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DePaul student removed from flight despite buying separate seat for her cello

American Airlines | AP file photo

A musician who had booked a separate seat for her $30,000 cello says she was booted off an American Airlines flight as she tried to return home to Chicago.

The incident happened last Thursday, but has made national headlines since a Facebook post by the musician’s husband has gone viral.

The post, which had been shared more than 2,300 times as of Monday morning, detailed the travails of DePaul University music student Jingjing Hu as she tried to fly back from a music conference in Miami with her instrument.

“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 (sic) allowed and she won’t have any problem,” Jay Tang, the musician’s husband, wrote on Facebook.

But that’s not how it turned out for Hu as she tried to return from Miami. Tang said via his post that his wife was removed from the flight even though the couple thought Hu had done everything required to fly with her cello in the seat beside her. Hu, Tang wrote, had already successfully flown from Chicago to Miami on her outbound flight with her cello occupying the dedicated seat they had paid for.

“When I flew from Chicago to Miami, I didn’t have any trouble with that,” Hu told NBC Chicago, noting that the crew even assisted her with a strap to help hold her cello in place. Hu told the station her instrument was worth about $30,000.

On the return, however, Hu ran into problems.

Tang, via Facebook, wrote that Hu arrived to Miami International “3 hours ahead, checked in her luggage, went through security check, and boarded the plane normally. Just before the flight attendants were about to close the gate, she was told to get off the plane because ‘the aircraft is too small for the cello’.”

“My wife could have been told those regulations when flying from Chicago to Miami, at check in counter in Miami International Airport, at the gate or even when boarding the plane,” Tang wrote via Facebook. “Yet they chose to kick her out last minute after she was seated and her cello safely secured. They even need law enforcement involved. What a shame.”

Tang added Hu was told she could fly on a different American flight about an hour later, but then a separate kerfuffle arose when – according to Tang – Hu’s cello case apparently bumped one of the flight’s pilots as she was escorted off the flight.

In the end, Hu made it back to Chicago – albeit it a day later and after yet another mix-up where she ended up on a shuttle to the wrong Holiday Inn for her unexpected night in Miami, according to CBS Chicago.

“My wife is back home!,” Tang wrote after Hu’s return. “Thanks for everyone who shared this and supports us. She is exhausted but physically OK. Her well being is the only thing I care.”

American confirmed that there was an issue with the cello on the flight from Miami, which the carrier chalked up to a “miscommunication.”

“A passenger on Flight 2457 from Miami to Chicago was traveling with her cello,” American spokesman Matt Miller said to USA TODAY’s Today in the Sky blog. “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.”

“We rebooked our passenger on a flight the next morning on a larger aircraft, a Boeing 767. We provided her a hotel and meal accommodations for the inconvenience. We apologize for the misunderstanding and customer relations has reached out to her,” Miller added.