A woman was kicked off her flight by the staff at American Airlines after they discovered that she was trying to fly with a US$30,000 cello seated next to her even though she had paid for the extra seat in order to travel with her instrument.
The woman, Jingjing Hu, is a student at the DePaul University School of Music in Chicago. She was scheduled to participate at a music festival being conducted in Miami. Her Husband, Jay Tang, had booked two round-trip tickets with American Airlines — one ticket for her and the other ticket for her cello.
Tang had booked the two tickets after receiving confirmation from the authorities that his wife could carry the cello on the flight as cabin baggage. And for her flight to the music festival, Hu faced no trouble.
“When I flew from Chicago to Miami, I didn’t have any trouble with that,” she says in an interview with NBC Chicago. The staff even provided her with a special strap so that she could firmly tighten the cello to the nearby seat.
However, during her return flight to Chicago from Miami, Hu was humiliated by the American Airlines staff who asked her to get off the aircraft. And the reason they gave her — her cello was too big for the plane. To make matters worse, Hu’s cello lightly touched the pilot while she was trying to leave the plane. The pilot reportedly made a victory sign as she left and said that this was why they had to get her off the flight.
As a damage control measure, the ground staff of American Airlines quickly booked Hu a flight on a plane the next day and provided her with accommodation and meals for the inconvenience they caused her. The airlines also released a statement apologizing for Hu’s experience, calling it an error in communication.
“A passenger on flight 2457 from Miami to Chicago was traveling with her cello. Unfortunately, there was a miscommunication about whether the cello she was traveling with met the requirements to fit onboard the particular aircraft she was flying, a Boeing 737. We apologize for the misunderstanding and customer relations has reached out to her,” Fox News quotes the statement released by American Airlines.
And though the airline claimed that Hu’s cello was too big for the return flight on which she was originally scheduled, further investigation hints otherwise. According to federal regulations, musicians are allowed to carry instruments of their choice in the cabin provided they do not weigh more than 165 pounds. Hu’s cello weighed just 10 pounds and she was still booted off the flight.
Tang believes that Hu was purposefully kicked off the flight because it was overbooked and the airlines wanted to place an extra passenger on the plane. Hu’s friend, who was traveling back with her, told Tang that the airline seated two passengers in Hu’s and the cello’s seats after she was kicked out.
“My wife could have been told those regulations when flying from Chicago to Miami, at check in counter in Miami International Airport, at the gate or even when boarding the plane. Yet they chose to kick her out last minute after she was seated and her cello safely secured. They even need law enforcement involved. What a shame,” Tang wrote in a Facebook post.