Warning: videos contain strong language
YouTube stars Adam Saleh and Slim Albaher claim they were removed from a Delta flight traveling from London to New York City on Wednesday after passengers complained about them speaking Arabic. But Delta Air Lines says the internet sensations were actually removed for their “disruptive behavior.”
In a statement posted to the airline’s website, Delta explained they came to the decision after debriefing the crew upon landing and collecting multiple passengers’ statements.
“Based on the information collected to date, it appears the customers who were removed sought to disrupt the cabin with provocative behavior, including shouting,” said Delta. “This type of conduct is not welcome on any Delta flight.”
Delta pointed to Saleh’s past as part of the reason why the 23-year-old was removed from the flight. He’s known for his prank-filled YouTube videos on his channel, which has amassed more than 2 million subscribers.
“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.”
It’s a very different description of events that both Saleh and Albaher have documented on social media.
In an initial video posted to Saleh’s Twitter account that quickly went viral, Saleh and Albaher can be seen surrounded by airline officials on the plane. “We spoke a different language on the plane, and now we’re getting kicked out,” Saleh says in the clip. “This is 2016. 2016. Delta Air Lines are kicking us out because we spoke a different language … I can not believe my eyes.”
Saleh said he was speaking Arabic to his mother during a phone call while onboard the aircraft when a passenger sitting near him said she felt uncomfortable.
“I was speaking to my mom on the phone like I always do before getting on a flight,” Saleh explained in a statement to PEOPLE. “I call her before I take off and when I land so that she knows I am safe and well. I was speaking in Arabic when a female passenger began shouting that they felt uncomfortable. This encouraged almost 10 other passengers to agree and shout the same thing. We were kicked off the flight while those passengers mocked us.”
Saleh said in the video that one passenger told him to “shut the f— up,” and he addressed others who apparently claimed they were “uncomfortable.”
“You guys are racist,” he said. “I spoke a word, a different language and you said you feel uncomfortable?”
He added: “I’m about to cry right now … six white people against us bearded men … I feel uncomfortable.”
Saleh and Albaher were put on another flight on another airline, arriving in New York at 5:50 p.m. local time.
“#BoycottDelta” trended on Twitter shortly after.
“Yes we’re pranksters, and it sounds like the boy who cried wolf but today you can clearly see its as real as it gets,” Saleh wrote on Twitter.
In a video posted to Albaher’s account, more footage of the incident can be seen — including conversations the two had with the airline’s pilot.
“We can accommodate you on the next flight, but if you keep this up we will not be able to accommodate you,” the pilot can be seen telling an upset Saleh. “Everybody’s excited. You brought attention upon yourself and you’re obviously doing it for the benefit of [the cameras]. We need you to calm down.”
“I am calm down — I’m as calmed down as I can be,” Saleh responds. “This is unbelievable. Accommodate us? What about taking the people that cursed us out. What about changing our seats? We’re trying to go home to New York City. Everybody was bothered by us … for speaking Arabic — that’s a normal language.”
Saleh also told the pilot he was only filming the incident to show what was really happening — a message he restated in Albaher’s video.
“When it turned into a chain reaction of like, 20 racist people against us and the captain comes to take us out, that’s when I took my camera out,” Saleh said. “Cause I knew they were trying … to kick us out for speaking another language. And when we said that in the video, nobody denied anything. Until after they’d seen the video that was out, then they tried to deny the situation.”
Albaher took responsibility for the incident — adding that Saleh’s past as a video prankster had nothing to do with what happened.
“This whole thing was my fault,” Albaher said. “I was speaking Arabic and the lady started coming at me, but I froze up and I couldn’t even speak up for myself. I was scared cause a bunch of them were coming at me at the same time and I felt like a criminal.
He continued: “Adam, he’s like my big brother. He stood up for me. He took out his camera. If I was by myself, I wouldn’t be able to take out my camera like that. I was just so shocked and stunned about what happened. I was paralyzed.”