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Air Canada is elevating the travel experience for its premium international business class passengers with the opening of a new Signature Suite at Toronto Pearson International Airport.
The luxurious 6,400-square-foot lounge–available as of Dec. 1 to any full fare international business class passengers (excluding upgrades and point redemptions)–has been designed as a restful escape from the hustle and bustle of the airport experience.
Located by Air Canada’s international departure gates in Terminal 1, the suite can accommodate up to 160 customers and is fully complimentary. Designed by Montreal architecture and design firm Heekyung Duquette, the space features a landscape mural by Ottawa artist Gavin Lynch and original works by other Canadian artists.
Passengers will enjoy a premium full-service dining experience from a menu created by acclaimed British Columbia-based chef, David Hawksworth. The suite also features a cocktail lounge with full service bar and a selection of hors d’oeuvres and specialty snacks, a quiet sitting area and concierge service.
“The concept behind this specific lounge is that when you look at our flying schedule from Toronto, we have a lot of overnight red eye flights,” explained Andrew Yiu, Air Canada’s vice-president, Product.
“What we’ve been hearing from our premium customers is they’d like to have the ability to have a proper meal before they board, so they can go straight to bed when they get on. Many of our business class passengers arrive in Europe and go straight to work.”
He told Skies during a media event on Nov. 28 that Air Canada could have upgraded its existing lounge, but instead chose to build a brand new space to give premium passengers a “truly relaxing” experience.
The Signature Suite was completed two months ago, and the staff has been in training ever since to ensure “they are fully up to speed from day one,” said Yiu.
The new lounge is part of Air Canada’s efforts to attract international business class passengers, especially from the United States.
Yiu said Air Canada’s philosophy is all about offering a seamless, flexible travel experience.
Beginning in 2018, passengers transiting through Toronto will be able to swipe their passport in special bypass kiosks before proceeding directly to the international departure zone. When flying into the U.S., passengers can pre-clear security and U.S. Customs in Toronto.
“If you look at somebody who lives in St. Louis and they’re going to Asia, they have to make a connection somewhere,” said Yiu. “That could be Chicago or Toronto. The advantage here is [upon their return] they can clear customs in Toronto and when they get home they just get their bags and leave.”
He added that Air Canada has been improving its connection processes, with baggage automatically forwarded to connecting flights.
“So what else can we do to improve their experience and give them a reason to travel through Toronto?”
Air Canada hopes its new Signature Suite will help answer that question as it goes head-to-head with competitors such as Emirates Airline, notably on the Toronto-Dubai route.