The passengers were forced to check in the instrument as baggage, despite having booked a seat and travelled on a previous connecting flight with the cello


A cello on an American Airlines Airbus A321 |

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On 5 April, two elderly passengers were taken off an American Airlines flight because they were not allowed to board with their cello, despite having paid a ticket for the instrument.

According to the View from the Wing blog, the couple had already flown from Palm Springs to Dallas-Forth Worth with the cello, and were embarking on the second leg of their journey to Washington Dulles International Airport.

There was evidence of confusion among airline staff about the rules regarding instruments onboard. The gate agent had initially allowed the couple to board the plane with the cello, only to come ’running to get me off the plane after giving me permission,’ according to one of the passengers.

The gate agent took them off the Boeing 737 flight saying they would be unable to fly unless they either waited for a later flight operated by an Airbus, or checked the cello as baggage, stating that instruments were not permitted in the cabin of Boeing 737s.

Rather than wait six hours for the next eligible flight, the couple agreed to check in the cello as baggage.

A spokesperson for American Airlines said, ’Customers with large carry-on musical instruments that do not meet carry-on requirements may choose to purchase an additional seat for the instrument. The requirements for these instruments are available on Our team is reviewing this specific issue and will reach out to the customer directly.’

However, information on the American Airlines website states ’If you choose to buy an additional seat for your instrument, please note that seat bags must not weigh more than 165 lbs / 75 kg and must meet seat size restrictions based on airplane type.’

View from the Wing states that the airline must take responsibility to ask about about instruments for which they book tickets and flag up any issues before the flight. ’A gate agent took it upon themselves to interpret rules on the spot – after ticket purchase, after boarding pass issuance, and after passengers had flown their first flight. And then American Airlines didn’t even refund the cello’s ticket after it was denied boarding.’

View from the Wing took up the issue with the airline, which refunded the passengers for their tickets and provided $100 trip credit per person.

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