Air Canada’s Signature Suite concept arrives at Vancouver International Airport, offering a full-service restaurant with an à la carte menu by acclaimed Vancouver Chef David Hawksworth
Not everyone wants to sit down to their dinner at 1am, on a 15-hour flight across the Pacific – this I can attest to, having just made said flight from Vancouver to Sydney. In an ideal world, you would be able to enjoy an à la carte restaurant meal and a glass of wine at a time that suited you, prior to your flight’s departure, rather than eating according to the airline’s schedule. That’s the thinking behind Air Canada’s Signature Suites, located in Toronto International Airport, and now, at Vancouver International Airport.
“It’s meant to be a facility for ultra-premium customers to be able to dine on the ground,” says Andrew Yiu, Vice President, Product at Air Canada at the launch of the Signature Suite in Vancouver on Saturday 14th March. “We have a lot of late night departures… and when you have a great product on board, a good lie-flat seat, customers want to get on and they want to go to sleep right away, but they don’t want to miss out on the meal. So you look at a traditional lounge product: yes you have food, but they’re not as elaborate, and as upscale as what we have on board the aircraft.”
This is where the Signature Suite fine dining offering comes in.
The Signature Suite is accessible by eligible Signature Class customers and features a complimentary, full-service restaurant offering an à la carte menu created by acclaimed Vancouver chef David Hawksworth, whose lauded establishment, Hawksworth Restaurant, is located in the historic and iconic Rosewood Hotel Georgia. The menu will change four times a year with the seasons, in keeping with chef Hawksworth’s culinary style.
In addition to the full menu, the Signature Suite offers a selection of upscale buffet options for those who don’t have time for a full dinner, a quiet sitting area, a private dining room and concierge service. From the full-service bar, guests can take their pick of top-shelf wines, various cocktails and even Moët & Chandon champagne (including the rosé variety, which is hard to come by in Canada).
But there’s a catch: just because you’re travelling Business Class, doesn’t mean you’re a shoo-in for the Signature Suite. “When it comes to eligibility, we’re actually pretty strict,” explains Yiu. Those travelling on upgraded and point-redemption tickets will have to settle for the Maple Leaf Lounge for the pre-flight comforts, keeping the Signature Suite as an exclusive, VIP offering for customers that have purchased a Business Class international ticket to Asia, Europe or Australia.
Located in Air Canada’s international departure area at YVR above the International Maple Leaf Lounge and with direct views of the tarmac, the 408 square-metre space can accommodate seating for up to 105 premium customers. Designed by Heekyung Duquette and Eric Majer, arrival at the Suite sets the tone for what waits at the top of the staircase, with customers greeted by concierges stationed at bronze podiums, ready to store guests’ luggage.
Art by Canadian artists that nods to the Pacific Coast landscape adorns the space, a cloudscape chandelier by acclaimed Toronto design firm Moss & Lam cascades down the stairwell and the bar is made from Telupana Blue stone, quarried on Vancouver Island. Molton Brown is the skincare brand of choice in the bathrooms – a worthy one, in my humble opinion.
First introduced in 2017 in Toronto International Airport, the Signature Suite was, as Yiu says, conceived as a way to provide a more convenient premium dining option for its high flyers, but also as a way to cut through in the ultra-competitive premium airline experience that already includes top-notch in-flight entertainment, lie-flat seats and priority boarding. “Every carrier has that,” Yiu says, “so how do you make yourself stand out?” The airline has indeed succeeded in standing out, it would seem, having picked up Skytrax’s Best Business Class Lounge Dining Award last year for the Toronto Signature Suite, not to mention Best Airline in North America for the third straight year.
In the last three years, Air Canada has also introduced a series of new destinations to its route network including Zurich, Paris, Brisbane and Melbourne. “As we saw the growth, this [Signature Suite] concept made more and more sense,” Yiu says.
Air Canada’s Signature Suite is open now at Vancouver International Airport. Take a virtual tour here.