Cellist gets refunded for his extra seat

Nathan Chan, the cellist whose instrument was bumped off WestJet and had to be flown separately at great inconvenience, has been refunded the cost of the extra seat he purchased.

That’s $248.74.

But there’s no apology or policy shift from WestJet, so he’s running a petition to change their stubborn attitude.

Click here.

nathan chan drew alexander forde

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  • Here’s our experience with United with purchasing a cello seat:
    Purchase your cello seat separately from passenger seat with United, you may end up paying 6 times more than what you were quoted over the phone, but won’t find out till you receive your credit card statement because United does not send an email receipt of the cello seat within the 24 hour cancellation period. In fact, after more than one month of request, I have NEVER received a receipt.

    After we booked our daughter flight for the 2 week Christmas break, she wanted to know if she can bring her cello back home to record her audition. It’s our first time purchasing a cello seat since she borrowed her cousin’s expensive cello. I called United to get a price quote and after more than one hour of waiting on the phone, the agent finally came back with the quote of $164 return trip. We were pleasantly surprised and thought since Air Canada issued the 50% of the lowest fare for cello seat, United must have followed their policy. I repeated the amount to the agent and she confirmed it’s $164 so we thought this was affordable and gave her the credit card. I asked her to email me the receipt and she said she would, but we NEVER received the receipt

    When we receive the credit card statement, to our shock, the amount was not $164 but $1096.63. I called United and requested them to again send me a receipt. When I asked the agent to stay on the phone with me to make sure I got the email, she refused because it would take up to 24 hours to receive the email and she can’t stay with me that long. Well, it’s been more than one month and I still have not received the receipt. I asked the agent how I can make sure we get the cello seat receipt, she said if I still don’t have it after 24 hours, I need to contact Customer Care.

    I have been corresponding with the United Customer Care agent for over 2 weeks now and she has not been able to answer my question: can United confirm that when we get a quote on the phone for a cello seat separate from a passenger seat, will we be able to receive an email receipt confirming the price within 24 hours so if the written price is different from what we were quoted on the phone that we can cancel within 24 hours?

    I would have never bought the cello seat for her to practice for 2 weeks if I knew it would cost us over $1,000. I would not know in the future how to be sure how much the cello seat would cost us if we don’t have a receipt to confirm what was quoted.

  • Today I had a choice of a cheaper airline (American Airlines) that does flightshares with WestJet or a more pricey one (Delta or United) that doesn’t. Guess which one I chose?

    I really, really don’t understand why corporate America often bends over backwards when irate moms launch angry crusades against a product they themselves may or may not buy, yet the airline business repeatedly fails to acknowledge so much as the existence of a definable demographic that is sure to repeatedly use their services. Frequent fliers and brand loyalty are the name of the game in flight, aren’t they? And what are we, as musicians, if not the actual incarnation of that boardroom abstraction? So why, in the name of all that is NOT asinine, does the management of every airline close ranks behind the glaring stupidity of a front-line pawn, like a gate agent, ESPECIALLY when their unequivocally stupid judgment call is not only bad PR but actually against the bloody law?!

  • It is doubtful that Mr. Chan’s petition will bring about much change.
    The former cellist of the Cleveland Quartet Paul Katz had the exact same encounter. He booked a flight through American Airlines, paid for a second seat for his cello, arrived at the gate, only to find that the flight would be operated by WestJet and was given the same option of placing the instrument in the hold or finding alternative transport for the 1669 Andrea Guarneri cello (he chose the hold)…..that was in 2012.
    Mr. Katz’s story was discussed in the Boston Globe (September 2012) and received following response from a WestJet spokesman:
    “Musical instruments: Although seats may not be purchased for instruments, we will accept small instruments as part of the carry-on baggage allowance. Exceptions may be made for irregular-sized instruments. All instruments must be stowed in the overhead compartment, under the seat or in other approved locations. This is left to the discretion of the cabin crew and Customer Service Agent upon checking flight and baggage loads. Instruments may also be accepted in checked baggage when they are properly packed.
    There is no rule banning cellos or any other specific musical instrument. However, they must be able to be stowed in the overhead bins. If they are too large or of an odd shape, they must go below the wing. You cannot buy a seat for a musical instrument because the seat and its restraint system are designed and rated for a person.”

    Mr. Katz also published a more detailed exchange between himself and a WestJet spokesperson on his ‘CelloBello’ blog (cellobello.com/blog/index.php/bumping-the-cello-an-exchange-between-westjets-robert-barron-and-paul-katz/).

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