Air Canada makes changes to protect musical instruments

The Canadian Federation of Musicians is applauding Air Canada changes regarding the transportation of musical instruments on flights.

Musicians can now purchase a seat at half price for instruments

Changes to Air Canada's policy on transporting musical instruments are being welcomed by Dave Carroll, the singer-songwriter who wrote United Breaks Guitars after his 2009 experience with the American airline company.

"I think it's a great thing," the Halifax-based musician told CBC News. "I think Air Canada should be congratulated for recognizing that musicians travelling with instruments need special consideration sometimes, and I think it's definitely a move in the right direction."

Air Canada is offering a 50 per cent discount on an adjacent seat for musicians who want to keep their instruments close. The airline will also allow musicians to pre-board so they'll have more time to store their instruments overhead.

The moves are being applauded by at least one group that represents musicians.

"Musicians have long had difficulty transporting the tools of their trade, which are often very expensive and irreplaceable," according to Alan Willaert, the Canadian vice-president for the American Federation of Musicians

But while Carroll said he's pleased with Air Canada's new policy, he also wonders if musicians who can't afford to buy an extra seat will still be able to walk their instruments to the plane door and the pick them up after the flight lands, as a parent would a stroller.

United Breaks Guitars

He said that's often what he does at Toronto's Pearson International Airport to cut down on how much his guitar is handled and how long it spends on airport baggage conveyor belts.

He said a lot of attention has been drawn to issues faced by musicians travelling with their instruments ever since he wrote his United Airlines song in 2009. His performance of the song has more than 15 million views on YouTube.

"It's been incredible the way United Breaks Guitars has given momentum to an idea," Carroll said.

A new law passed in the U.S. in the past year says musicians must be allowed to take their guitars on flights and store them in overhead bins. They take precedence over other baggage and cannot be removed to make space for someone else's luggage.

Carroll said he received a note from the American Federation of Musicians telling him his video did more to help lobby the U.S. government than all other efforts in the previous 10 years.

He is urging other airlines to follow Air Canada's lead.

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