Musician Kicked Off American Airlines Flight Because His Cello Was a “Safety Risk”

In May of last year American refused to allow a 1742 Guarneri violin as a carry on despite policy that should have allowed it.

No airline wants to be like United which breaks guitars forcing valuable instruments into checked baggage. We still remember that incident 8 years later. Memo to airlines, musicians write songs, and songs go viral.

Cello school founder John Kaboff bought an extra seat for his $100,000 cello onboard American Airlines flight AA153 from Washington National to Chicago O’Hare on Tuesday.

Here’s the story he told on Facebook,

Unfortunately a flight attendant who makes the decision for the safety of an entire airplane has decided that the Cello touching the floor in the bulkhead is on safe. This is where the Cello is supposed to sit. According to the American Airlines flight manual

Kaboff wasn’t permitted to fly, he says, because flight attendants dubbed the cello a ‘safety risk’ because “it could not be strapped into the extra seat and it was touching the floor.”

He was accommodated on the next flight to Chicago with a separate seat for his cello and received a refund for the $150 he spent on the second seat.

He told his story via Facebook live as well.

Last year American’s joint venture partner British Airways refused transportation to a cello because it lacked an ESTA (visa waiver authorization) to travel to the U.S.

Perhaps the cello should have just been declared an emotional support monkey.

Delta has an explicit rule against cellos having a SkyMiles account. I defended this practice on the Colbert Report in a segment that never gets old, largely because of the brilliance of taking the story of an airline and a world-famous cellist and turning it into a commentary on same sex marriage.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. American seems to be a race with itself to see how bad it can get. Policies and procedures gaming passengers with negative outcomes. How much time before they take a lesson from United?

  2. Wow!!! American and United are head to head on the race to the worst airline. Maybe the FA was afraid the cello would not be able to put his own oxygen mask in case of a loss of cabin pressure,

  3. What am I missing? I am left to understand that the cello could not be restrained with a seat belt and thus could go flying in the event of wild turbulence. I pity anybody safely restrained but hit by a lose cello, I imagine lawyers would be lining up.

  4. Repeat of previous post with corrected spelling follows.
    What am I missing? I am left to understand that the cello could not be restrained with a seat belt (“it could not be strapped into the extra seat “) and thus could go flying in the event of wild turbulence. I pity anybody safely restrained but hit by a loose cello, I imagine lawyers would be lining up.

  5. It seems the flight attendant was wrong, and the cellist was right this time. A cello is supposed to have a bulkhead window seat, according to federal law.

    But every entitled executive platinum whose first words are “flight attendant on a power trip” needs to be tested on how encyclopedic their own knowledge of FAA regulations are. I’m inclined to think “flight attendant on a power trip” is code word for misogyny.

  6. @ Charles

    I’m not sure if you’re aware how large cellos are, but there really isn’t the space for a cello to go flying. Particularly given the pitch in economy, it’d be wedged in there pretty tightly.

    I think this is just an example of airline staff making off-the-cuff decisions without consulting their ops manual.

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