Passenger Disputes Claim of YouTube Prankster ‘Kicked Off Delta For Speaking Arabic’

Flyertalk member rwoman reported being on the flight from London Heathrow to New York JFK that self-described ‘professional idiot’ Adam Saleh claimed he was kicked off of for speaking Arabic. And she disputes his version of events.

As I wrote when his video started going viral,

Saleh is a social media video star, and his twitter account has over a quarter million followers. He’s no threat.

He is, however, something of a provocateur — in the news recently for faking smuggling himself in a suitcase onboard a Tiger Air flight from Melbourne to Sydney. I’d normally take him with a grain of salt, but his live videos are compelling. (Tiger Air provided evidence his checked baggage prank was a hoax.)

Prior to the flight taking off, rwoman posted (it’s in the OMNI forum, so won’t be accessible to everyone:

Am flying [London – New York JFK – Austin] today. Figured this may make Twitter or the news while we are airborne.

Waiting for the boarding door to close and then there’s an altercation on my flight as a passenger is suddenly yelling he’s being discriminated against…

A guy making loud claims of discrimination…and that a white guy cursed him out for speaking Arabic.

There was no loud altercation before the guy started yelling into his video camera. And there’s always two sides to every story.

Red Coat said it had nothing to do with speaking another language…two young guys trying to get attention.

And they are not going to NYC on this plane.

Happy travels all.

Update…as we are still on the ground… per the pilot one of the people involved likes to garner this sort of attention. Sigh…

At a minimum it seems like he was looking for an altercation. From the video he posted it appears he got one. I still think though that:

  • Airlines need better training on altercations with people of color
  • Fear of ‘other’ is a real problem that has led to many passengers being treated unfairly.

I don’t know what’s in this guy’s mind. Easy to say he’s looking for attention for himself. But if he’s looking to leverage his platform to highlight a very real problem and what he says really happened I think I’d feel differently about him (more positive).

There’s certainly reason to believe that his version of the story is only slightly more true than his claim that he flew as checked baggage on a recent Australian domestic flight.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I totally called it. My comment on the other post:

    “Over the years I’ve seen several stories of people complaining they were kicked off flights unfairly, for all kinds of reasons. Often we learn later that there is another side of the story, and that the media and the public were played for fools.

    When one of these these stories appears, I am a consistent skeptic. I presume until proven otherwise that the person’s plan all along was to win media attention.”

  2. Your headline is misleading. The FT’er “rwoman” isn’t supporting either side, just reporting what appears to be a bit from both sides of the story. Certainly she isn’t “disputing” Mr. Saleh’s account and in fact her post was made without awareness of the specifics of Saleh’s video or claim.

  3. I wasn’t there, but what isn’t shown is what commotion could have happened leading up to the end result. Disagreements and arguments happen on board. I would hope it wasn’t, and I doubt it was the Arabic spoken but the nature of exchanges. In the end, if you’re heated, and can’t calm down, no matter the language, we’re not going to fly disruptive passengers. Locked in a metal tube for hours, you need peace and quiet not chaos.
    As a Delta flight attendant, I’ll say we are accepting of all people, races and religion. We are a Fortune 500 company and voted the best airline employer. The idea of getting kicked off a flight for speaking Arabic is ludicrous. We fly all over the world, including to and from Muslim countries. I would be more curious to see what lead up to getting kicked off. It’s an unfortunate situation but ultimately, regardless of what happened, he was super charged and angry and we can’t have that be a ‘fire starter’ for the rest of the flight.

  4. @Eric — “There was no loud altercation before the guy started yelling into his video camera. … Red Coat said it had nothing to do with speaking another language…two young guys trying to get attention. … per the pilot one of the people involved likes to garner this sort of attention.” Sure reads to me like her narrative runs counter to the claims made by the person who recorded the video.

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