Itzhak Perlman: ‘I felt abandoned. I felt like I was kind of helpless’

The violinist has been talking to CBC News about his bad experience at Pearson Airport.

‘We find this very concerning as it is not at all representative of Air Canada’s policies,, said an airline spokesman. Watch here.

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  • “As I was going through the airport on my scooter alone, I was looking around and I kept seeing these signs that said, ‘Welcome to Canada.’ And I just thought, ‘Oy.’”

    Rather uncalled for. It was a disgruntled employee that did this, not an entire nation.

    • @Steve obviously Mr Perlman has never tried being a Canadian traveling to the United States. I’ll see his “Oy” and raise it one “Eh?”.

  • I am very sad to say that what happened to Mr. Perlman does not surprise me one iota. It does not matter whether one requests assistance when booking the ticket, if an airline or travel executive makes the arrangements, or even if the pilot radios the tower to reiterate the needed assistance. Virtually all North American airlines have “outsourced” disabled passenger assistance – in most cases, it is provided by a single group of airport employees that are shared among all flights at that airport and whose availability has nothing to do with the expected number of passengers needing assistance.

    It is a shame that the person responsible for Mr. Perlman’s hospitality did not fully grasp this sad state of affairs. They should have been able to “pull some strings” with airport management to make special arrangements for an escort to meet the plane and assist Mr. Perlman; the fact that this was not done speaks more about the host than the airline.

    To insinuate that Mr. Perlman should be required to hire his own personal assistant if he wants to travel is insulting and offensive to all disabled travelers. To insinuate that the problem was “too much carry on luggage” is also ludicrous – all medical devices (wheelchairs, walkers, even cushions) become “carry-on luggage” when traveling with a disability – it becomes hard to manage a purse with that menagerie, much less a priceless violin!

    Mr. Perlman’s treatment at the Toronto airport is an affront to basic human dignity. The only reason the situation became news is because of Mr. Perlman’s international stature. Speaking as a pianist who has been wheelchair-bound for many years, I am extremely sad and embarrassed that this situation occurred at all. Hopefully, the light Mr. Perlman is shining on treatment of disabled travelers will help improve things for all of us.

  • I am glad Mr. Perlman made this public, because it has raised issues of concern to disabled travelers. Toronto Pearson claimed in one report to handle about 25,000 a month. That clearly cannot be done with a couple of staff per shift, outsourced or in-house. The airport, which handles a lot more carriers than AC, has to step up and train its staff — and try to find people to employ who have a shred of humanity and a sense of perspective (“gotta go, I have another flight” in the face of a traveler in difficulties is preposterous lack of judgment — a passenger on another flight van wait a few minutes more easily than someone already en route can carry on unassisted).

    But while there are institutional difficulties that ought to be addressed, and promptly, it is worth noting that Mr. Perlman admitted having been to Canada 40 times without problems. I think on balance, he ought to be giving Canada a better than passing grade for service in that case — and I imagine he does. I know he will be back in a few months, if not sooner — another airport, where he is bound to be better treated, and he will be met by his host organization in a limo, as is every visiting artist. There is no doubt he will be aided if he needs help deplaning and clearing customs. But you won’t read anything about any of that.

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