A DePaul University School of Music student from Shanghai, China was kicked off of an American Airlines flight out of Miami after she checked in online for both herself and her cello.
Jay Tang said his wife Jingjing Hu was sitting in her seat on the American Airlines flight 2457 from Miami International Airport to Chicago, where the couple lives, when flight attendants told the woman she would not be allowed to fly because “the aircraft is too small for the cello.”
Tang explained how the incident started in a Facebook post on Thursday:
“I purchased two round trip tickets for her and her cello on Apr.2 on the phone directly from AA and told them specifically that one ticket is for the cello as cabin baggage. I was told it is abosolutely allowed and she won’t have any problem. She flew from Chicago to Miami on American Airlines 335 on Jun. 19 without any problem. She checked in her flight back yesterday online for both herself and the cello. Today she arrived at Miami International Airport – MIA 3 hours ahead, checked in her luggage, went through security check, and boarded the plane normally.”
That’s when Hu was told to get off the plane and was assured that she would be on the next flight to Chicago within an hour.
While she was leaving, the pilot claimed that he was hit with her cello which caused him to bleed, even though there was no evidence of blood or injury.
“My wife then took a picture of him and he was doing the victory sign to her and said ‘this is why we need to get her out,” Tang wrote.
As she got off the plane, Hu’s friend, who remained on the plane, told the couple that two other passengers took her and her cello’s seats.
Hu ended up missing the next “guaranteed” flight, which was also a 737 after she was told that her cello was too large.
Three police officers were called and explained to Hu that she either needed to book first or business class flights with her own money or she would not be able to fly home with American Airlines due to Federal Aviation Administration regulations.
“So basically you either have to be rich to purchase the tickets, or just settle in Miami,” Tang said. “I don’t know how are musicians supposed to travel to comply with those ‘regulations’. But clearly AA is just playing around with customers.”
According to Airlines for America, here are the baggage policies for traveling with musical instruments on different airlines:
In an update on Facebook, Hu was escorted to a Holiday Inn before her flight the next morning, but she was given the runaround there, too.
Before her flight 2796 back to Chicago, she was denied pre-board and was worried that she would be kicked off the plane again.
According to a second update, however, Hu made it back home with her luggage on the original flight that was already at baggage claim.
In a direct message exchange with Tang on Twitter, American Airlines said that the cello could not fit into a 737, which is the reason Hu was kicked off.
The couple is waiting to be contacted by a “specialist” and the airline is doing a “deep dive” into the incident.
This is not the first time American Airlines has booted a musician off a flight.
Last year, a similar experience happened to John Kaboff, who was flying from Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport to Chicago O’Hare International Airport with his cello. He was kicked off the plane because the crew considered the instrument a flight risk.