YouTube star Adam Saleh claimed he was kicked off a Delta Airlines flight Wednesday morning after speaking Arabic to his mother on the phone, which made some of his fellow travelers uncomfortable.
Saleh filmed the encounter as airline employees escorted him and his friend, Slim Albaher, off the flight from London to New York, amid stares from surrounding passengers.
“We spoke a different language on the plane and now we’re getting kicked out,” Saleh said to the camera. “We’re getting kicked out. I cannot believe this. This is 2016.”
Delta later said in a statement that two passengers were removed “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. We are taking allegations of discrimination very seriously; our culture requires treating others with respect.” The airline did not immediately respond to an additional request for clarification.
Saleh has more than 2 million followers on social media and his online videos attract millions of views. It didn’t take long for the incident to go viral and attract outrage on social media, under the hashtag #boycottDelta.
But some expressed skepticism over whether the incident was a hoax, since Saleh is known for posting “prank videos,” occasionally involving flights. His most recent video, posted yesterday, was of himself being “sent” on a flight from Australia to London, via Dubai. But Saleh’s manager told BuzzFeed News that the incident was “as real as it gets” and not a prank. A representative for Saleh did not immediately respond to VICE News’ request for comment.
In Saleh’s video, posted on Twitter, most of the surrounding people on the flight watched the ordeal quietly, but several white passengers in the back rows waved him off as he was getting removed. The video shows another passenger registering concern as Saleh and Albaher were being escorted out.
“That is so crazy,” the unnamed passenger said. “Why are those white people complaining about them speaking another language? I’m really upset.”
In a subsequent video posted on Periscope, Saleh begins to cry and says, “What are we supposed to do? We don’t know what to do.”
Saleh said more than a dozen passengers said they “felt uncomfortable” after hearing him speak Arabic on the phone and called over the flight attendant.
This isn’t the first time passengers have been kicked off a flight for being “suspicious.” Earlier this year, an Ivy League economist was removed from an American Airlines flight after his neighboring passenger noticed him drawing unfamiliar symbols next to her. Turns out he was just doing math equations.
Delta has come under fire before for the way it handled disturbances on flights. In November, a man was removed for yelling pro-Trump and anti-Clinton remarks at a fellow traveler. He was allowed back onto the flight, although the airline subsequently banned him for life. The incident was also filmed and ignited a firestorm of criticism on social media.