American Airlines has hit a sour note with one of its regulars. Per ABC7, musician John Kaboff was in his seat on a plane, headed to Chicago for work out of DC's Reagan National Airport, when he says both the flight attendant and pilot told him he couldn't travel with his companion: a $100,000 cello, which was in a paid-for seat right next to him. The 46-year-old says staff indicated the instrument was a "safety risk" because it was brushing the floor and wasn't strapped in; they also whipped out a set of rules indicating bass fiddles aren't allowed on 737s (though this was a cello, not a bass fiddle, as Kaboff told them). He said he was told that if he didn't voluntarily deplane he would be removed. A video Kaboff posted on Facebook Tuesday about his plight has been viewed thousands of times.
American says its policy allows instruments to fly with their owners as long as those instruments weigh less than 165 pounds and fall within certain size parameters. Kaboff says his case-enclosed cello weighs only 70 pounds and is just over 4 feet long, and that airline staff wouldn't accommodate his request for a seat belt extension when he asked for one. American told ABC7 it got Kaboff and his instrument on the next flight into Chicago and refunded the $150 he paid for the cello's seat. "Before humiliating a passenger in front of 150 people … they should know what a cello is," says Kaboff, who adds he's flown on the airline, cello by his side, dozens of times over the past three years. (Barred from a plane, this violinist had the perfect response.)