Adam Saleh: Delta Airlines defends kicking 'Arabic-speaking' YouTube celebrity off plane

Amid scepticism, the well-known prankster maintains the encounter was real

Click to follow
The Independent US

Delta Airlines has defended its action to eject YouTube celebrity Adam Saleh from a flight, amid accusations of Islamophobia. 

Mr Saleh posted a video of the encounter on Twitter Wednesday morning, claiming kicked off the flight for speaking to his mother in Arabic over the phone. 

“I speak to my mom on the phone every flight,” Mr Saleh told CBS. “She only speaks Arabic.”

But Delta – an airline that has been at the center of multiple controversies involving alleged discrimination against Muslim and Arabic-speaking passengers – has a different account of what happened on the plane. 

The airline released a statement claiming that Mr Saleh, who is known for executing pranks on this YouTube channel, attempted to cause a disruption on the flight. 

“Upon landing, the crew was debriefed and multiple passenger statements collected,” Delta said. “Based on the information collected to date, it appears the customers who were removed sought to disrupt the cabin with provocative behaviour, 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 travelling companion,” they added, “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.”

Mr Saleh released a statement upon returning to his home in New York City and accused Delta of lying. 

“Delta has been called out previously for racial matters,” he said. “What they did was wrong and we deserve to speak up about this and not let this happen again. 

“Yes, we're pranksters, and it sounds like ‘The Boy Who Cried Wolf’, but today you can clearly see it’s as real as it gets.”

Mr Saleh has previously sparked criticism for apparently staged videos. In one now-infamous prank, he depicted a scene where a New York police officer racial profiling he and a friend. 

The Smoking Gun debunked the 2014 video. 

But as his account has prompted scepticism, Muslim advocacy groups say the alleged incident is illustrative of a larger problem with the airline industry.

“We’re very concerned about reports of this kind. If the allegations are true, they fit a pattern of these kinds of incidents over the years,” said Council on American-Islamic Relations spokesperson Ibrahim Hooper. 

“Despite world events, the world is a diverse place where people speak different languages, wear different attire, and look different,” he added. “That’s not justification for removing someone from a plane."