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Lost airbound cello is found, no thanks to Air Canada

Matt Haimovitz has come up with a semi-happy ending for one of the week’s horror stories:

My student finally found her cello, no thanks to Air Canada. The airline kept insisting that they could not find the cello. My student decided to go to the Toronto Airport in order to reach someone face to face. To her astonishment, her cello was lying on the floor along with a pile of other delayed baggage for anyone to take. When she opened the travel case, she discovered that the cello has a new crack running down the side of the instrument.

matt haim

UPDATE: the power of Slipped Disc. Air Canada have contacted us on twitter and we have linked them to Matt. Hopeful we’ll get a resolution. message read: @NLebrecht Hello Norman, could you give us a follow and DM us additional info so we can get in touch with the student in question?

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  1. Seriously, what’s wrong with all the cellists checking in their instrument! They should be blamed and not the airline. Treat your (hopefully) beloved instrument like a human being and buy an extra ticket…

    Obviously fragile things are not handled with enough care at an airport, but it is kind of understandable when the “luggage-guy” has to handle hundreds of bags per day…

    Travelling for us musicians these days is a bit of a struggle, so I am trying at least to keep as much as possible under my own control.

    • Rosana Martins says:

      You forget that most cellists cannot afford to buy an extra ticket for the celli. Your suggestion means that only established cellist would be able to travel and play concerts.

      The option for the vast majority of cellists is to have a hard case for their instruments and PRAY that airline and airport people do their work with care.

      • That is unfortunately a problem. On the other hand, the risk costs you a lot of nerves and in case of trouble (like it was in this case) time (=money) and a damaged instrument…

        • Michal Kaznowski says:

          To slightly misquote George Bernard Shaw: ‘When and obviously well founded statement is made …. by a person specially well acqainted with the facts, that unlucky person is instantly contradicted by all the people who obviously know nothing about it.’.

          Michal Kaznowski. Cellist Maggini Quartet

    • Enough with blaming the musician. There was a case last year where a bass player bought a ticket for his instrument but was told the instrument could not be allowed on the aircraft and HAD to be checked. So this doesn’t necessarily work, either.

    • Mr. Paul says:

      Are you serious ?
      Not everyone can buy an extra $1,800 dlls ticket for his cello.
      I did invest on a Stevenson travel case for my beloved cello but the air company should be responsible for at least returning your luggage, come on !
      SHAME on Air Canada !!

  2. Bill H. says:

    Another issue, even with instruments as small as violins, is that the Airline’s POLICY may be one thing, but an uninformed, poorly trained or just pissed-off Airline employee such as a gate agent may act in an arbitrary and capricious manner to disallow a musician from boarding with their instrument. This can happen whether or not they have a “ticket” for it, or whether there’s otherwise plenty of space for it.

    • That is true, but from my own experience you mostly manage to get trough with a violin or viola when you are taking it straight to the supervisor. No need to start big discussions with small-minded checkin personel.

      In the last years I had quite a lot international flights to China, Japan and the US plus plenty of domestic flights, especially in the US. Had to fight few times (especially with US Airways) but it always worked out. I guess I have been probably very lucky.

      Actually my US agent gave me a printout which regulates the law of carry on instruments on US flights. There it is written, that all US airlines have to allow it. This always helped me during my travels on american soil.

    • Yup, some airline “counter agents” can become outright assholes. That happened to me in Anchorage, some years ago. A straight overhand right (from guess who) taught him not to be so arrogant to a wayfarin’ stranger.
      Live and learn….

  3. Rosalind says:

    Kudos for the Air Canada employee who has picked up on Norman’s coverage and is at least seeking to contact the student concerned. Hopefully there will be a positive ending to this story.

  4. Cellist Paul Katz told me that, in his experience, Canadian airlines were the most anti-cello airlines in the world. Sometimes Air Canada will allow cellos in cabin seats (for a price) — but on some planes and routes, the cellos must be stowed in baggage.

  5. Nancy England says:

    Years ago I moved to Europe for a year, traveled by steamship, and shipped my cello on the same boat. It was in its hard case, which was surrounded by tight packing material, all in a made-to-order crate which was about 3′x3′ on a side. Took longer to unpack it than to run through a complete Bach unaccompanied sonata. No other problems, though. Getting it through customs was a no-brainer. None of them wanted to unpack it!

  6. Indeed, the cost of the extra seat is very high, and you can still be denied boarding. The new carbon fiber cases are extremely resistant, and my instrument dealer suggested I then wrap it in a couple layers of the big bubble wrap- taking care to leave the handles accessible. It might be a good strategy to carry bubble wrap in case your instrument is denied boarding, if you are taking it on board. There is always some risk, of course.

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