ecently, a Chinese music student traveling with an extremely expensive cello on an American Airlines flight from Miami to Chicago was booted off the aircraft even though she had purchased an extra seat for her instrument and had asked for confirmation beforehand.
On the day of the flight, the woman surnamed Hu, a Depaul University student from Shanghai, checked in at the Chicago airport, went through security, and boarded the plane without any staff member telling her that she couldn’t bring her $30,000 cello onboard the flight. A flight attendant even gave her a seatbelt extender to secure the instrument as she waited for takeoff, according to an account of the incident posted to Facebook by the woman’s husband.
Minutes before the gate closed, Hu was suddenly told to leave the plane because the aircraft was “too small” to safely accommodate her cello. This came as a surprise since she had been able to fly from Chicago to Miami with her cello on an American Airlines flight in June without any issue.
The situation only grew more strange from there. As she was leaving the plane, Hu’s cello case bumped against the pilot who immediately claimed that he was bleeding from the collision. Hu took out her phone to take a picture of him. The pilot responded by flashing the peace sign and saying, “This is why we need to get her out.”
Once off the plane, three police officers were called to the scene because Hu was “not being understandable,” her husband writes. Airline staff allegedly told Hu that she had to buy first or business class tickets in order to fly back to Chicago due to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations. However, FAA regulations actually state that passengers are allowed to take oversized instruments onboard planes as long as they purchase an extra seat.
In his Facebook post, Hu’s husband, Jay Tang, insists that the airline apologize to his wife. He speculated that the real reason she was kicked off the plane was that the flight had been overbooked. “Interestingly my wife was traveling with a friend, who remained on the plane,” he writes. “She told us that after my wife left, two other passengers came and sat in her and her cello’s seats.”
In response to public outcry over the incident, American Americans has since apologized, calling the matter a “misunderstanding.”
“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,” the airline explained, adding that it had booked her a flight for the next morning and provided free meals and hotel accommodation for her extended stay in Miami.
Hu has now returned to Chicago safely with her cello, but says that she is mentally exhausted from the ordeal and anxious about traveling again with her instrument. “Will they kick me off again? I’m so scared,” she worried.