NOTE: Shortly after my last visit to the Air Canada lounge, they left the Priority Pass lounge network.
Newark Airport – the place that stayed retro until it was cool again. Parts of Newark Airport look like you’re walking back into the late 1960s. I give them credit that they’re trying to refurbish the airport but most of the money has been spent by United to upgrade their base at Terminal C. The other two terminals have been left as a memorial to what airports used to look like.
Home to what must be the worst layout for a TSA checkpoint, terminal A is split into three bays, each consisting of several gates in a circular layout located at the end of a long hallway connecting the spokes to the main terminal. Each spoke has its own TSA checkpoint and there’s no way to go between spokes without leaving the secure area and going through screening again. So basically once you’re at your gate area, you’re stuck.
Those flying from gates A10-18, home to Air Canada, JetBlue and Southwest, have few options once clearing security. You can sit at the gate or get food from Currito Cantina (Note from Sharon: I checked and nope, it’s not Burrito Cantina, with a B. It’s Currito, with a C. WTH is a currito?), grab a Boars Head sandwich or Ben & Jerry’s. The gate area is not the most relaxing of places to spend time, since it’s usually crowded, and that’s when there aren’t any delayed flights. Let me tell you, there’s nothing worse than having to spend time around a bunch of people from Jersey when their plane is delayed. The phone conversations you’ll hear sound like outtakes from The Sopranos. (Remember, I grew up there so I can say that) 🙂
However, there’s one more option of where to wait for your flight – the Air Canada Maple Leaf lounge.
The Maple Leaf lounge is located at the beginning of the hallway leading to the gates. If you have TSA Precheck, the lounge is just past the checkpoint, on the right. If you have to go through the normal security line, you’ll need to backtrack up the hallway. Like I said, Newark Airport isn’t designed for today’s security needs.
There seems to be some confusion of who’s allowed into the lounge and the inconsistency of the front desk contract workers implementing the rules doesn’t help matters any.
If you’re an Air Canada frequent flyer or customer, I’d suggest checking out their webpage to see if you’re eligible to enter based on your status and what type of ticket you’ve purchased.
Another way to enter the Maple Leaf lounge is with your Priority Pass card. However, there are restrictions in place for entry. The Maple Leaf lounge is open from 5:00 AM to 8:30 PM daily, subject to change. However, Priority Pass cardholders can only access from 5AM to 2PM . Cardholders don’t have access outside these hours and the policy states visitors must end their visit by 2PM . When I asked a desk agent, I was told that as long as you enter by 2PM , then you can stay, but I’ve read conflicting reports online.
The lounge has a pleasant set up in its relatively small footprint, with different sections for eating, relaxing and watching TV, plus it had a separate work area.
After our first visit, I thought this was a nice lounge and a good place to wait for a flight. After I’ve been to the lounge three times, each time entering toward the end of the breakfast service and transitioning to the food for lunch, I have a different opinion.
Here are things I’ve noticed upon multiple visits:
- The lounge is not very large, maybe 50-60 seats total, spread through the whole area. So when people start to arrive, the lounge can fill up quickly.
- The breakfast selection was very limited and consisted almost entirely of foods filled with carbs.
- There aren’t enough power outlets around the room. There are some on the chairs by the windows, so those are the ones people take first. The rest of the seats have access to some plugs along the wall.
- The workplace is cramped when several people want to sit at the same time. There are also limited plugs so if you want to plug in a phone and computer, there’d be no space for anything else to be plugged in. There also isn’t a great deal of privacy at the workspace; people tended to leave a seat between each other but as the club fills up, that’s not always an option.
I think Sharon summed it up best after our last visit when she said: “I’m not a lounge snob by any stretch of the imagination, but I wasn’t impressed at all.” This is from the woman who will gladly go to The Club @ MCO before our flights from Orlando.
Getting lounge access is great. There are some phenomenal lounges out there with restaurant quality food. Other lounges, like Delta SkyClubs, will charge you for food but at least it’s better than what you’d otherwise find in the terminal. The Maple Leaf Lounge at Newark Airport is not that type of lounge. For breakfast, I got to choose from bakery cookies, mini-muffins, toast, cereal, oatmeal and yogurt. The coffee from the coffee machine was decent but not great and people were often confused by the controls, which were not self-explanatory. Before lunchtime, you can’t even have an adult beverage because the alcohol is wrapped up in saran wrap.
We grabbed two seats by the window for the 45-minute wait before our flight. Our seats didn’t have any plugs, as the seats with those were all taken. Eventually, we left the club a few minutes early and grabbed a Boars Head sandwich from inside the terminal to eat on the flight.
The Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge is one of the more disappointing Priority Pass lounges we’ve been to, only to be topped (or would that be bottomed), by the horrible The Club @ LAS in Las Vegas. If we arrive at Newark Airport and can find seats by the gate, next time I think we’ll just sit there instead. Now, if there’s a flight delay and the gate area is overcrowded, I might just head to the lounge in hopes of finding a seat instead of having to sit on the floor. But come to think about it, saying that going to the lounge is better than sitting on the floor is setting the bar pretty low.
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary