Now this airline won’t take cellos

Now this airline won’t take cellos


norman lebrecht

February 06, 2015

Yes, it’s them, again. Oh, Canada.

British cellist Richard Harwood tried to book a seat for his instrument on Air Canada. They got out the tape measure and said, No.

Here’s, what Richard tells us:


richard harwood
In need of booking a direct flight with my cello from Toronto to San Francisco, I looked at Air Canada. I thought Air Canada’s musical instrument policy, after the viola debacle in October 2014, might be a safe bet as it used to state: ‘A cello may be accepted as checked baggage, or may be transported in the cabin if a seat is purchased for it.’ That’s pretty clear. You buy a seat – it gets on.

However, the policy has been changed to read:’In some cases, a seat may also be purchased for these instruments. Contact Air Canada Reservations for more information.’

So, that’s what I did. Contact them. And after dealing with someone that really had no idea, I got through to the North American office and spoke to someone who seemed to know the process (a BA type process), how to hold the reservation and how to send off the booking to the pricing and seating departments. All looking good. I gave my usual “safe” cello dimensions with a height of 120cm (cello cases are actually a little over 130cm) and received the following reply back stating I can only purchase an extra seat for a cello if the height is less than 74cm. Unless I’m going to go back to a quarter size cello, that’s going to be a tall order.

So, essentially, a cello dimension policy which restricts any cello playing adult. And a cello dimension that lists a height that is actually the length of a violin case. Since receiving the e-mail, I have spoken to Air Canada, explaining that I think they may have got their dimensions wrong and are very possibly providing me with a violin case length. And I asked them to check. However, after a long time on hold, I was told in no uncertain terms that, if my cello is larger than 74cm x 41cm x 43cm, it will not be able to travel with Air Canada. So, essentially, that rules out all cellos.

In the interest of clarity, I’ve included a screenshot of the e-mail I was sent. I may have dodged a bullet though as this is how Air Canada, unique across all air travel, secure cellos:


  • fellow cellist says:

    Unfucking believable!

  • Air Canada Official says:

    We have been in contact with Richard and apologized for not having provided accurate information. Our policy does allow musical instruments to exceed maximum dimensions which are for the body only, as the neck of the instrument may extend above the seat back if properly restrained for safety reasons. We look forward to welcoming Richard with his cello on board, as we do with many cellists every year.

  • bratschegirl says:

    How many Air Canada baggage personnel does it take…

    Never mind. Too depressing to finish.

  • CelloCrusader says:

    ah yes, the beloved blue net! They use it on Swiss air too sometimes, although one time they didn’t bother on my 10 hour flight, and then on my 40 minute connecting flight they spent 20 minutes figuring out how it worked and insisted on using it for “safety reasons.” What a fuss!
    Looks like neither of the Canadian airlines are cello-friendly now. WestJet won’t sell you a seat for “anything that is not a human.” These airlines don’t realize how much money they would make if they made travelling with a cello comfortable and easy! There are plenty of us out here…

  • CelloLEAP Studio says:

    If God meant cellos to fly, he would have given them wings, right? This is getting so incredibly tiresome.

  • Amanda Forsyth says:

    I am so sorry for Richard, I fly Air Canada all the time, and usually it is just the regular confusion, but have never been denied a seat. last night due to weather, they had more people on board, and someone was in my purchased seat. so the kind captain put my cello in the bed closet…this is very unusual, but saved the day this time. That net is ridiculous, I always tell the guys how to do it, as one would need a doctorate to figure it out,and the seatbelt extension is the only thing that is needed to secure the cello from moving. I embrace cellists of the world, our lives are so difficult, travelling,…….maybe one day it will be easier?

  • baron z says:

    That is ironic, that they limit their seats to humans, when their seating is so inhuman.