Cellist Andrea Stewart had purchased an extra seat for the instrument
Air Canada has again hit the headlines for its musical instrument transportation policy.
Last week, the airline refused to carry a cello in the cabin despite a seat being bought in advance. Andrea Stewart, a PhD student at McGill University in Montreal, purchased two seats for herself and her cello from Trudeau International Airport to Napa Valley, California, and paid an additional surcharge to preselect a window seat for the instrument, in line with the airline’s policy.
However, on arriving at the ticket counter, she was informed by a member of staff that the airline was not aware that the second seat was for an instrument and she would therefore not be allowed to board. Ultimately, after a great deal of discussion, she was able to make her journey – but a direct trip which should have lasted just five hours, was eventually completed in 22 hours.
‘In this particular case, the booking was not made by Air Canada, and the travel agent making the booking regrettably did not contact us to advise Ms. Stewart was travelling with a cello,’ said Air Canada in a statement to Canada’s CBC News. ‘We were not aware until she arrived at the airport, at which time we unfortunately could not accommodate it.’
The airline went on to say the issue was not a lack of space, but that advance warning was required to ensure the necessary restraints were brought on board to safely tie down the cello.
Earlier this year Air Canada refused to sell musician Richard Harwood an extra ticket for his cello as it 'exceeded the requisite dimensions'.
In October 2014 there was widespread condemnation of the airline's illogical viola transportation policy. At the time, the company’s website stated that violas could not be transported as carry-on baggage, despite the fact that violins would be allowed in the cabin provided there was room in the overhead bins. The airline subsequently reversed the policy in response to media pressure.
Andrea Stewart has now contacted The Strad with the following account:
'I was actually told that there was not a second seat attached at all to my ticket (although the fee charged was doubled), and that the flight was oversold due to cancellations the day before. Because of this, as several ticket agents told me, there was no way to get me or my cello on the flight I had booked. It wasn't until later that Air Canada made a statement saying that they had a record of the extra seat but not what it was for. By the way, the travel agent that booked the flight does have written proof that Air Canada knew the extra seat was for a cello. Further, the initial Air Canada agents were entirely unhelpful and didn't suggest any alternative to the problem until I asked if I could be rerouted to my final destination with other flights (thus the 22 hour journey).'