Review: Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge San Francisco (SFO)

Following my Dubai to San Francisco flight on Emirates A380 business class, I had the opportunity to visit the newly opened Maple Leaf Lounge during a brief layover. The new lounge in San Francisco launches the initial phase of a multi-year strategy from Air Canada aiming to introduce new lounges and renovate some current ones across the network. Furthermore, the debut of the Maple Leaf Lounge in San Francisco marks the unveiling of Air Canada’s revitalized brand vision, featuring revamped interior designs and elevated offerings of premium food and beverages.

Based on my experience, the new Maple Leaf Lounge in San Francisco is a dramatic improvement over their existing North American lounges, easily securing its place as one of the best lounges within their network.

Access

The Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge at San Francisco International Airport is located in Terminal 2. Right after clearing security, you’ll see some signs directing passengers to the lounge. The signs point towards an elevator leading up to the terminal’s 4th level, where the lounge entrance is located. The lounge is open from 4:15 am to 10:15 pm every day.

Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge location in San Francisco Airport International Terminal 2

I was granted access to the lounge by holding a business class ticket. Passengers holding a same-day boarding pass for an Air Canada or a Star Alliance partner flight in business class are eligible for complimentary Maple access to the lounge.

Even if you’re not flying business class, there are several other ways to gain Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge access. These include:

  • Air Canada passengers holding Aeroplan 50K, Aeroplan 75K, Aeroplan Super Elite status, or those with Star Alliance Gold status flying on Air Canada or in any class of service within the Star Alliance network are also eligible for access to the lounge.
  • Redeeming a Maple Leaf Lounge one-time guest pass when traveling on an Air Canada flight.
  • Cardholders of premium Aeroplan co-branded credit cards from TD, CIBC or American Express receive complimentary access to the lounge when traveling on an Air Canada flight.
Credit Card Welcome Bonus Net Value
American Express Aeroplan Business Reserve 95,000 Aeroplan $1,396 Apply
American Express Aeroplan Reserve 90,000 Aeroplan $1,291 Apply
CIBC Aeroplan Visa Infinite Privilege 90,000 Aeroplan $1,291 Apply
TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite Privilege 75,000 Aeroplan $976 Apply

Entrance to the lounge is controlled via a set of e-gates. If your digital identification profile is added to the Air Canada app, access can be granted through facial recognition technology. Alternatively, you can also gain entry by simply swiping a valid boarding pass.

Seating

Upon entering the lounge, my initial impression was of its bright and contemporary ambiance. The floor-to-ceiling windows not only offer outstanding views of the apron but also flood the space with ample natural light, enhancing the modern feel. The ambiance was heightened by some darker stone and wood tones, creating an appealing contrast.

The lounge offers a wide range of seating options, including leather armchairs, dining tables, and some bench-style seating. 

Almost every seat within the lounge is equipped with built-in power outlets and USB charging ports, making it convenient to charge devices.

Power outlets are built into most seating at the Maple Leaf Lounge SFO

Running along the windows was a long row of individual chairs with some counter-style seating overlooking the airfield.

The lounge also featured two separate private rooms for larger groups or families that were furnished with additional seating along with a wall-mounted flatscreen TV.

For business travelers, the lounge offered several amenities, including private enclosed workspaces and a copy/fax machine.

Towards the rear of the lounge, you’ll find the buffet area and bar. A set of eight dining tables is arranged adjacent to the self-serve buffet.

Dining Area at the Maple Leaf Lounge SFO

Walking past the bar and out a set of glass doors leads to the outdoor terrace. The outdoor terrace is undoubtedly the highlight of the lounge, lifting this Maple Leaf Lounge above the standard airport lounge experience.

Outdoor terrace at the Maple Leaf Lounge SFO

I was lucky enough to be traveling through San Francisco International on an absolutely perfect early autumn day and ended up spending my entire visit in this outdoor space. 

San Francisco International is an excellent airport for plane spotting, and I thoroughly enjoyed watching all the activity from such an excellent vantage point. Sitting out on the terrace evoked fond memories of some other airport lounges I’ve visited that feature an outdoor terrace, like the London Heathrow Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse and Swiss Business Class Lounge in Zurich.

The outdoor terrace features a wide variety of furniture, including patio and deck chairs, couches, and a dining table. In the middle of each set of furniture was a gas-burning fireplace. It can get quite cool in San Francisco during the winter months, so these fireplaces are a thoughtful addition.

Fireplaces on the outdoor terrace at the Maple Leaf Lounge SFO

In Canada, the practicality of outdoor lounge spaces is rather limited in most cities, so it’s unlikely to become common north of the border. Nonetheless, I’m excited to see Air Canada taking advantage of the opportunity to introduce one in a warmer destination.

Food and Beverage

The lounge provided a selection of cold and hot dishes at the self-serve buffet, including salads, fruits, wraps, and sandwiches. Among the hot options are southwest chicken, seafood cioppino, and lobster bisque. Unfortunately, upon my arrival, the staff was transitioning the food from lunch to dinner, so I missed the chance to sample any of the hot items. Consequently, I ended up settling for a few wraps and sandwiches during my visit.

Hot items from the self-serve buffet at the Maple Leaf Lounge SFO

The desserts appeared to have been plucked directly out of Air Canada’s existing lounges. They consisted of the usual brownies and cookies found in every other Maple Leaf Lounge.

Dessert items from the self-serve buffet at the Maple Leaf Lounge SFO

Self-serve beverage options included soda and infused water, alongside a selection of tea and coffee from the Lavazza machine.

Overall, the food choices here are notably diverse and extensive, a departure from the usual lounge fare. It’s an encouraging improvement compared to other lounges in their network, indicating a promising direction for Air Canada if they expand this approach to their existing lounges.

Instead of the typical self-service bar seen in many other Maple Leaf Lounges, this lounge features a fully staffed bar serving beer, wine, crafted cocktails, and specialty coffees. 

The drink menu is highlighted by local craft beer and California wines. Each crafted cocktail is inspired by the Bay Area’s diverse culture. 

The Golden Gate cocktail, a mix of tequila, lime, and jalapeño, immediately caught my attention, and I ended up enjoying a couple of these during my stay.

Golden Gate cocktail at the Maple Leaf Lounge SFO

Bathroom and Shower

The bathrooms in the lounge were clad in floor-to-ceiling dark stone tiles, accompanied by extensive mirrors. The facilities appeared to be well-maintained and were stocked with the familiar Molton Brown toiletries consistent across other Maple Leaf Lounges.

Both shower rooms were occupied during my visit. If you want to freshen up in the lounge after a long flight, I recommend reserving one of the shower rooms when you arrive. It’s my understanding the shower rooms are outfitted with their own shower, sink, and toilet and follow the same dark aesthetic found in the public bathrooms.

Conclusion

I’ve had the opportunity to visit nearly all Air Canada lounges across North America, and unequivocally, the San Francisco location has become the benchmark moving forward. However, my primary concern with that revolves around what will almost certainly be this lounge’s popularity potentially leading to the same overcrowding issues seen at other Maple Leaf Lounges the past few years. If Air Canada is able to successfully manage overcrowding, this will be one of the best airline lounges in San Francisco when flying on a Star Alliance carrier.

The new interior design and elevated food and drink offerings are all a step above what one would typically find at existing Maple Leaf Lounges. Furthermore, the outdoor terrace delivers an impressive “wow factor”, distinguishing itself by offering a rare amenity found in airport lounges.

Although we have a few years to wait, I’m eagerly looking forward to seeing this new Maple Leaf Lounge concept extended to the forthcoming renovations scheduled for Vancouver, Toronto, and Montreal.

Jeff Jamieson

Jeff Jamieson

Contributor at Frugal Flyer
Jeff stepped into the ring of points and miles in 2018, this was during his first trip to Italy where he had only just dipped his toe into what was possible with loyalty programs. After eating pizza twice a day for two weeks straight and taking in all that Tuscany of Rome had to offer he knew he was hooked on “la dolce vita” of points and miles. Always fascinated with aviation, Jeff obtained his Private Pilot’s License in 2006. Now he fuels his affection for travel and aviation by seeking out new strategies while building upon existing opportunities along with the help of his close circle of fellow travel enthusiasts.

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1 comment on “Review: Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge San Francisco (SFO)

  1. Thanks for the thorough SFO Maple Leaf Lounge review. It certainly sets a standard for badly needed Lounge renos across Canada. Did someone say Halifax?

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