Plaza Premium Temporary Lounge in Toronto leaves something to be desired

On the way home from Toronto on Monday I was ready to spend some relaxing time in the Plaza Premium Lounge in Terminal 1 of the Toronto Pearson Airport. My wife, sister, and brother were all with me and we would get some free food, drinks, and nice bathrooms to tide over the hour we had to wait for the plane. Unfortunately, we were greeted by this banner upon getting through customs on our way to the lounge.

Apparently the lounge is going through renovation and so we were only able to get access to a temporary lounge using the Priority Pass Select membership granted to us by the Citi Prestige card that my wife and I hold.

The lounge is located essentially in what should be the regular seating area between gates F55 and F57. Instead, they have put up some partitions, placed some higher-quality chairs, and set up a buffet with some food. There were more limited selections than usual but the food was tasty. They also had a variety of drinks, although a smaller variety than normal. The one major gripe that my family and I had was the the power ports on the chairs were taped over and disconnected from any kind of power source.

We spent about 45 minutes waiting in the lounge and enjoying the food and drink. It was definitely better than paying for food and the chairs had nicer cushions, but this is not the kind of lounge I am used to at this point in my travel career. I hope they complete renovations quickly so that the next visit we have to Toronto has a better lounge for us to access.

A recent trip to Toronto

I recently took a trip to Toronto using Air Canada and was overall pleased with the service, comfort, with some oddities in how my trip occurred. Let me explain.

I booked the flight from LaGuardia to Pearson airport using my Barclaycard Arrival Plus Mastercard, a useful card if you want to get 2 miles for every dollar spent. These miles are quite versatile in that they can used for any kind of airline credit: ticket purchases, fees, etc. They are redeemed in quantities above $100, which is equivalent to 10,000 miles. So, after I paid for my trip using the card, I was able to immediately refund the money used. Here is what it looks like on my online bill:

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Very simple.

On my way there I noticed wonderful in LaGuardia: a pumping/nursing station! While I do not think breastfeeding needs to be a private thing (it’s a natural thing to do…), it is nice to have some privacy for those who want it. Apparently they were put there in May 2015 and are located in Terminal B.

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When I arrived at Toronto’s Pearson Airport I found myself on a huge and quick moving walkway. This was not the normal kind that simply rotates through – it actually extended and flexed in order to move people faster. I had never seen or experienced this before but it was fascinating! I took a video myself but the one in the article is better.

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Finally, a quick note about the actual plane travel itself. Air Canada is a professional carrier! Their in-flight entertainment aboard their small plane was quite wonderful. It was an Embraer 190 and had comfortable seats (if not an enormous amount of legroom) as well as wonderful cabin service. I got a hot tea and small snack on each direction of my journey.

The price of this airline is often more expensive than budget airline WestJet but that sometimes means it really is worth it. In this case, it definitely was!

How I used British Airways Avios to book a cheap trip to Toronto

In September my fiancée and I will be going to Toronto for my cousin and his fiancée’s wedding. Yes, I admit that was a confusing sentence. Suffice it to say that we needed two roundtrip plane tickets from New York to Toronto. Since we are paying for much of our own wedding at the moment we are trying to reduce costs as much as possible. I did some research and found the cheapest plane tickets at a fairly undesirable time:

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Instead of spending $215 x 2 = $430 for the plane tickets (and then $25 for checked luggage according to their website) I decided to look into spending British Airways Avios on a plane ticket for the flight. This is a well-known use in the Miles and Points community because Avios are spent on a distance-flown basis. For flights below 650 miles (like NYC->Toronto) it costs only 4500 Avios each way for an Economy ticket. BA partners with American Airlines and recently TAM for this route so I did some research and found the following flights that we are taking:

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And the greatest part of it all, it costs so little:

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In reality the price is actually $122 because I had to book over the phone (there was an error on the website). But that’s okay – we each get a free checked bag according to the rules of TAM and we will be flying a Boeing 767. This is a turbo-fan, wide-body plane as opposed to the propellor plane we would have had with Delta.

Overall a good bargain, eh? (Full disclosure, British Airways is changing their award chart on April 28, 2015).