WestJet gave media an exclusive look at its brand-new flagship premium lounge at Calgary International Airport on Tuesday morning (Oct. 27), revealing a warm, contemporary, Canadian-inspired space that feels like home, but still refined.
PAX was on location to tour the 9,300+ square foot space that offers panoramic views of WestJet’s aircraft and, notably, the magnificent Rocky Mountains in the not-so-far distance.
The WestJet Elevation Lounge, it’s official name, represents a “pivotal moment” for WestJet as it continues to demonstrate its commitment to delivering high-end experiences both on the ground and in the air, said Arved von zur Muehlen, WestJet’s Chief Commercial Officer.
“It’s a big investment for us,” von zur Muehlen told PAX, calling the lounge a “key pillar” of WestJet’s premium strategy. “The service our guests enjoy on our 787s – we also want them to enjoy that on the ground.”
The name “Elevation Lounge” was inspired by the different levels of land seen here in Canada, particularly in Calgary, which is famous for its soaring mountain ranges, explained Hannah Fairweather, a product development analyst at WestJet.
“It pays homage to the geographical landscape,” said Fairweather, noting how the name also indicates that WestJet is elevating a new and refined experience for its customers.
Guests will see nods to classic Canadiana all throughout the space, from a hand-drawn playful sketch of The Three Sisters, a trio of peaks near Canmore, Alberta, placed above the lounge’s circular (and very chic) back bar to the warm wood privacy separators, which are in the shape of flat blade oars.
There is a contactless, self-serve entry to the Elevation Lounge – WestJet Rewards members and business cabin travellers can simply check-in by scanning a kiosk at the entry.
A WestJetter is, however, placed at a welcome desk to greet customers and sell walk-in passes, which go for $65.
Once inside, guests departing or connecting on domestic or international flights can literally look forward to an elevated experience.
The bright and airy “Open Market” is a landing point where guests can grab kettle chips, freshly baked cookies, or fruit, and actually see the lounge’s kitchen and Chef in action.
Here, you can see the food presented, smell the kitchen’s aromas and really feel part of it all.
There is a Chef-designed menu and signature cocktails, premium wine, and local craft beer, such as WestJet's Elevation beer by The Dandy Brewing Company and XPA by Annex Ale Project, delivered by savvy bartenders.
Wellness Area One is an expansive seating area where guests can sit back and take in views of the Rockies, parked aircraft or fellow travellers walking by through the airport.
This section is separated by one-way glass, so while you are people watching, you yourself are not being watched.
There are dedicated “focus spaces” to unplug or plug-in for business and leisure featuring Wi-Fi, free printing and a reservable meeting space with digital amenities.
There’s even a set of fireside chairs. (“No Canadian living room would be complete without a fireplace,” noted Fairweather).
One element that immediately catches the eye is artwork by Calgary-based artist Mandy Stobo, which is enhanced by an immersive augmented reality experience – the art literally comes alive when viewed through your smartphone or tablet. (So cool).
“We really wanted to ease travellers and provide that sense of serenity,” Stobo told us.
The elegantly modern bathrooms and private shower facilities kinda wanna make you move in and stay a while, and there’s even a dedicated family space with activities for kids to explore.
One thing that customers asked for, said Fairweather, was for the placement of a dedicated attendant inside the lounge who could assist with travel plans, itineraries and location information.
This dedicated guest assistance desk can be found just beyond the fireside chairs.
And, of course, there are enhanced health and safety measures everywhere, including:
- mandatory face masks for guests and staff (except when eating and drinking)
- a floor plan with reduced capacity to ensure physical distancing
- the ability to order food and beverages directly to table using personal devices
- electrostatic spraying and sanitizing
- plexiglass shields at high interaction areas
- hand sanitizers placed in high-touch zones
Preparing for recovery
The lounge's completion is marked by two years of research, planning and construction within the YYC Calgary International Airport. It officially opens on Nov. 2.
Working in partnership with The Calgary Airport Authority, the Elevation Lounge is located at Concourse B of the Domestic Terminal and is accessible to guests departing from Concourses A, B and C, as well as Concourse D of the International Terminal (when accessed from security checkpoint B or C).
While Mr. von zur Muehlen acknowledged that the COVID-19 pandemic still presents barriers for travellers, he said the opening of the Elevation Lounge is a “positive sign” and “prepares us for recovery.”
“It gives us some time to adjust our processes and product and hear feedback from guests,” he told PAX.
As for future plans to open Elevation Lounges at other Canadian airports, such as in Vancouver or Toronto, Mr. von zur Muehlen said there are no immediate plans just yet, but noted that WestJet is interested in expanding.
“We are still learning from this flagship lounge [and] we are looking to see if we can replicate it in some form or shape,” he said. “We haven’t made any decisions right now, but we’re open to it. We’ll see when the time is right.”
For more on WestJet’s new Elevation Lounge, click here.
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