Review: Aspire Salon Lounge – Ottawa International Airport, Canada
The Aspire Salon Lounge Ottawa is the newest Aspire Lounge in Canada. Taking over the space previously occupied by the Porter Lounge Ottawa, the Aspire Lounge Ottawa has arrived to the scene offering a legitimate competitor to the Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge next door. Read on to see how our first visit to the Aspire Lounge Ottawa was, and whether it would stand up to our review…
Review: Aspire Salon Business Lounge – Ottawa International Airport, Ontario, Canada.
This review is of the Aspire Salon Lounge at the Ottawa International Airport. For a review of the other lounge in Ottawa, please see see our review of the Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge Ottawa International Airport, so that you can go over your available options.
For many years, the lounge environment at Ottawa International Airport was delicate and scarce lounge environment. As the sole lounge, the Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge Ottawa had a monopoly on lounge offerings out of the airport. Since there was almost nothing in terms of food and beverage on the secure side, lounge access was important if you wanted somewhere to relax prior to your flight.
The Aspire Lounge at Ottawa International Airport is a brand new lounge that is located in the space previously occupied by the Porter Lounge Ottawa. This space became available when Porter Airlines decided to exit their lounge network, and closed their Toronto Billy Bishop, Newark and Ottawa lounge locations.
The Aspire Lounge Ottawa compliments their other Canadian Lounges: the Aspire Lounge Calgary International Airport, the Aspire Lounge Calgary Transborder, and the Montreal Bank National Bank Lounge.
Locating the Aspire Lounge Ottawa:
The Aspire Lounge is located on the main concourse floor at Ottawa International Airport next to Gate 18. Turning right after descending the escalators from the new security screening area on level three (this was previously a left turn when security was completed on level two), it’s a short 4 minute walk up to the lounge.
The Aspire Ottawa Lounge is really easy to find, thanks to a large frontage on the concourse. It’s located on the right as you navigate the terminal. On my visit, there were pop up displays outside the lounge, which was located right after Booster Juice. The Aspire Ottawa lounge also happens to be located immediately across the hall from the Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge Ottawa.
It’s worth noting that this lounge is in the main domestic hall of Ottawa International Airport. If you’re departing on a US Transborder flight that is processed through US Customs and Border Protection Pre-Clearance, you won’t have access to this lounge as a result of the design of the airport.
Accessing the Lounge:
The Club Aspire Lounge Ottawa is accessible through a variety of means.
The Club Aspire Lounge is affiliated with Priority Pass, Lounge Key, Dragon Pass and Executive Lounges.com. If you have a premium credit card, such as the American Express Platinum Card that offers a lounge membership benefit, you’ll likely be gaining access through this route.
The Club Aspire Lounge also offers lounge access for sale on its website. At the time of our review, access was available to the lounge for approximately $46.33 CAD ($33 USD) for up to 2.5 hours prior to your flight.
In my case, I ended up using an American Express Platinum Card to enter along with a free guest privilege for my travelling co-worker. After showing my Priority Pass digital membership card, I was admitted without delay and invited inside. Our lounge reception host was pulling double duty and also clearing the tables in addition to being the reception host. She worked her tail off during our visit and was very attentive and welcoming.
During our visit, the lounge was in operation between 9 AM – 6 PM.
Inside the Aspire Lounge Ottawa:
The Aspire Lounge Ottawa has done a great job at renovating the space to make the lounge a contemporary looking and bright location that is easy to relax in.
Immediately after entering the lounge, you’ll find yourself in a long rectangular space with a curved pathway that leads into the lounge space. You’ll find lounge seating on your left with a combination of tables and chairs, and individual tables with semi formal occassional chairs for two.
The lounge was virtually empty during our mid day visit on a statutory holiday. As a result, the space offered many options in terms of seating and had a comfortable feel to it with low noise levels.
Immediately on your right as you enter the lounge, you’ll find a long high top communal table. The work / relax space was integrated with power outlets, and had a great view of the airside operations.
Moving further into the lounge there were a few lounge chairs located immediately against the glass. Myself and my co-worker took up seating right against the glass in some reasonably comfortable but firm lounge chairs.
The lounge also offered complimentary lockers for storage that were located within the space. While this was a great and thoughtful feature, I can’t imagine many people taking full advantage of this. I’ve found these features to be really useful in major international airports when you have a long connection and you can drop your carry on bags and head into the city for a few hours. I can’t imagine many people doing that here as the lounge hours are too short, and Ottawa doesn’t get a whole lot of connecting traffic. Still, it’s always nice to have options so I would imagine some will have use for this secure storage space.
Further back into the lounge, there were some individual lounge chairs. This space would end up being the most occupied and popular location of the lounge. It was almost walled off from the rest of the lounge with large wooden separators; this gave it a very Canadian feel to the space.
The Aspire Lounge Ottawa had really impressive seating arrangements. Consistent with being a brand new space, the decor was smart and up to date. There weren’t a lot of people using the space when I passed through, and it was a lot more low key and relaxed than the busy Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge Ottawa usually is.
Food and Beverage:
I sometimes approach independent lounge food and beverage programs with a little skepticism. Unless the space happens to be a airline network lounge, or a wonderful American Express Centurion Lounge, I haven’t typically been impressed by food that’s usually available at an independent lounge.
I was actually surprised at the food available at the Aspire Lounge Ottawa. While you won’t be mixing it up with the table served dining program at the Qantas First Class Lounge Los Angeles, it was pretty good and surprising for a business lounge.
The food area was located towards the rear of the lounge. It consisted of an island serving both hot and cold dishes. Our visit was right at the breakfast / lunch changeover, so I was able to sample both of what the lounge had to offer.
During our breakfast hour, the lounge was offering scrambled eggs and waffles. There were also small bowls of cut fruit, cereals and yoghurt parfaits that had been freshly prepared. A freshly prepared yoghurt parfait is going to win out over the packaged Chobani Yoghurts located in any United Club Lounge, so there’s certainly an advantage here.
As the lunch service was brought out, there were cold salads along with a pretty solid array of toppings available. They included cucumbers, pickles, shredded carrots, bacon bits, croutons, and a number of salad dressings.
Two soups were available. Today’s offerings were vegetable and what appeared to be broccoli cheese; both were unlabelled and unmarked. There were also four hot dishes that consisted of macaroni and cheese, macaroni bolognese, and a form of curry over top of rice.
The macaroni and cheese, vegetable soup and cut fruit that I sampled was crisp and fresh tasting. It was more than enough to enjoy as a snack prior to getting onto a flight from Ottawa International Airport.
Perhaps the least exciting feature of the lounge was the beverage program. The lounge offered draft beer and select spirits. The wines on offer were some pretty straight forward varieties. The beer tap was “on request” due to a defective tap spigot.
Given the hour, I didn’t focus too much on the alcoholic beverages portion of the lounge and just stuck with juice which was available from a self serve jug on the counter.
The Aspire Lounge Ottawa also appeared to featured table ordering. A QR Code was set up on all tables consistent with what occurred during the pandemic. However, when I clicked through to see what was available, it seemed that much of the menu was wiped out. asI couldn’t actually pull up any menu items. As a result, I suspect that this feature will be shortly discontinued in favour of the excellent self service buffet.
I spent about 90 minutes in the lounge prior to heading off to my Air Canada Ottawa – Ontario flight that connected onwards to my Air Canada Toronto – Vancouver flight back home. Overall, it was a really nice and pleasant stay.
My Thoughts on the Aspire Lounge Ottawa:
The Asprie Lounge Ottawa is a great addition to the Ottawa International Airport scnee. While I used to rely heavily on Air Canada Aeroplan Elite status for lounge access, it’s great that there is now a Priority Pass option in the otherwise lack luster food and beverage space inside Ottawa International Airport.
The Aspire Lounge Ottawa is a nicely designed and contemporary space. There was more than ample seating and it didn’t have the frenzy feel that comes with the packed Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge Ottawa just next door. The food and beverage program was more than I expected.
I’ll be sure to visit this space again, and thanks to it’s addition, I won’t be as reliant on the Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge system while passing through Ottawa.