Review: Plaza Premium Lounge Vancouver (Domestic)
All good things must come to an end, and so, too, did my weekend trip to Vancouver at the end of June 2022. After an invigorating brunch with fellow Prince of Travel team members Ricky, T.J., Ricky, and Josh, I was feeling ready for my flight back home to Edmonton.
On the way, it felt appropriate to dip my toes into not one, but both of the Plaza Premium lounges available in the domestic departures section of Vancouver International Airport.
Plaza Premium Lounge Vancouver (Domestic) – Access
The primary Plaza Premium lounge is located between Gates 15–17 in Concourse B. Its branding is quite prominent and flashes in your face almost immediately after you exit security, so is hard to miss.
Open from 5am to 10pm, which is not as late as I’d normally desire, the lounge is sadly no longer a member of the venerable Priority Pass program.
However, it remains accessible to individuals with a variety of other travel credit card lounge membership options. Some of the more obvious candidates are travellers with DragonPass provided by their Visa or Mastercard credit cards.
After making my way up the entry staircase to the admissions desk, I opted to show the attendant my American Express Platinum Card to gain access. There’s also an elevator for people travelling under conditions of limited mobility, which is always a plus.
I was lucky, too, because the lounge was very full when I arrived about 5pm on a Sunday evening, and shortly after being granted entry, other guests were either turned away at the door or advised to wait in the atrium for a minimum of 30–40 minutes.
I’m sure I would’ve left the establishment much more sour had I experienced this! Some travellers were referred to the café-style satellite Plaza Premium down the hallway, but declined the offer because of its distance from the customers’ travel gates.
Plaza Premium Lounge Vancouver (Domestic) – Seating
The seating here reminded me of that in the Plaza Premium Lounge Edmonton: comfortable, plentiful, and available in various shades of beige.
The limited colour palette looks a little dated, but at least the chairs are plushy. There were also an enormous amount of power outlets everywhere, so device addicts need not fear a low battery here.
Most seats were occupied – the concierges weren’t lying about how full the lounge was.
I did manage to find an unoccupied desk in the “work” area toward the back , where I plopped my beverage down and went to survey what I thought were the main bathrooms.
Instead, I was treated to an empty hallways leading to the still-closed shower facilities. It’s disappointing that so many lounges still haven’t reopened their shower areas, which can be a vital necessity after many hours of flying.
The actual bathrooms are off to the side of the dining area. They’re undersized for the amount of lounge patrons, though at least they’re kept clean.
Overall, my impressions of the main seating areas were mediocre. The environment just felt a bit more drab than its Maple Leaf Lounge competitor down the hallway, though the charging stations were a bonus.
Plaza Premium Lounge Vancouver (Domestic) – Dining
Food is served in the middle of the lounge around an open seating plan. There are plenty of diner-style tables with green upholstered chairs and bar stools, should you be hungry enough to not want to wander further afield.
The hot food hit the spot. Gourmet? Not a chance. Nourishing for someone two IPAs in and getting antsy about boarding their next flight? Absolutely.
On the evening I visited, the lounge was serving a chicken stew accompanied with either rice or fried noodles (the latter were delightful). The menu was entirely self-serve, so you could load up the small plates as much as your stomach desired.
There was also a snack bar, a dessert bar, and a salad bar.
The cake, whose fluorescent pink frosting definitely occurs nowhere in nature, was also tasty. Meanwhile, for casual beer drinkers, the pretzels had just the right amount of salt.
When it comes to alcoholic beverages, the layout is rather confusing. Booze is served from behind the main concierge desk, with draft beer, house wine, and bar rail all complimentary.
Interestingly, I didn’t notice this location having any premium options such as Bailey’s Irish Cream available for a surcharge, though there was a four-drink limit listed (which didn’t appear to be stringently enforced so long as guests behaved themselves).
On the other hand, non-alcoholic beverages are entirely self-serve, and consist of a coffee machine, hot water for tea, and pop machine with the usual sugary suspects.
The lack of individual cans that can be taken onto a short-haul flight is disappointing, though I’d assume intentional.
My overall experience at Vancouver’s main domestic Plaza Premium venue was mediocre. The crowding, plus the limited options for just about everything, didn’t make it feel cozy.
That being said, it beats the heck out of waiting by the gate, and the staff did what they could to alleviate how busy the venue was, so it wasn’t all bad. Plus, free beer.
Plaza Premium Lounge Vancouver (Domestic) – Satellite Café
I had a little time to kill before my flight, and the satellite Plaza Premium “café” was en route to my flight, located as it was by Gate 29. I decided to stop in quickly, because why not?
The difference was night and day. There was no lineup, and a concierge who could afford to be dedicated and give me personal service for everything. It’s unfortunate that this option is only open between 6:45am and 8:30pm.
Visitors ought to be advised that this lounge is open-air and thus exposed to the rest of the airport, and located right after a security checkpoint. While it was quiet when I checked in, I can imagine that it must often be subject to the noises and traffic of any busy airport.
After waltzing in with a flash of my Platinum Card, I glanced at the buffet. The food was the exact same, indicating it’s probably cooked in the main location’s kitchen. Desserts likewise come from the same baker and/or confectioner.
Alcoholic beverages were once again poured from behind the concierge desk, and were of the same variety as the main lounge’s. Non-alcoholic drinks were also identical in selection.
Plenty of seating was available, and the furniture looked both newer and a tad less used than its counterparts in the main common room. The stone polished tables in particular are much more eye-catching.
Unfortunately, as unoccupied as this location was, I didn’t see any bathrooms inside and the attendant informed me I’d have to use the public ones in the main terminal, but would be allowed to return after.
This makes some sense for a lounge with a stated capacity of only 36, though is the one downside.
Perhaps surprisingly, I found the Plaza Premium café experience to be more comfortable than its larger counterpart down the hall. While it is an open-air concept that’s exposed to every other passerby in the terminal, I preferred its inviting floor plan and found it to be less constricting.
On top of that, the service was quite good and the menu was the exact same as the main lounge, both bonuses in my books. For a quick stop, it was my preferred choice of the two.
My time at Vancouver’s Plaza Premium Lounges, though not as good as my time at the airport’s Maple Leaf Lounge, was still pleasant.
Overcrowding isn’t something over which staff have any control, and can vary enormously depending on the season of travel, so shouldn’t be seen as a huge point against these lounges.
While I found the main location to be too busy, it was still a decent enough experience with hot food, dedicated bathrooms, and a place to rest your legs before taking a flight.
On the other hand, the open-concept café felt more welcoming and relaxing, and could make for a superior lounge experience to its bigger brother when the latter is more occupied.
Don’t hesitate to stop into either Plaza Premium lounge should you be departing or transiting through Vancouver, and remember that if one’s full, you can always try the other.