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NOT WHAT YOU’D EXPECT: WestJet lounge a bright light in dark days

WestJet could use some good news. Amidst the continuing collapse of the global airline industry that has forced Canada’s second airline to cancel service to Atlantic Canada and layoff thousands of workers, amongst other money-saving measures, the carrier is set to open its flagship Elevation lounge in Calgary – a sanctuary the airline hopes will raise eyebrows.

Revealed digitally to stakeholders and the media this week by the airline, the 864-sq.-m. lounge features panoramic views and Canadian-inspired details such as a central fireplace, and, according to WestJet Chief Commercial Officer Arved von zur Muehlen, “demonstrates our commitment to delivering world-class experiences both on the ground and in the air.”

In the planning stages for two years, he adds, “It was only fitting to open this flagship space within our home hub in Calgary.”

Catering to top-tier WestJet Rewards members and business cabin travellers, WestJet’s CEO told digital attendees that the lounge “fills a gap” in the airline’s evolution into a premium carrier – a “journey” that started in 2018 with such initiatives as adding a platinum loyalty level, flying 787s internationally, and refurbishing its 737 fleet.

“So, now with the lounge, we can bring our WestJet service down to the ground,” he says.

The facility will be 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). It is not accessible to US-bound passengers.

Available for use by up to 250 top-tier WestJet Rewards members and business cabin guests (100 during the pandemic) at a time, the lounge will feature:

• Chef-designed and freshly prepared menu that highlights local and seasonal ingredients.

• Signature beverages designed and delivered by dedicated bartenders; a premium selection of wine; and beer options from Calgary’s own breweries, including WestJet’s Elevation beer on tap by The Dandy Brewing Company, and an XPA by Annex Ale Project. All served from a social bar in the heart of the lounge.

• Dedicated focus spaces to unplug or plug-in for business and leisure featuring WiFi, free printing and reservable meeting space with digital amenities.

• Refreshing spaces including reservable and private shower facilities.

• WestJet Priority Service Agents to assist with travel plan and share expertise on local information.

• Exclusive artwork by Calgary-based artist Mandy Stobo, featuring an immersive augmented reality experience.

• Playful interpretations of WestJet’s home province weaved throughout the space, including a statement graphic of Canmore’s Three Sisters mountain peaks above the bar.

• Curated Canadian products from local companies such as Rocky Mountain Soap Company and Calgary’s own Fratello Coffee Roasters.

• Dedicated family space with activities for kids to interact with and explore.

The lounge has also been outfitted with the latest enhanced health, safety and sanitization measures:

• Contactless, self-serve entry.

• Mandatory face masks for guests and staff, except when eating and drinking.

• A thoughtful floor plan with reduced capacity to ensure physical distancing.

• Ability to order food and beverages directly to table using personal devices.

• An enhanced and continuous cleaning regimen including electrostatic spraying, plexiglass shields at high interaction areas and hand sanitizers placed in high-touch zones.

WestJet VP of marketing communication Richard Bartem says initial reviews of the facility have been positive with preview guests praising the “impressive” technology, artwork, and attention to detail.

“To borrow a phrase, people were saying, ‘This is not your father’s WestJet’ – (and) not what we expected to see from WestJet,” he says.

And as the airline transitions from being a low-cost to premium carrier, he adds, “That’s exactly what we’re looking for!”

The lounge boasts more than 9,300 square feet of premium space with panoramic views and Canadian-inspired details.

First published at Travel Industry Today

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