Image via LaGuardia Airport

Air Canada is the first airline to open a lounge at LaGuardia Airport’s new Terminal B Eastern Concourse, the first phase of the New York City airport’s $5.1-billion, 1.3-million-square-foot redevelopment project, which opened to travelers on December 1. APEX Media was invited for a sneak peek of the lounge ahead of its opening on December 4.

Air Canada’s 7,015-square-foot LaGuardia Maple Leaf Lounge opened to customers on December 4. The HOK-designed space has capacity for up to 126 customers and is close to Air Canada’s three departure gates. It features a self-serve bar offering Canadian wines, beer and Lavazza specialty coffees as well as a business center.

Image via Air Canada

“We are excited to welcome Air Canada and Star Alliance eligible customers to our new LaGuardia Airport Maple Leaf Lounge, which has been created to enhance the overall travel experience for our premium customers,” said Andrew Yiu, vice president of Product at Air Canada. “Showcasing contemporary design and artwork, the lounge is decorated with maple wood screen walls, Canadian-made furnishings, yet it also reflects the unique character that is New York City. Customers will be warmly received and enjoy a calm environment in which to work or relax before their Air Canada flight.”

Image via Air Canada

Unlike the previous facility, which was known for its low ceilings, LaGuardia Airport’s new 243,000-square-foot Terminal B Eastern Concourse features ceilings of up to 55 feet in height and an abundance of natural light. Food and beverage options include Shake Shack, Irving Farm Coffee Roasters, Osteria Fusco, La Chula Bar & Taqueria, Kingside Bar & Restaurant and Five Boroughs Market. The Eastern Concourse also includes an airport-themed children’s play area and an indoor green space, modeled after New York City’s parks.

Image via LaGuardia Airport

Previously, Air Canada’s Maple Leaf lounge was located before the terminal’s security checkpoint. “What it meant was that you could never predict when you had to leave the lounge because it all depended on the [security] lineups,” Yiu told APEX Media. “Because [the lounge] is located post-security and it is in the pathway from security to the departure gates, customers can now actually stay inside the lounge until their flight is ready for boarding, so it’s a much-improved experience.”

Image via Air Canada

The new lounge also feels spacious thanks to glass panels which allow customers to overlook the concourse and see the runway. Yiu said he and his colleagues spent a lot of time debating internally whether to leave the panels clear or frost them to provide more privacy. “Ultimately, we decided to leave them clear, because customers probably appreciate seeing the airplanes move below and have sunlight coming in.”

Image via LaGuardia Airport

Stewart Steeves, CEO of LaGuardia Gateway Partners, the operator and developer of Terminal B, described the opening of the Maple Leaf Lounge as “a testament to our vision to provide a world-class guest experience to travelers flying through LaGuardia’s Terminal B.”

Image via LaGuardia Airport

Steeves told APEX Media that the Terminal B Eastern Concourse was constructed because the original facility had been operating way above its intended capacity. “It was built for eight million passengers and is serving in excessive of 15 million. It had restrictions on aircraft sizes in some circumstances and restrictions on aircraft manoeuvring in terms of the alleyways and such,” he said. “Really the need was to bring it up to a world-class stature in terms of space, in terms of capacity, in terms of aircraft flexibility, in terms of the amenities, services, shops, restaurants that passengers expect.”

Image via LaGuardia Airport

Although the new concourse only opened on December 1, Steeves said he’s already been receiving a lot of casual anecdotal feedback from members of the traveling public about the facility: “Passengers are thrilled. We’ve been monitoring social media and the feedback there has been universally positive and we’re also gathering feedback from out feedback stations, including in the restrooms, which is again positive.”

The next stage of development that passengers will see is in mid-2019, when LaGuardia will open several more gates and United Airlines will join Air Canada, American Airlines and Southwest Airlines in using the facility, eventually opening its own United Club lounge.

Ari is the news editor at APEX Media.