Visiting The SkyTeam Lounge In Vancouver During COVID-19

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While many lounges around the world remain closed or are just reopening, travelers are now faced with the new reality of COVID-19 precautions. This applies to the recent experience at Vancouver International Airport’s (YVR) SkyTeam Lounge. Let’s look at what travelers can expect at this facility during the pandemic.

SkyTeam Vancouver lounge covid
The lounge is located one level above departure gates in the International Terminal. Photo: Chris Loh/Simple Flying

Checking-in

Located outside Gate D53, the visit to this lounge was the start of a trip from Vancouver to Amsterdam on a KLM 777. Access to the lounge was complimentary for me as a Platinum-level Flying Blue loyalty member. However, this lounge is also part of the Priority Pass program for those who are not SkyTeam Elite members.

With a Korean Air flight headed to Seoul Incheon around the same time, this lounge currently serves two SkyTeam flights. We can expect Air France passengers to join in once the airline resumes service from Paris CDG.

The first COVID-19-difference visitors can expect is for staff to ask you to disinfect your hands with hand sanitizer. Upon arrival, I was asked to put my hands out to get a handful of the liquid.

SkyTeam Vancouver lounge covid
The airport is rich in natural light and quite bright during the daytime. Photo: Chris Loh/Simple Flying

Space and seating

Upon successfully checking-in, the reception staff radio the serving staff upstairs to let them know a guest is on their way up to the lounge level. Upon exiting the elevator, there is a lounge worker there to greet me.

The first thing that is asked is my seating preference—whether I prefer a low-chair, restaurant-style seating, or higher bar-style seating. While I appreciate the service—my style has always been to just wander around at my leisure until I find a corner that feels comfortable. In this case, I felt on the spot to pick something.

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SkyTeam Vancouver lounge covid
Seats line the main corridor between the elevator and the food station. Photo: Chris Loh/Simple Flying
SkyTeam Vancouver lounge covid
The lounge is rather small, with limited seating. Photo: Chris Loh/Simple Flying

The entire section with big comfortable armchairs was sectioned off and unavailable for use. Therefore, I had to choose a seat in the section above, or a restaurant/bar seat closer to the food and beverage. Either way, you’re seated in a rather high-foot-traffic area.

SkyTeam Vancouver lounge covid
Following the corridor from the elevator will take you to the bar and food-service area. Photo: Chris Loh/Simple Flying
SkyTeam Vancouver lounge covid
The bar-level countertop area offers a great view of some departure gates. Photo: Chris Loh/Simple Flying

Ordering food

These days, it’s a whole new world when it comes to serving food and beverages at airport lounges. Airlines and airports, and many other businesses connected to food-service, are looking for ways to reduce potential exposure to the coronavirus.

For many establishments, this has meant the elimination of reusable cutlery and tableware. This has given way to single-use containers and cutlery, which is something that not only makes the experience feel like a high-school cafeteria but also results in huge amounts of garbage. Unfortunately, this is the reality of COVID-19 and reducing transmission. Here’s what was on offer at the lounge.

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SkyTeam Vancouver lounge covid
A small menu of items means that food options are quite limited. Photo: Chris Loh/Simple Flying

As was predicted in an article about lounge precautions during COVID-19, gone is the ability for guests to serve themselves. No more heated trays loaded with hot food where you can fill your plate…nor can you just walk to a fridge and grab a can of soda at your leisure.

Instead, any desire for food or beverage must go through a lounge worker, who will promptly fulfill your request.

In the case of food, the following was on offer during my visit:

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  • Ham and cheese and vegetarian sandwiches
  • A barley, wild rice, and cranberry salad
  • Chicken noodle soup
  • Pretzels
  • Peanuts
  • Tortilla Chips
  • Banana cake

The ‘main course’ was a made-to-order noodle soup option. Guests could customize their order of noodles by requesting small, individually-packaged toppings.

SkyTeam Vancouver lounge covid
Sample items are displayed to help guests choose what they want. Photo: Chris Loh/Simple Flying

Ordering food: the end result

With every food item pre-packaged (except for the noodles and soup), nothing really takes too long to collect. The person on the other side of the counter simply turns around and grabs whatever you request, which has already been placed in a disposable cup with plastic lid. Of course, I can imagine on a busy day that guests might need a few seconds to look through the menu and decide what they want. Thus, a long line could form quickly.

Once all of your requests have been ‘collected,’ they are placed carefully into a brown paper bag along with a napkin and plastic cutlery for you to take to your seat.

SkyTeam Vancouver lounge covid
My food requests packaged up in a brown paper bag. Tea is served with paper cups of hot water and your tea bag of choice. Photo: Chris Loh/Simple Flying
SkyTeam Vancouver lounge covid
My first round of snacks unpacked. I went for the ham and cheese sandwich, the barley/wild-rice salad, and chicken noodle soup. Photo: Chris Loh/Simple Flying
SkyTeam Vancouver lounge covid
Another look at my first helpings of food.Photo: Chris Loh/Simple Flying
SkyTeam Vancouver lounge covid
Round two: Freshly-prepared noodles with spicy sauce and fried onions as toppings. Banana cake was also requested. Photo: Chris Loh/Simple Flying

So how was the food? Well, if I’m rating it on a scale of one to 10, and 10 is ‘excellent,’ then I would give it an overall 4.5. The sandwich was dry, and the salad was refrigerated to the point of being hard and stale. The chicken noodle soup was alright but not enough to earn a better rating.

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But all of this shouldn’t be that much of a surprise. After all, what can you expect when pre-packaged food options are limited, and those few items need to appeal to a broad audience?

Beverages

There are two stations for beverage service. One is close to the lounge entrance (elevator) while the other is situated beside the food/snack area. This lounge appears to have all the basics: coffee and tea, a range of carbonated canned drinks, beer, wine, and spirits.

SkyTeam Vancouver lounge covid
The bar close to the lounge entrance. Photo: Chris Loh/Simple Flying
SkyTeam Vancouver lounge covid
This beverage station would typically be self-serve. However, it is roped-off, and a lounge worker fulfills requests. Photo: Chris Loh/Simple Flying

Vancouver’s SkyTeam Lounge: Is it any good?

I certainly had high hopes for my first visit to this lounge—especially as my last SkyTeam lounge experience was at Dubai International (so perhaps my expectations were unreasonable…).

Unfortunately, I feel like COVID-19 really killed the experience. Not only is most autonomy gone, but whatever choice you do have in terms of food and seating is rather disappointing.

Unfortunately, I’m not qualified to comment on whether or not the lounge’s COVID-19 precautions are over-the-top or not. But I can understand why they have chosen to take the path of extreme caution. Ultimately, if you haven’t visited a lounge since this pandemic happened, it’s best to lower your expectations when setting foot in any lounge around the world. Things aren’t at all what they used to be.

If you have visited any lounges since COVID-19 began, how do these precautions compare to your own experience? Let us know in the comments!
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