Cellist ‘humiliated,' kicked off American Airlines flight after buying ticket for instrument

CHICAGO — A music student said she was booted off an American Airlines flight from Miami to Chicago because officials refused to let her carry her cello on board -- even though she paid for the instrument to have its own ticket.

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Jinging Hu told WMAQ her cello is worth $30,000.


She said she flew to Miami to perform in a music festival, and American Airlines assured her they would be able to accommodate a seat for her instrument on both legs of her trip.

"When I flew from Chicago to Miami, I didn't have any trouble with that," Hu told WMAQ. She said the flight crew gave her a special strap to hold the instrument in place.

Federal regulations allow musicians to carry instruments like cellos in the cabin if passengers purchase an additional seat.

When Hu boarded her return flight to Chicago Thursday, she was told to get off the plane, WBBM reported.

Hu said flight staff told her that the cello was too big, and the aircraft was too small to hold the cello.

She said she was escorted off the plane by law enforcement, even though her instrument met the seat size restrictions.

Hu was booked onto a flight out of Miami the next day on a larger aircraft, WBBM reported.

Her husband, Jay Tang, said the way the airline handled the incident was unacceptable.

“I don’t think we did anything wrong here and I think the way they handled it was humiliating,” Tang said.

American Airlines told WMAQ there was a "miscommunication" with Hu about whether or not the cello would fit on board the aircraft.

Officials apologized for the misunderstanding and said “customer relations will be reaching out to her.”