Air Canada says it's investigating complaints from Itzhak Perlman after the disabled virtuoso violinist claimed he was abandoned by a disability assistant and left to deal with his own luggage when arriving at Toronto's Pearson International Airport.
"We find this very concerning as it is not at all representative of Air Canada's policies," said Peter Fitzpatrick, a spokesman for Air Canada, in a statement. "We are looking into this regrettable situation and we will be in contact with the customer to discuss this matter and offer our apologies."
The Israeli-American violinist, who contracted polio at the age of four and uses crutches or a mobility scooter to get around, was in Toronto Monday night for a charity concert.
He said airline officials had his information that he was supposed to be met at the airport by someone to help him through customs.
He said he was met by a man who took one of his bags and accompanied him to an elevator.
"And he says, 'Well, that's where I leave you.' I said, 'What do you mean 'where I leave you?''"
Perlman said the man then rearranged his bags on his lap, which included a heavy bag, violin, a couple of more bags and his crutches.
"I said, 'What about this bag?" referring to his carry-on. "He said, 'Well, it's not my problem that you chose to carry an extra bag. And besides, I'm not your personal assistant. You're not paying me or anything.'"
"I said, 'This is ridiculous.' He says, 'Well, I've got to go, I've got other flights to take care of.' And he just left me there."
'Welcome to Canada'
Perlman said he was able to load everything on his lap and found an officer who helped him get in line for immigration.
"I looked up and there was signs saying 'Welcome to Canada.' And I said to myself, well, I don't know about this. The way this gentleman treated me was ridiculous
"I felt abandoned. I felt like I was kind of helpless."
Perlman said he's been coming to Toronto for more than 40 years and this is the first time he's ever had an ordeal like this.
He said he's speaking out because he hopes the experience will raise awareness about the needs of people with disabilities.