Delta Air Lines has issued a further statement about the removal of American-Yemeni YouTube star Adam Saleh and comedian Sulieman “Slim” Albaher from a flight on Wednesday.
“Based on the information collected to date, it appears the customers who were removed sought to disrupt the cabin with provocative behavior, including shouting,” the US airline said in a message posted on its website. “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.”
On his Youtube channel Saleh reiterated his claim that his experience was not a part of a hoax, and that he wanted to spread the message because “it could happen to anyone, it could happen to elderly people who can’t speak English and they would be helpless – they wouldn’t know how to use a camera, so we are spreading this message to you guys to not let it happen to anyone else”/
In the video, Albaher adds: “People keep using the fact that we are pranksters against us, keep trying to use our past against us – I feel like the boy who cried Wolf.”
Saleh said that journalists were twisting the pair’s words and that they would refrain from further posting on social media until they consulted a lawyer.
Delta airlines has been criticised on previous occasions for race-related incidents. In October 2016, after a call for help from any medical professionals on board was answered by African-American doctor Tamika Cross, the flight attendent told her they were “looking for actual physicians or nurses or some type of medical personnel, we don’t have time to talk to you.”
In reponse to the backlash on social media and media coverage, the airline said it had changed its policy and, since December 1, no longer requires medical professionals to present credentials before helping passengers in distress.
In another incident, Mohammed Al Khalifa, a member of Bahrain’s royal family, was on his way to New York in August to start graduate school when he was removed from a Delta Airlines flight after a layover in Amsterdam.
He says he was told by a Delta staff member that a number of passengers had complained that he looked suspicious, and that the pilot and staff had made a decision to not allow him back back onto the plane.
In a situation that seems similar that that involving Saleh, Al Khalifa had just finished a phone call, in Arabic, to his mother.
Asked whether he thought Saleh and Albaher were pulling a prank, Al Khalifa told The National: “I hope not. I don’t think anybody would joke around with this topic. I feel for Saleh. The fact that I hold a diplomatic passport held no sway with Delta’s racially profiling me, so I can’t imagine what he is going through having a background of being a comedian.”
The airline subsequently sent Al Khalifa what they call an “investigation report”.
“I was told that because of excessive sweating and the fact that I had two devices (my iPod and my iPhone), that the suspicion was valid and their decision to kick me off the plane was just,” he says. “No one should ever have to go through this.”