The Great Air Canada Cello Saga, Part 2

Edmonton to Vancouver – Tuesday 8 November 2000

The day starts well enough. Having spent around an hour on the phone trying to get through on Air Canada’s customer service hotline. Peter decides it will be easier to get up at 5.30am and go to Edmonton Airport and speak with the customer service supervisor there, to ensure there are no further problems transporting the cellos. This he does, and receives glowing assurances from an Air Canada official that rules will be bent and that the cellos will definitely travel with the group on the flight to Vancouver for tonight’s concert. Peter returns to the hotel, tired but happy to have it sorted.

We traipse to the airport and begin checking in, and Peter is met with bad news. The very same customer service official ‘•’• ho had that very morning assured him that everything was fine and that she had authority to make everything happen has apparently realised that the flight to Vancouver is not operated by Air Canada. but by a subsidiary company and that there can be no bending of rules and that the cellos cannot fly! This news met with some dismay, as, dear reader, you can imagine.

Blood pressure rises, more senior officials are called, law suits are threatened, and even an escalation of the negative publicity that Air Canada has already received for this affair is mentioned as a distinct possibility. Officials back away to regroup. Special charter flights are discussed, nay, demanded. That there is no way the cellos can travel in the cargo hold is reiterated numerous times for the benefit of the hard of hearing. Officials go away again, and then come up with a solution. There is another flight to Vancouver ninety minutes later, operated by another Air Canada subsidiary, and apparently rules may be bent on that aircraft. All the cellos and sufficient personnel to move them safely must travel later, so Ivan, Brendan and myself volunteer. The rest of the party boards the direct flight to Vancouver, and we and our five cellos are ushered into the ‘Empress’ club lounge, where we avail ourselves of the executive refreshments and email services provided, and await our flight.

I am delighted to report that there were no further incidents. We boarded our flight, the cabin crew were most helpful and were somewhat aghast when we related our saga to them, as they seemed to have no problem with the concept of transporting cellos at all. Even the heavy-duty webbing was dispensed with and the instruments spent a comfortable flight strapped in with seat belt extensions. We arrive in Vancouver on dusk to some light showers but no snow, and head to the Chan Centre for our first concert, all cellos and their players in tact. We are also relieved that we have no further flights on this tour (nor are we likely ever to have any more flights!) with Air Canada.

A maple leaf in autumnal Vancouver
A maple leaf in autumnal Vancouver

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