Classical Music

VC Young Artist Santiago Cañón Valencia’s Cello Refused on Copa Airlines

The Colombian-born cellist was instructed to leave the cabin after the flight captain refused to take off with the cello onboard


On October 13, 2022, VC Young Artist cellist Santiago Cañón Valencia was traveling with an extra seat for his cello with Copa Airlines from Colombia to Venezuela, where he was scheduled to perform Saint Saëns’ Cello Concerto No. 2 with the Orquesta Sinfónica de Venezuela and give a masterclass at the Conservatorio de Música de Carabobo on October 15 and 16.

Valencia was approached by the cabin crew just prior to departure. They said that according to orders from the flight captain — since his cello was unable to fit in the overhead compartments — he could either put the instrument in the hold or leave the plane for a different option. As Valencia sought to explain, the airlines’ website states that oversized instruments are allowed in the cabin if an extra ticket is purchased for it. 

Reluctant to check in his cello, Valencia left the flight despite having purchased two business class tickets to accommodate his instrument. He explained in a video posted to his Facebook page that while he was placed in a position that caused him to miss his events, they were by no means canceled, and instead set for a future date in 2023. 

Organizations such as the Brazilian Association of Cellists — collectively known as Abracello — has supported Valencia with their open letter request for a response from Copa Airlines about the treatment of and policies surrounding musicians traveling with their instruments. The airline is yet to respond. 

“[We] request clarification from the Copa Airlines on the rules and conduct regarding the transport of musical instruments, specifically cellos, on international flights,” Abracello wrote. “These instruments are extremely valuable, cannot be handled like suitcases, depend on a cabin with air conditioning environment and represent life for instrumentalists who carry them with them to concerts, shows, masterclasses and other cultural and artistic activities around the world.

“We hope that Copa representatives understand that the reported attitude of contempt is broadly impacting cultural activities and artists all over the world and, without a doubt, also will impact the airline, as the musicians will possibly start to avoid it for travel.”


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