Lounge Review: Inside Air Canada’s Maple Leaf Lounge at SFO

The highlight of the SFO Maple Leaf Lounge isn't inside — it's the outdoor patio (complete with fire pits).
Sally French
By Sally French 
Published
Edited by Dawnielle Robinson-Walker

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Air Canada’s Maple Leaf Lounge network isn’t typically considered top-tier among airport lounges. That honor usually goes to places like the Centurion Lounges by American Express, which are often helmed by James Beard Award-affiliated chefs.

But at San Francisco International Airport, the Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge, which opened in summer 2023, might be the best hangout spot in the airport, period.

There, you’ll dine on a buffet of California classics like seafood cioppino, alongside international dishes like chimichurri beef sliders and chicken adobo — a nod to the Bay Area’s culture of ethnic cuisines. Plus, you can dine outside, as this is the first Maple Leaf Lounge with its own, private outdoor terrace.

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Here’s what it’s like inside (and outside).

(Photo by Sally French)

SFO Air Canada lounge food and beverage options

Menu items occasionally change, but here’s what we saw when we visited:

Buffet

(Photo by Sally French)

The self-service buffet starts with a salad bar, which includes your usual suspects of toppings like carrots, tomatoes, quinoa and cucumbers.

(Photo by Sally French)

Up next are sandwiches, wraps and a cheese board.

(Photo by Sally French)

Most hot items take their cues from San Francisco’s rich foodie culture, including local dishes like seafood cioppino. There are also fairly healthy options, such as fresh squash and chicken adobo.

(Photo by Sally French)

The buffet supports vegetarians and carnivores alike via chimichurri beef sliders and black bean sliders.

Beverages

(Photo by Sally French)

There’s a bartender at the full bar, ready to serve wine, local craft beers, a handcrafted cocktail or espresso.

(Photo by Sally French)

There’s also a soda fountain and coffee maker near the main buffet.

(Photo by Sally French)

If you’re seeking something refreshing, you might hydrate with agua fresca.

(Photo by Sally French)

The dessert options aren’t anything special, just your run-of-the-mill brownies and cookies.

Spaces to relax and work at the SFO Air Canada lounge

The lounge itself is extensive, comfortably fitting 165 seats within its 8,168 square feet of space.

Indoor areas

(Photo by Sally French)

Power outlets sit between deep leather seats, and counter seating lines the perimeter.

(Photo by Sally French)

There’s also a business center with a printer and private rooms to take calls.

Outdoor terrace

(Photo by Sally French)

The star of the lounge is the outdoor terrace, which offers runway views. Of the lounge’s 165 seats, 30 are outside.

Should it get chilly (as San Francisco often can), you can snuggle against one of two vapor fireplaces. And if you’re not seated facing the runway, you’ll get an equally-lovely view of a massive mural celebrating San Francisco.

Bathrooms

(Photo by Sally French)

The lounge also offers showers and heated towel racks.

(Photo by Sally French)

How to get into the Air Canada Lounge at SFO

The lounge is located on the second floor of Terminal 2. Upon stepping off the elevator from the main terminal to the lounge, you’ll head down a long hallway toward the entrance.

(Photo by Sally French)

Instead of checking in at a front desk, you’ll undergo biometric identification to verify you’re eligible for admission.

Who has lounge access?

There are several ways to gain access to the 23 Maple Leaf lounges around the world, including:

Aeroplan 50K elite status or higher: Air Canada's Maple Leaf lounges are open to Air Canada customers who hold Aeroplan 50K, 75K, or Aeroplan Super Elite status in Air Canada's Aeroplan loyalty program.

Star Alliance Gold status: Air Canada customers with Star Alliance Gold status are welcome. Ways to earn Star Alliance elite status include reaching Premier Gold and above in United's elite status program, which automatically matches to Star Alliance Gold.

An Aeroplan credit card holder: Certain Aeroplan premium co-branded cards, such as the American Express Aeroplan Reserve Card, offer entry to cardholders and a one-time guest.

Flying business class: Folks flying on an Air Canada business class ticket are also invited.

The Aeroplan® Credit Card does not get you into Maple Leaf lounges on its own, though if you spend smartly, you could get a status boost to the 50K level, which unlocks access.

Aeroplan Credit Card

Aeroplan® Credit Card

NerdWallet Rating
5.0
Annual fee

$95

One of the major perks of signing up for the Aeroplan® Credit Card is getting Aeroplan 25K elite status the rest of the calendar year you sign up, plus the entire next calendar year.

If you're a cardholder, high spender, and frequent flyer who travels enough to get to 35K, you can spend $50,000 in a calendar year to unlock the Elite Status Level Up perk and get a boost to the Aeroplan 50K elite status — which includes Maple Lounge access.

Other SFO lounges to consider

SFO has no shortage of great lounges, so if you can't get into Air Canada’s Maple Leaf Lounge, you have other options.

On the last day of 2022, the Centurion Lounge at SFO reopened with a redesign and expansion; it's primarily accessed by folks who hold the The Platinum Card® from American Express, no matter what airline they're flying. Its buffet menu is designed by Ravi Kapur, the Executive Chef at Liholiho Yacht Club, a popular San Francisco restaurant.

A highlight of SFO's Centurion Lounge is the Napa Valley wine tasting area. (Photo by Sally French)

Folks who frequently fly Delta — which has regular nonstop flights between SFO and Canada — might rather relax in SFO’s Delta Sky Club.

And then there are the Priority Pass network lounges, which are relatively easy to get into. The San Francisco Priority Pass lounges are generally inferior in quality to the lounges named above, but with complimentary food and beverages, they’re still better than no lounge at all. Many premium travel credit cards offer Priority Pass lounge access, including the Chase Sapphire Reserve® and the Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card. Like the Centurion Lounges, these lounges are accessible regardless of the airline you're flying.

The China Airlines Dynasty Lounge has the best food of any of SFO's Priority Pass lounges, thanks to its buffet of Chinese food. (Photo by Sally French)

Is the Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge at SFO worth it?

(Photo by Sally French)

San Francisco’s Air Canada lounge is the 28th to open worldwide and it’s arguably the best. Most other Air Canada lounges only offer light snacks (think soups, salad, hummus and crudites), and boast seating that looks like it might’ve once belonged in a 1980s-era insurance office.

Air Canada recently committed to improving its lounge network, and its SFO outpost proves that the airline has executed well on that commitment.

The Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge at SFO serves as an encapsulation of California. Sure, the coupling of international cuisine with patio seating does very little to put passengers in a Canadian state of mind — but that’s not a bad thing.

Assuming that Karl (that’s the local name for the Bay Area’s famous fog) hasn’t rolled in, it’s definitely worth making time to relax on the outdoor patio. There, you’ll savor those final California moments before departing for the Great White North.


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