on local and seasonal ingredients -- and judging by the food I had in flight, I can imagine this offering is going to be quite strong.
On the beverage front, you can bet that the bartender will be in-the-know regarding Calgary's burgeoning brewery and distillery scene and will serve up draft beers -- including WestJet's own Elevation beer -- as well as wines on tap and a full complement of spirits with a menu of signature cocktails.
While we couldn't be there today to sample any of the offerings, we can't wait to try it out for ourselves in the (hopefully) near future.
Business and leisure travelers alike will be pleased to know that WestJet has incorporated thoughtful amenities that most travelers expect -- and rely on -- in the Elevation Lounge.
Travelers will have access to reservable meeting spaces -- including one reservable conference room with a whiteboard, TV screen with connectivity for Zoom meetings and room for six (though capacity is capped at four right now).
There are also dedicated call rooms that have tables, chairs and outlets. Speaking of outlets, they're everywhere. Just about every seat has access to power, perfect for anyone needing to get work done or simply wanting to charge up their devices before getting on a long flight.
There's also a family room complete with sound insulation so kids can, well, be kids.
The Elevation Lounge will open with safety measures in place, in accordance with WestJet's Safety Above All program.
As part of the safety plan, the airline has set up a contactless, self-serve entry system that can be done right from a passenger's mobile phone. Once in the lounge, food and beverage ordering is contactless, thanks to the use of QR codes scattered across the space.
Passenger capacity is being capped at 50% of its normal amount, face masks are required for guests and staff except for eating and drinking, there will be a high-frequency cleaning program that includes electrostatic spraying, plexiglass shields and hand sanitizing stations placed throughout.
WestJet's first-ever airport lounge is an exciting development for the airline, its passengers and anyone with a Priority Pass membership.(Enrollment required). The space is gorgeous and a great representation of the airline (and where it's going), the food-and-beverage program is poised to be top-notch (judging from a prior inflight experience) and it's packed with essential technology for the modern traveler.
It's disappointing that passengers traveling to the U.S. can't access the lounge, but that's not the airline's fault, and hopefully, there will be a solution soon. While we only got to visit through the computer today, we can't wait to experience this space for ourselves en route to a destination overseas.
All photos courtesy of WestJet.