Men say they were thrown off Delta flight for speaking Arabic

Delta confirmed a ‘disturbance’ occurred.

Adam Saleh says he was kicked off a flight for speaking Arabic while on the phone with his mother. CREDIT: Video screengrab
Adam Saleh says he was kicked off a flight for speaking Arabic while on the phone with his mother. CREDIT: Video screengrab

Delta Air Lines allegedly booted an American on a flight bound for New York City because he spoke Arabic on the phone with his mother on Wednesday.

In a shaky video uploaded on Twitter Wednesday morning, Adam Saleh, an American YouTube personality, recorded a video of himself and his friend Slim Albaher being led by Delta flight attendants down the plane aisle. The video also showed people in the back of the plane elated over their departure, waving at them to leave the plane.

“Guys, we spoke a different language on the plane and now we’re getting kicked out,” Saleh said into his camera phone. “This is 2016. Delta Air Lines is kicking us out because we spoke a different language.”

“I spoke a word in a different language and you feel uncomfortable?” Saleh shouted to white passengers near the back of the plane. “I can’t believe my eyes.”


“Six white people against us bearded men?” Saleh said, turning the camera towards the Delta flight attendant. “How come they — they make us feel uncomfortable.”

Saleh continued to live tweet the incident after he and Albaher were kicked off the plane, saying the police were involved and that they were “security checked AGAIN right now.”

“Two customers were removed from this flight and later rebooked after a disturbance in the cabin resulted in more than 20 customers expressing their discomfort,” Delta spokesman Morgan Durrant wrote in a statement to ThinkProgress, which can also be found on the airline’s website. “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.”

Saleh later tweeted that he and Albaher boarded “another flight with a different airline” to get to New York City.

This incident comes a month after a white man — a supporter of President-elect Donald Trump — was allowed to remain on his flight after he harassed fellow passengers for voting for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. After that disruption took place, the Delta CEO said in an internal memo that it was a mistake to allow the man to remain on the plane and that he would be placed on a lifelong ban.


Delta Airlines staff have been proactive in deplaning Muslims in the past. A Muslim couple were kicked off a flight that departed from Ohio in August after a member of the flight crew expressed discomfort seeing the woman in a head scarf and using a phone and that the man was sweating. Darlene Hider was moved to the back of the flight from Fort Lauderdale, Florida to Detroit last year after passengers complained that her children were disruptive and saw that she was wearing a head scarf. A woman allegedly told Hider that she wouldn’t fly with her young children because “this is America.”

There has been an uptick in Islamophobic incidents since the terrorist attacks in Paris, France in November 2015. As ThinkProgress previously documented, Muslims, in particular, have been the victim of violent attacks, threats, assaults, protests, firings, and airport profiling cases.

UPDATE: In a second statement released Wednesday afternoon, Delta Air Lines said that the two passengers were removed on a plane departing London-Heathrow. The airline said that they would talk to the crew and other passengers when the flight lands.

“We take all allegations of discrimination seriously and we are gathering all of the facts before jumping to any conclusion,” the statement read in part. “Our culture requires treating everyone with respect. Furthermore, Delta people are trained to and frequently handle conflicts between passengers.”

“Maintaining a safe, comfortable and orderly onboard environment is paramount for every flight and requires the cooperation of all of our customers in conjunction with adherence to directions from our crew members,” the statement added. “This is a Delta policy and is required by U.S. regulations as well as others governing aviation worldwide.”

The article has also been changed to reflect that Hider was moved to the back of the plane, not kicked off her flight as previously stated.