Itzhak Perlman is maltreated at Toronto airport

Itzhak Perlman is maltreated at Toronto airport


norman lebrecht

April 01, 2014

The violinist, who requires wheelchair assistance, says he was abandoned by staff at Pearson airport and forced to carry his own baggage on crutches for a considerable distance. Oh, Canada…

Read more here. Video interview here.



  • MacroV says:

    Certainly inexcusable, but I’m a little surprised that Mr. Perlman doesn’t travel with a personal assistant to help him with this and other matters. And in Canada!

  • Clyde McConnell says:

    Perlman would not have gotten that sort of treatment in Calgary–he would have been swarmed by retiree volunteers (at the very least) wearing white Stetsons! Some of them would have know who he is, too. Visit here, Itzhak!

  • Doug says:

    Well, you know what they say about Air Canada. Their motto is At Air Canada, We’re Not Happy Until You’re Not Happy.

  • V.Lind says:

    I think Air Canada’s behavior here is reprehensible. But I am astonished that there was not someone from the TSO there to meet Mr. Perlman — by arrangement, as soon as he got off the plane (where I suppose non-official people do not normally get to go) — given his fame and his disability. But heads will probably roll at AC, as they should. No matter what the arrangements, it betokens a very nasty employee culture if a staffer did not, without hesitation, attempt to assist someone in difficulties.

    Mind you, as someone pointed out somewhere today, if he had been in Vancouver he would probably have been tasered.

    • leslie dawn knowles says:

      Another good reason to avoid Pearson and Air Canada. It is certainly shameful that Mr. Perlman or anyone else would be treated so badly but completely in keeping with the terrible reputation that both Pearson and Air Canada have earned. It should be noted that Mr. Perlman’s engagement was not connected with the TSO at all so it is not surprising that nobody was there from the organization to meet him. I am sure that the concert presenters did do their best to assist but would not have been permitted past security as all areas of the airport past there are off limits except for airline and airport personnel anyway. Blame for this has to go to Air Canada and the airport employees who are supposed to assist passengers until they were in the public area. Next time hopefully he can fly into the Island Airport with Porter instead and be treated decently.

    • Bcello says:

      First of all, the article says Mr Perlman was playing a charity concert – I don’t believe this was associated with the TSO.

      Secondly, passengers must pass through baggage and customs before they can meet non-security personnel.

    • William Safford says:

      Well, it reminds me of how NSO contrabassoonist Lew Lipnick was mistreated both by an airline and by industry:

      His lawyer’s reply here on Slipped Disc:

  • Mikey says:

    Let’s keep in mind this particular quote:

    “I’ve been coming to Toronto for 40 years; this has never happened to me before like this, it’s just absolutely unbelievable,” Mr. Perlman said

    So before people are off disparaging Canada as a nation, or Pearson International itself, this is an unusual occurrence.

    • Bcello says:

      I agree … and it makes me wonder how overextended the staff may be. We have yet to hear a response from Air Canada but we don’t know how many other passengers were waiting (impatiently?) for assistance.

      Let’s not be too quick too damn and entire company, an airport and indeed an entire country over this incident ! I’ve flown into Pearson International numerous times with absolutely no complaint. It’s clean, spacious, well organized and after you’ve dealt with O’Hare on a regular basis you will appreciate how much that is worth.

  • If you play some Bartok duos with me, Itzhak, I’ll push you all around Sheffield and the Peak District (much more attractive than Toronto) 🙂

  • Karen says:

    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.