Flying with musical instruments or sports equipment can be a hassle, but most airlines post clear instructions on how to accommodate bulky or unusual carry-on items. This week, a cellist thought that by buying an extra seat, she’d followed all requirements to fly with her instrument. American Airlines, however, deemed otherwise.
Jingjing Hu, a DePaul music student and cellist, found herself abruptly removed from an American Airlines flight this week.
At issue? Hu’s $30,000 cello, which an airline employee said was too large for the plane.
Hu, who was traveling home from performing at a music festival in Miami, was baffled. After all, she’d followed the instructions on American’s website regarding musical instruments and bought an additional adjoining seat for her cello. Moreover, her flight to Miami with her cello had gone off without a hitch.
“When I flew from Chicago to Miami, I didn’t have any trouble with that,” she told NBC Chicago, noting that airline employees on that flight had helped her secure her cello to the seat with a special strap.
American’s restrictions state that travelers must purchase an additional seat if their instrument is too large to fit into the overhead compartments or under the seat in front of them. Hu’s cello, at 10 pounds, weighs in far under the maximum allowed 165 pounds.
Hu takes issue with how the airline waited until the last second to tell her she could not fly with the cello: “[They] had so many chances to tell me ‘you cannot board’… [but they] never told me until I sat down.”
Her husband, Jay Tang, who’d helped her make the travel arrangements, told NBC, “I think the way they handled it was humiliating,” referring to how Hu was escorted off the plane by law enforcement.
When reached for comment, an American Airlines spokesperson responded that Hu had been removed from the plane in error and that customer relations would be reaching out to her to apologize for the misunderstanding.