Air Canada refuse to fly Kremer’s cellos

The Kremerata Baltica were due to fly yesterday from New York (Newark) to Toronto. Extra seats had been booked for four cellos, and confirmed by email.

At the check-in desk, Air Canada announced that is was ‘policy’ not to carry more than one cello per flight. Prior to check-in, all four cellos had been officially confirmed by Air Canada representatives, and confirmation emails for all of them were presented at the airport.

Unable to take their instruments, the four cellists had to wait for hours for other flights to Toronto. In the end, they took three different flights and just made in on stage in time.

Lesson to orchestras: Don’t fly Air Canada until they clarify their attitude.

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  • Only 1 cello per flight? What about violas, how many are allowed per flight? What’s the security risk of having 2 string instruments in the same plane? Inquiring minds want to know Air Canada’s logic (or lack of).

  • I have an even better lesson to offer: Don’t fly Air Canada unless all other airlines have evaporated, along with the oceans. It is one of the worst, and certainly not only where ‘cellos are concerned.

    • Its policies are better than many’s, and this site among others rejoiced in the new policies it announced in late 2015. AC does suggest a limit, but does not specify:

      https://www.aircanada.com/ca/en/aco/home/plan/baggage/special-items.html

      This seems to me not unreasonable. They are already discounting the seat, and like most carriers it may see its primary objective in non-cargo flights being to transport people. They would doubtless see the need to decline a person in favour of an instrument as not good PR (never mind the financial incentive). Problem is, a musician is essentially arguing that he/she is an incomplete person without his/her instrument, which is sort of true in terms of taking it to play a gig. Interesting philosophical question, and not one AC or any other airline’s staff have the time or probably the capacity to be pondering as the cellos turn up.

      If the email explicitly confirmed permission for two cellos, it should have been honoured. If it was a general policy statement, the Quartet was caught napping. One thing I AM sick of it airline ground staff and cabin crew not honouring official airline policy, let alone email confirmations with the airline. What price my word is my bond now? And what the hell are passengers supposed to take as guidelines?

    • During my piloting years, I noticed that Air Canada was exemplary in their airmanship, upper air work, aid and courtesy to other pilots – they are generally extremely helpful. Lots of pilots read about aircraft “ditching” in their manuals, but Air Canada takes their pilots, puts them in an aircraft (partial), dunks them, and makes them swim out, presumably grabbing the nearest floating cello.

      I have also flown across Canada with a cello – met nothing but courtesy, and concern as my cello pre-boarded and was netted snugly into its seat.

    • AGREED I will NEVER, EVER fly AC again.. my three experiences were horrendous.. Including trying to check in at toronto/pearson at 6:30 am when there must have been at least 3,000,000 people there.. . the kiosks would not print baggage tags, the lines all meshed with each other…. … BTW I was at their Concert in Toronto.. it was a night to remember….:>)))

  • We agree that Air Canada needs to address the whole issue of carrying celli. We book the passenger directly, but have to call Air Canada to book their cello. The call centre is not in Canada or Europe and the staff often do not initially understand the request. They can’t tell us the cost immediately as there is no set formula. They sometimes quote the cello as paying both tax and fuel surcharge, sometimes one or the other, sometimes neither. This, of course means that we are unable to give clients an accurate fare quote at time of booking. The cello request is sent through to a “pricing department” who call back – a process which often takes up to 3 days. We then issue the passenger ticket and they charge a company credit card for the cello component. To add to the fun, they then re-issue the original passenger ticket to include the cello, a process not followed by any other airline. This means that if there are subsequent changes, we have to call again; at which point they have absolutely no idea how to separate out the ticket to resolve the problem.

    One request: a call to action such as “boycott the airline until they get their act together” usually falls on deaf ears. In many cases, there is only a limited choice of airlines on any given route. Sadly, many carriers have cut out so much of their middle management that there is no-one with the knowledge or experience to take control of such a problem. We have worked with several carriers to help them implement a workable policy for musical instruments. We hope Air Canada will fall into line soon.

  • Air Canada is actually very good regarding musical instruments. The issue with the cellos, I believe, is that they require a special net to restrain the cello, and it must be strapped in by an Air Canada technician. It does seem crazy that they require this net, but I believe it is some sort of Transport Canada directive. Likewise, VIA Rail Canada has trouble accepting cellos because of the “must be restrained” rule.

    Nevertheless, it would be good if the policies and ticketing procedures were clearer.

  • musical instruments are an issue in cabin seats due
    Possible danger if ejected during accident..maybe confusion over number carried but very logical reason for
    concern about carrying.
    As for not flying Air Canada again -give me a break- one of top airlines in worldcarrying millions of passengers a year.
    With those numbers of course their can be some issues.
    Having flown with the airline for 30 yrs have had very few problems worth complaining about!

    • “Possible danger if ejected during accident..”
      The possibility exists of course but at Air Canada, every man, woman and child stands a higher chance of hurtling through the cabin like a bouncy ball in the event of an accident, long before a strap on that cello will even start to loosen…..
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sS_i5_X8Spw

  • Air Canada are indeed a good carrier and there’s nothing unsafe about carrying one or several celli in an aicrcraft cabin if they’re properly secured. The issue here is that AC haven’t got their act together for either the booking process or carriage. Other airlines have – but even that doesn’t stop anomalies, often caused by unbriefed, subcontracted local staff.

  • So: eight AC flights for Villa Lobos’s BB #5. A huge environmental “footprint” for 12 minutes of music performed lived.

  • Air Canada is the only passenger airline in Canada that will accept cellos onboard. So good luck finding another way of getting around the country.

  • Regarding safety nets – nonsense. The ground staff should be able to think outside the box. A simple seat belt is enough to keep the instrument securely in place. Shame on AC, however good people say they are, they should know better that musicians’ lives depend on their instruments. Totally agree with those who say “don’t fly with them until they get their act together”. Also , make as much noise in the social media as possible.

    • The “cello net” directive comes from Transport Canada, not Air Canada. WestJet, for example, will not accept cellos at all in the cabin for the reasons of expense, co-ordination, extra manpower and probability of delays. Any cellist is well aware of the hassle these nets create for everyone.

      The real issue here is the communication. Air Canada is at fault for its employees not knowing the rules. Considering the number of cellos that fly every year (very low) it’s not a high priority.

  • Shame on you AC. Get your act together, stop punishing people whose life depends on their instruments. People, make as much noise in the social media as possible.

  • Qantas, Australia’s preeminent airline, refuse to check in Cellos in direct contradiction of their checked baggage dimension specs. They referred me to Qantas freight who, on typing in dimensions of flight cover, suggested the ‘package’ be cut in 2. Haha!

    After 3 attempts to book and pay for a cello seat I finally have confirmation and a large bill. Here’s hoping no more roadblocks at the airport.

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