Upon landing the crew was debriefed and multiple passenger statements collected. Based on the information collected to date, it appears the customers who were removed sought to disrupt the cabin with provocative behavior, 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 traveling companion, 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.
Saleh, a YouTube star with a large social media following, had sparked a #BoycottDelta movement after tweeting a video of the episode, claiming Delta Airlines removed him after passengers became incensed that he spoke Arabic on the phone to his mother and later to his friend on the plane.
Delta's updated statement seems to dismiss the "allegations of discrimination" they insisted they would take seriously in their first statement, when they promised to "gather all of the facts before jumping to any conclusion."
Their conclusion, it seems, is that Saleh made a scene on purpose, and that the crew acted appropriately when removing him from the airplane.
As we pointed out when the story broke, Adam Saleh is indeed a YouTube prankster. He recently faked a video of him traveling via suitcase on a flight from Melbourne to Sydney, and in the wake of the Delta outrage, people have pointed to a YouTube video "experiment" featuring him "counting down in Arabic on a plane."
Here's Saleh's statement, addressing his situation as "the boy who cried wolf."
But according the New York Times, other passengers on the plane corroborate Saleh's version of events. A woman "heard someone speaking in Arabic and assumed the worst," said one.
Saleh's account is by no means unimaginable, or even far fetched. As the New York Times reports, here are three similar, less publicized incidents on airplanes in the last year:
In April, a college student was removed from a Southwest Airlines flight in California when he was heard speaking Arabic, a week after a Muslim woman was asked to leave another Southwest flight when she sought to switch seats. In May, an Italian professor was removed from an American Airlines flight because another passenger was alarmed by his handwritten notes, which were in fact math equations.
Yes, a man's ignorant seat mate was so fearful, she panicked over his math scribblings. That story's definitely worth reading before you come to any conclusions about what's plausible in the current climate of Islamophobia.