New hi-tech “common use” lounge opens at Toronto airport

The new “common use” lounge at Toronto’s Pearson airport – its promoters say – will make pre-travel time easier to pass, more enjoyable and efficient for business users and consumers.

Set up by the Greater Toronto Airport Authority (GTAA) and operated by Plaza Premium, the lounge went into operation November 1.

Plaza Premium runs similar lounges in major cities across the world – with Hong Kong International Airport as its headquarters. In Canada, the company also operates a similar lounge at Vacouver airport.

Launch of new “hi-tech” lounge – VIDEO

Outfitted with “productivity tools” such as wireless Internet access, computers, printers and monitors, the lounge also features entertainment devices such as a couple of big-screen, high-def TVs.

Users can also avail food and drink – included in the $35 access fee.

“The two 52-inch high-definition TVs are part Samsung’s touch-of-colour line up,” said Ronald Hulse, VP, sales and marketing at Samsung Electronics Canada Inc. in Mississauga.

Samsung Canada has provided the all tech equipment for the Toronto Pearson lounge.

Hulse, along with GTAA and Plaza Premium representatives, spoke at a media event last week.

The lounge’s “common use” status – the fact it isn’t restricted to passengers from a specific airline or travel class – is something all the speakers emphasized.

“As long as you have a functioning credit card, you can use this lounge – probably for significantly less than the cost of sitting down at a bar for an hour or two,” said Hulse.

It’s the airlines and passengers who were clamouring for a “common use” lounge, according to Steve Shaw, vice-president, marketing and business development with the GTAA.

Shaw had the lounge built and designed the agreement to have it managed by Plaza Premium, a company that manages similar lounges in other cities across the world, including one in Vancouver, B.C.

“We’ve made it available to anyone who chooses to pay [the $35] fee or comes through an airline. He said it’s possible some airlines may have an arrangement that enables their business class travellers to use the lounge for free.

Right now, no monthly or yearly use packages are available but Shaw didn’t rule out airlines offering this to premium passengers in the future.

Lounge manager Christina Li said such a facility would be a boon for Toronto Pearson – one of the busiest airports in the world, which serves more than 28,000 international and domestic passengers each day. It’s growing.

“Many of these passengers would just love to have a place to sit down, relax, enjoy a quick bite – or handle business in the quiet environment that we provide them before their flight.”

Li said Plaza Premium has a lot of expertise managing such facilities in major across the world. “We offer personalized service, and strive to achieve a high level of customer satisfaction,” Li said. “Customers using the service will find value for their money.”

She said families traveling with children would also be able to use the lounge.

While those 13 years and above pay $35, the fee is $25 for children from 5–12, and free for those below the age of five.

Hulse said the lounge also offers Samsung an opportunity to showcase some of its best technology, and broaden the scope of its work with the GTAA and Plaza Premium.

“We’ve worked at the [Toronto] airport for sometime on digital signage projects – and hope to be able to continue to do that. We also work with Plaza Premium at the lounges in Hong Kong.”

He said the latest and best Samsung products – released in Canada in the past 4 – 6 months – have been installed at the Toronto lounge.

“Our team at Samsung worked for the past give months with the GTAA and Plaza Premium folk to prepare for this facility. It’s a great digital convergence experience.”

He said WiFi capabilities at the lounge would benefit business and leisure travelers alike. “For instance, you will be able to connect to wireless printers and print out material you may have forgotten at home.”

The colour multi-function machine (printer, scanner, copier), he said, prints at a speed of 22 pages a minute. “There’s also a wireless laser printer at the front desk.”

He said to help travelers keep tabs on their flight information there are four “energy efficient” 40 – 46-inch monitors displaying flight timings and schedules.

The Toronto lounge seats around 70 people at any one time. Li said the capacity of Plaza Premium lounges worldwide ranged from around 70 – 120.

While mostly “commercial-type” programs would be featured in the lounge, Li said, on request, a specific program – on a sports channel, for instance – would be played.

“But to maintain the atmosphere of quiet, the audio will be turned down.”

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