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American Airlines

“Humiliating”: Musician Escorted Off Plane By Law Enforcement for Bringing Cello Onboard

“Humiliating”: Musician Escorted Off Plane By Law Enforcement for Bringing Cello Onboard
Sharon Hsu

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.

[Photo: Shutterstock]

View Comments (12)


  1. ioto1902

    August 7, 2018 at 4:41 am

    And the cello had to be handcuffed because it did not respond to the officers’ questions.

  2. gene2632

    August 7, 2018 at 6:58 am

    American Airlines actions in this situation proves the old adage “you cannot fix stupid”. The passenger carefully followed the rules and the AA personal did not. At least AA is owning up to their error. Hopefully they do more than give her some future travel credit.

  3. corbetti

    August 7, 2018 at 11:18 am

    This is why every airline needs an internal customer service desk that gate agents and FAs are REQUIRED to connect to before doing something stupid.

  4. sfoeuroflyer

    August 7, 2018 at 11:29 am

    But folks, this is not headline stuff. At most two employees made a questionable decision. Big deal. The airline is addressing it. Government makes hundreds of stupid flubs or worse every single day and these go largely unreported.

  5. edgewood49

    August 7, 2018 at 1:07 pm

    I agree with stoeuroflyer this is not headlines news Click Bait maybe but certainly not worthy of a headline, they made a mistake it happens everyday get over it.

  6. sddjd


    August 7, 2018 at 2:12 pm

    It’s always surprising how poorly informed AA’s cabin crews seem to be vis a vis company policies/offerings. I’ve taken to keeping screenshots of their web pages describing certain services so as to be able to politely offer them up when declined a service for which I’ve paid. Not surprised something as uncommon as a large musical instrument goes under the crew radar. That’s a colossal failure by their management, not to mention the fact that NONE of the cabin crew thought to actually check before removing her?

  7. JackE

    August 7, 2018 at 9:20 pm

    There’s always room for Cello.

  8. Counsellor

    August 8, 2018 at 8:01 am

    Their latest story is that it was a small plane (737, I believe) and so they moved her to a larger plane with larger seats for the cello. Maybe. I wonder what the plane sh flew down on was. If also a 737, that pretty much blows that story.

  9. ilcannone

    August 8, 2018 at 8:57 am

    As a musician, ALL airlines really need to sort out their musical instrument policies once and for all and train all their staff accordingly. This just happens far too often and for me personally, it angers me no end.

  10. j2simpso

    August 8, 2018 at 4:25 pm

    At least they didn’t Dao the cello! That being said I’m curious how one seats a cello. Do they get Priory boarding and lounge access through the miles they rack up on their account?

  11. DanishFlyer

    August 8, 2018 at 8:49 pm

    Why did she have to be escorted off the flight by law enforcement? Was she asked to leave and refused? Not that she should have been asked to leave, but just why did it escalate?

  12. DrunkCargo

    August 9, 2018 at 4:18 pm

    Why is the picture’s hands so manly?? Freebie stock photos? I believe it was a SHE who was escorted off.

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