Renowned Cellist Kicked off a Flight Despite Having a Business Class Ticket for His Cello

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Colombian cellist Santiago Cañón-Valencia was kicked off a Copa Airlines because he brought his cello onboard despite having bought business class tickets for both himself and his cello. He was on his way to Caracas, Venezuela from Bogota, Colombia to perform a Saint-Saens concerto.

Cello on Plane
Source: Flickr / modenadude
Source: Flickr / modenadude

Copa Airlines is a Panamanian budget carrier and a member of the Star Alliance which also includes United, Air Canada, Air New Zealand, Lufthansa, and many others.

A Trail of Broken Instruments and Denied Boardings

Musicians have it rough when traveling with their instruments. Many airlines have musical instrument policies to prevent larger musical instruments from being brought on board. Often, these policies are to reserve overhead bin space for smaller luggage, but musical instruments require careful handling that airlines often have little care for.

Related Article: Best Cello Hard Cases

Headlines are rife with stories of broken violins, violas, cellos, guitars, and more. United was in the headlines in 2017 for breaking a cello and Air Canada destroyed a $13,000 viola a few years ago. Sadly, airlines are not very friendly to musicians onboard, and their baggage handlers aren’t very careful with instruments. I have often called my viola a violin when flying with it since the viola tends to be on the cusp of being too big for typical airline musical instrument policies.

At least with Santiago, they kicked him off the flight instead of accidentally destroying his priceless cello.

Who Is Santiago Cañón-Valencia?

Santiago is a 27-year-old cellist from Bogota, Colombia. He began playing cello at the age of four and gave his first solo concert at six years old with the Bogotá Philharmonic Orchestra. He has performed with a number of orchestras around the world and has received masterclasses from other renowned cello players including Yo-Yo Ma.

The Best Airlines to Fly With a Cello

The  International Federation of Musicians (IMF) maintains a list of airlines that it considers best for flying with cellos and other musical instruments. The airlines IMF recommends are: Air Canada, Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Airlines, Eva Air, JetBlue, Southwest Airlines, and, surprisingly enough, United.

Will Airlines Ever Learn

All of the turbulence (pun intended) over the last few years has created chaos in the airline industry, but you think that they would have learned to be more accommodating to passengers, especially those who pay for business class tickets. I guess we’ll never know.

Thanks to Slipped Disc who first reported on this story.

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Featured Image Source: Flickr / modenadude

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Bobby is a viola player who currently lives in Seattle. He has been playing viola for over 20 years in various orchestras.


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