A Muslim American YouTube star known for his viral video pranks said he and his friend were removed from a Delta Air Lines flight in London on Wednesday after passengers complained about them speaking Arabic shortly before takeoff. But according to Delta, it had nothing to do with the language they spoke — they were shouting and provoking other passengers, the airline said.
Adam Saleh posted cellphone video footage of himself and his friend, Slim Albaher, being escorted off the plane on the tarmac at Heathrow Airport. Saleh claims several passengers alerted the captain that they felt uncomfortable when he spoke Arabic while making a phone call to his mother before the New York City-bound flight took off.
“We’re getting kicked out because we spoke a different language,” Saleh says in the video posted to YouTube. “This is 2016. Delta Air Lines are kicking us out because we spoke a different language.”
— Adam Saleh (@omgAdamSaleh) December 21, 2016
Delta initially confirmed that two passengers had been removed after “a disturbance in the cabin resulted in more than 20 customers expressing their discomfort,” and said that it was reviewing the incident.
“We are taking allegations of discrimination very seriously,” Delta spokesman Morgan Durrant said in a statement. “Our culture requires treating others with respect.”
A spokeswoman for London’s Metropolitan Police told the New York Times that two passengers had been removed from the flight but that they “didn’t do anything lawfully wrong” and were not arrested.
On Twitter, Saleh said he and his friend subsequently boarded a flight on a different airline and had to go through security a second time. The pair was due to land in New York City late Wednesday afternoon.
Delta released a subsequent statement saying that after a preliminary investigation, the airline believes the pair provoked the disturbance:
Upon landing the crew was debriefed and multiple passenger statements collected. Based on the information collected to date, it appears the customers who were removed sought to disrupt the cabin with provocative behavior, including shouting. This type of conduct is not welcome on any Delta flight. While one, according to media reports, is a known prankster who was video recorded and encouraged by his traveling companion, what is paramount to Delta is the safety and comfort of our passengers and employees. It is clear these individuals sought to violate that priority.
Saleh’s video drew an immediate reaction on social media. Some Twitter users condemned the airline, while others remained skeptical given the alleged victims’ history of hoaxes, some involving planes.
In one recent stunt, Saleh claimed that with help from friends, he squeezed into a suitcase that they checked on a flight from Melbourne, Australia, to Sydney. After the airline, Tigerair, posted a statement debunking Saleh’s self-smuggling claim, the vlogger admitted the video was faked.
In another episode this year, Saleh — a 23-year-old who describes himself as a “professional idiot” — filmed himself on a different flight for a “prank” he titled “Counting Down in Arabic on a Plane Experiment!“