Breaking: Airline offers low fares for musical instruments

Breaking: Airline offers low fares for musical instruments


norman lebrecht

September 25, 2015

This just in from Jean Saad, head of sponsorship and merchandising at Air Canada. It sounds fit for purpose.


I am very happy to announce to you that Air Canada has introduced a new policy in favor of musicians traveling with instruments!

Effective today, customers may purchase a seat at a 50 per cent discount off any published fare, including the lowest Tango fares, to accommodate their musical instrument.

Also effective today, all customers travelling with instruments as carry-on on Air Canada, Air Canada Express and Air Canada rouge flights have the opportunity to pre-board ahead of general boarding to ensure their instruments may be conveniently and securely stowed close by.

I am also pleased to inform you that Air Canada has added Symphony Nova Scotia and the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra to its roster of Canadian symphony orchestras it supports from coast to coast, making Air Canada the Official Airline of nine of the country’s leading symphony orchestras.

Today at 11ET, our VP-Marketing Craig Landry will be making those two announcements in his speech at Symphony Nova Scotia’s Symphony Week concert at Halifax’s Stanfield International Airport.

air canada



More details:

We are happy to introduce a few enhancements to our carry-on baggage policy that will be of great interest to you if you travel with a musical instrument.

In addition to our current policy that ensures items which meet our carry-on size requirements * can be brought on board and stored in the overhead bins or under the seat in front of you, we now offer a 50% discount off any fare, including the lowest available one, to customers who would like to purchase a seat to accommodate their musical instrument in the same cabin that they are booked in.

And if you’re traveling with a musical instrument as carry-on, you will now be invited to board the plane during pre-boarding in advance of general boarding so you’ll have a little more time to store your precious possession in an overhead bin close to your seat. If you need help with this, our flight attendants will be happy to assist.

We take every care when transporting all of our customers’ belongings. But please remember that, because of their fragile nature, musical instruments should always be properly packaged in a rigid and/or hard shell container . This is especially important in the event that your musical instrument needs to be checked at the gate if it is not possible to accommodate it on board because of passenger loads, aircraft limitations or insufficient storage space.

Read our complete policy on travelling with a musical instrument.

* String instruments (e.g. guitars, violins and violas) can be carried on board – even if their dimensions slightly exceed our carry-on size limits.




  • milka says:

    Its Air Canada all the way !!!!!! and I hate flying – what musician would
    think of going with another airline …

    • C O'Brien says:

      I very recently had to buy two seats on a British Airways flight for my daughter to travel from Heathrow to Basel. My daughters seat cost about £150, the cello’s (weight 6.5kg, no snacks consumed) cost £300.
      I think this is outrageous profiteering.
      Anyone any advice on how to create a stinking fuss?!

      • Robert King says:

        We always have our cello seats for BA and many other scheduled airlines booked by a travel agent who knows what they are doing. We have never on BA paid more for a cello seat than we have for a human seat – quite the opposite, as you don’t pay the taxes on a cello seat on BA (so the fee that you will quite rightly pay to the agency for their skilled work will normally be more than covered by the saving you make on the cello seat taxes).

        BA are excellent for cellos on seats: you just need someone making the booking who knows what to do. (I don’t know your circumstances but it sounds as if you may have been unfortunate enough to have had a booking agent who didn’t quite know what they were doing). We have worked for years with Specialised Travel, London W5 (and many other renowned orchestras do so too), but there are other firms too who move orchestras and should be able to book you a BA cello seat. On BA you cannot book a cello seat directly yourself online.

  • ruben greenberg says:

    If the instrument occupies a seat and pays 50% of the normal fare, is it entitled to a meal? -to half a meal? If a cello is over 65 years of age, will it benefit from a senior discount?

  • Ravi Narasimhan says:

    Bravo, Air Canada! I wish they flew US domestic routes and I’m not even a musician with an instrument to stow.

  • lila ainsworth says:

    A wonderful precedent for Air Canada to set. I hope many airlines will follow suit.

    Thank you Air Canada!

  • Scott Fields says:

    Good for Air Canada. Their reputation has been poor in this department. It’s great that their policy is repaired and I hope it serves as a model for other airlines.

  • Stuard Young says:

    As a U.S. partner, will United now follow this (same, humane) policy?

  • Richard Savage says:

    Delighted to see this initiative from Air Canada. We hope their “sponsorship and merchandising” people will instruct their reservations people suitably. When we tried to book 3 celli with Air Canada last week, we were told that whilst players were OK, we would have to request cello seats and receive specially quoted fares. That required talking to their reservations staff – based in Mumbai – on numerous occasions who had no idea what a cello was. They took a further 3 days to respond and when they did, the fare was not 50%. There is, sadly, still a significant gap between what airlines post as policy on instruments – written by their PR people – and actual delivery. Too often, the problems stem from local airport staff not in their direct employ. The idea that a cello seat might be entitled to meals, baggage allowances and FF miles is an old chestnut. It doesn’t, and that is because it is not regarded as a person by airlines but in the broad category of ‘Cabin Baggage’ which is also used for diplomatic bags, fragile medical supplies and much else. One famous cellist had both his FF status and his own hard-earned miles cancelled by a major US carrier when he tried to buck the system.

  • T K says:

    Still no use for bass players… they claim to have this great new oversize and overweight policy where you only pay a combined $75. Looks good on paper, but they don’t allow more than 70lbs PERIOD and the minimum dimensions are too small. Good luck ever finding a bass in a flight case less than 70 lbs! I have a fairly light bass and a good case and it still weights 76! After calling them yesterday, they flat out said they would refuse such an instrument, no debate. Air Canada continues to proudly pay lip service while countless musicians STILL can’t fly due to their silly policy. Their partner United allows up to 165 lbs!!!