Adam Saleh, YouTube star, thrown off Delta plane in London 'for speaking Arabic'
Adam Saleh, an American YouTube personality who is known for his pranks, has published a video which he claims shows him being kicked off a Delta Air Lines plane after he was heard speaking Arabic on the phone to his mother.
However, a statement by the airline company cast doubt on Saleh's claim, despite viral outrage on social media over the supposed mistreatment. Saleh was flying from London to New York.
Delta initially said Saleh and another passenger were "removed from a flight and later rebooked after a disturbance in the cabin resulted in more than 20 customers expressing their discomfort".
Later on Wednesday, Delta accused Saleh of provoking his fellow passengers.
"Based on the information collected to date, it appears the customers who were removed sought to disrupt the cabin with provocative behavior, including shouting," the company said in a statement. "This type of conduct is not welcome on any Delta flight."
Delta noted that Saleh is a known prankster, saying that he and his traveling companion were violating the safety and comfort of other passengers.
A member of Saleh's management team told Middle East Eye that, on hearing Saleh speaking Arabic, other passengers aboard the plane "got angry and started abusing him, swearing and saying that they felt threatened as he was speaking a different language."
The YouTube personality has a large following, with more than 2.2 million subscribers to his online channel.
As Saleh explains the situation on camera, Delta staff can be seen standing closely behind him.
At one point, other passengers on the plane can be seen waving him off as they shout “bye”.
Saleh has been tweeting updates since the incident took place, and later said he was heading home on a different airline.
“I speak to my mom on the phone every flight,” Saleh told CBS News shortly after the incident. “She only speaks Arabic.”
He pledged to not "let this go", saying that he will contact lawyers in New York as soon as he arrives to the US.
London's Metropolitan Police said its officers had been called after two passengers were removed from a plane at Heathrow Airport.
“Officers attended and the passengers were escorted to the terminal where they were assisted with making alternative travel arrangements," the police said in a statement. “They were not arrested and no offences were disclosed.”
This is not the first time Delta has been accused of an Islamophobic incident on board its planes.
In August of this year a Muslim couple, Faisal and Nazia Ali, claimed they were singled out after flight crew noticed them "sweating" and saying the word "Allah" on a flight from Paris to Cincinnati, Ohio.
Flight attendants denied these accusations and Delta spokesman Morgan Durrant responded: "Delta condemns discrimination toward our customers in regards to age, race, nationality, religion, sexual orientation or gender."
The hashtag #BoycottDelta was trending worldwide in reaction to the video on Wednesday.
Known for his pranks, Saleh was recently caught out after claiming he had hidden himself in a small suitcase and illegally flown in the baggage hold from Melbourne to Sydney.
The airline, Tigerair, was quick to stress that the video was fake, and stated in an open letter: "There are a few inconsistencies in your production that don't line up with reality."
Saleh has reportedly previously received £26,000 from the London Metropolitan Police as part of its "counter-terrorist" efforts - the online sensation recorded and performed a rap song, Survivor, that was seen as singling out the Muslim community.
One line in the song that caused particular controversy was: "I’m trying to put my homies on the right track, so people ain’t scared of every Asian with a backpack."
Despite growing doubt about Wednesday's incident, Saleh's agent, Naz Rahman, is insisting that the video is genuine.
“This isn’t a prank; this is not a prank,” Rahman told The Washington Post. “We wouldn’t go to this extent to do a prank. I know he’s a prankster, but you can see it clearly on video what’s happened there.”