'I was left alone:' Famed violinist Perlman abandoned by staff at Toronto airport
Andrea Janus, CTVNews.ca
Published Tuesday, April 1, 2014 2:02PM EDT
Classical music legend Itzhak Perlman says he was abandoned at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport after he arrived in town for a charity concert Monday afternoon.
The world-renowned violinist, who contracted polio as a child and gets around with the aid of crutches or a scooter, says he has a note on his file with Air Canada that he requires assistance upon landing at the airport.
This time, the person who met him was upset that he had carry-on luggage and then abandoned him before they arrived at customs.
Perlman has been travelling to Canada for concerts for more than 40 years and says that “this has never happened to me before.”
“Now it’s kind of frightening, because if I’m alone I am basically relying on people to help me between the plane landing and when you get to the passport control,” Perlman told CTV News Channel in a telephone interview Tuesday from his home in New York. “And in this particular case I was just left hanging.”
Perlman says that a man met him at the door of the aircraft and said he was there to help the 68-year-old violinist. But when he saw his carry-on, Perlman says, the man said: “I’m not going to touch that bag.”
The man agreed to carry Perlman’s carry-on luggage and help him down one elevator but then left him at a second elevator.
When Perlman asked how he would carry the bag the rest of the way, he says the man replied: “It’s not my problem that you chose to carry an extra bag.”
“He says: ‘You’re not paying me for this. I’m not your personal assistant. I have other flights to take care of.’”
Perlman says he asked what he should do with his bag, and the man replied: ‘I don’t know.’ Then he left.
Perlman said it was like being left in “the Twilight Zone area in the Toronto airport.”
He managed to get to customs with his scooter -- with his bag, violin and crutches piled on his lap -- and received some help from a police officer.
“All that time I was looking up and all I see is ‘Welcome to Canada,’ Perlman says. “And I said ‘that’s interesting.’”
Perlman says he was unsure whether the man was from Air Canada or an employee of the airport. “I was too busy being flabbergasted,” he says. However, Perlman said he always notifies the airline when he is on one of its flights and requires assistance.
The airline said it is looking into what happened.
“We find this very concerning as it’s not at all representative of Air Canada’s policies to take care of customers with disabilities,” airline spokesperson Peter Fitzpatrick said in a statement.
“We’re looking into this regrettable situation. We will be in contact with the customer to discuss this matter and offer our apologies.”
Fitzpatrick noted that the airline has “extensive procedures” in place to assist passengers who need extra help. The airline manages 25,000 wheelchair requests per month at Pearson airport, he said.
Perlman says he travels to Toronto “very, very often and there’s never been a problem.”
In response to Air Canada’s statement, Perlman said “I’m sure that they’re trying” but the airline should know that their policies failed in this instance.
“I don’t know what was on his mind, but I was left alone,” Perlman says. “I was left alone.”