A 22-year-old New Yorker and well-known YouTube video guy said he was kicked off a Delta flight from London because passengers felt uncomfortable after he spoke to his mother in Arabic before takeoff. The airline confirmed that he and another passenger were removed because people felt “discomfort.”
Adam Saleh told CBS News that he flies routinely, and never experienced any sort of discrimination on a flight before. “I speak to my mom on the phone every flight,” Saleh told the news outlet. “She only speaks Arabic.” About 300 million people worldwide also speak Arabic.
In a series of widely-shared Periscope videos, Saleh looks to be fending off tears, as he describes what happened. “We spoke Arabic, we got kicked out?” he said. “They made me feel like I was a terrorist.”
Saleh has a significant following on YouTube, with over 1.6 million subscribers to a channel that includes a number of pranks and videos about his daily life.
A clip two years ago that purported to show Muslims in New York City being racially-profiled by cops previously drew attention for being staged — and Saleh and his partner later admitted it was a “dramatization.” But he says what happened on this plane was real.
Speaking with The Guardian, Saleh said a woman told him after his phone call to his mother that “you need to speak English, I’m feeling very uncomfortable.”
Saleh said after another passenger defended the two, an older man the woman was traveling with also got involved.
According to Saleh, he said: “Chuck them of the f-ing plane!” before other men stood up and called for the captain.
The woman who originally complained told the captain: “We feel uncomfortable – something happened in Germany. If they don’t leave, I leave,” according to Saleh.
Delta said in a statement to CBS that both passengers were removed from the flight after a “disturbance in the cabin resulted in more than 20 customers expressing their discomfort.”
“We’re conducting a full review to understand what transpired,” the statement said. “We are taking allegations of discrimination very seriously; our culture requires treating others with respect.”
Saleh, who previously described himself as a “professional idiot,” claimed to have traveled by air to Australia in a suitcase, something quickly debunked by the airline. But he held firm when asked by the Guardian on Wednesday about the authenticity of the videos from his Delta flight.
“The captain was quiet when I said what had happened,” he told the newspaper. “We wouldn’t be here joking around, we have even more footage we’re going to be sharing.”
Update: In an additional statement, Delta expanded on what it believes transpired. Via CBS:
“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 and his friend remained adamant that, this time, it wasn’t a prank. Jezebel reported the pair said in a new video that the situation feels like “the boy who cried wolf,” but maintained their claims were true.