And the best airline for musicians is…

And the best airline for musicians is…


norman lebrecht

May 12, 2017

According to a decision by the International Federation of Musicians (FIM), it’s … Air Canada.

Here’s the announcement picture from the FIM’s fourth international orchestras conference in Montreal.


We have no idea how this decision was reached.

Maybe they were just being nice to the hosts.

Slipped Disc has received many complaints about Ar Canada, most recently this shocker.

Oh, and this.

Whatever Air Canada are, they are not cello friendly.

Or guitar, either.


  • V.Lind says:

    Air Canada published a policy statement on instruments a year or so ago that was widely approved –I had thought including here but perhaps I read it in the FIM newsletter and elsewhere.

    That whining cellist with the Gofriller seemed to be moaning about he fact that the airline staff was working HARD ti secure his bloody cello. Perhaps if a few travelling musicians woudl work half as hard on securing the encasing of their instruments we would not have so much wailing and gnashing of teeth at arrivals halls.

    The Kremer situation seems to be one more example of untrained staff. As I daresay it involves more than musicians, I think complaining loundly and long is the only solution.

    But I doubt AC’s OFFICIAL policy is bettered by any other airline. I do not think FIM was kow-towing to the hosts.

    • Mike says:

      Air Canada’s revised policy, while better than its last one, is still a garbled mess. It presently states that instruments that slightly exceed carry-on baggage allowances may be brought aboard if they fit in an overhead bin. That makes sense. However, this rule only applies if the instrument is a string instrument. Air Canada has never explained why exactly they feel string instruments are innately superior to wind and brass instruments of comparable fragility and value. I’ve corresponded with AC on the subject and they had no explanation to offer.

      If Air Canada’s fleet is so shockingly un-airworthy that the presence of a single trombone or bass clarinet will cause the safety of an aircraft to be jeopardized, they need to ground their fleet immediately. If that’s not the case, they need to update the policy that they screwed up. Either way, they’ve had years to figure the matter out, and they haven’t.

      • BENOIT MACHUEL says:

        Hi Mike,

        We should be careful not to create confusion between the company’s policy and the way it is deployed across the fleet.

        The FIM award is about the policy, and Air Canada’s policy does not make any distinction between string instruments and other musical instruments.

        We of course pay careful attention to negative feedback and request explanations from both parties in need be, but it is essential to be as fair as possible and not draw hasty conclusions based upon a few dissatisfied customers. Happy customers rarely report about their positive experience, whereas unhappy ones may be quite quick in expressing their frustration. This is in no way a sufficient basis for any kind of useable statistics.

        Best regards,

        Benoît Machuel
        General Secretary, International Federation of Musicians

  • Gerald Mertens says:

    Why so harsh, Norman? For your background: there was an international jury, which I was a member of. There were criteria defined and published by FIM last summer for musician friendly airlines with a red-amber-green system. Air Canada met all the expactations and got a green badge. As of all “green” Airlines from some 200 in the FIM list, Air Canada explained to be willing offering optimal conditions for tavelling musicians in future, too. There may be sometimes incidents with instruments which are caused by single travel agents, for which the airline might not be directly responsible. However, Air Canada is promoting its musician friendly policy to its staff worldwide as much as possible. Finally: Air Canada is not a sponsor of the 4th International Orchestra Conference. Sincerly yours, Gerald Mertens. Managing Editor of “das Orchester”

    • norman lebrecht says:

      Dear Gerald
      We have a fairly high volume of complaints about Air Canada. Were you not aware of them? best, Norman

      • BENOIT MACHUEL says:

        Come on Norman…

        Have you even corresponded with the Kremerata Baltica to try and understand what the problem was about and how it had ended? I guess you did not. I did.

        Private assumptions cannot replace a real, documented work. This is a matter of credibility.

        If you really are interested in delivering useful, reliable information to your readers, I remain at your disposal to provide you with details about the FIM Airline of Choice award.

        Best regards,

        Benoît Machuel
        General Secretary, International Federation of Musicians

        • norman lebrecht says:

          Actually, yes, I did correspond with the Kremerata Baltica… and with other Air Canada complainants, who have not heard from the FIM. An airline cannot be judged on its policy. Practice is all that matters. NL