Andrea Stewart, a Doctoral candidate at McGill University who teaches at the Schulich School of Music, was flying out of Trudeau Airport Monday with her group, Uccello, headed for rehearsals in California's Napa Valley.
Listen to Stewart tell the story of her Air Canada ordeal live on CBC Montreal's Daybreak this morning at 6:40 a.m. Listen live here.
Concerned about her fragile instrument, she paid extra to have a seat for the cello, and opted for an addition seat selection fee so she would be next to it.
Air Canada is the only Canadian airline that allows travellers to purchase seats for cellos, she said, but it's routine in Europe.
Stewart arrived at the ticket counter for her early morning flight, she was told they couldn't accommodate her.
"They charged me for two tickets but they only reserved one seat," she said, adding the reservation was made by a travel agency.
She waited at the counter for hours trying to work out a solution with customer service agents and eventually a manager.
In the end, the journey that should have been a five hour direct flight took Stewart nearly 22 hours. Stewart said the only compensation she was offered for the ordeal was a sandwich.
Air Canada was 'not aware' of cello
Air Canada provided CBC with a statement, saying that an extra ticket for an instrument must be purchased through Air Canada Reservations so that the necessary restraints are brought on board to safely tie it down.
"In this particular case, the booking was not made by Air Canada, and the travel agent making the booking regrettably did not contact us to advise Ms. Stewart was travelling with a cello. We were not aware until she arrived at the airport, at which time we unfortunately could not accommodate it," the statement read.
"We have ensured that Ms. Stewart's return flight has had her cello correctly booked on her flight."