-- An American man removed from a Delta trans-Atlantic flight before takeoff said he and a friend were taken off the plane after other passengers heard him speaking Arabic. The airline later confirmed what it described as a "disturbance" that led passengers to express "discomfort," but it did not elaborate on the cause.
"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," the airline said in a statement today. "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."
In a separate statement later today, the airline said, "We take all allegations of discrimination seriously, and we are gathering all of the facts before jumping to any conclusion. Our culture requires treating everyone with respect. Furthermore, Delta people are trained to and frequently handle conflicts between passengers."
But some online commenters have expressed skepticism about the incident, noting past pranks that he posted on social media.
Saleh's YouTube channel includes numerous videos. In one he says he is a "professional idiot" and claimed to have stuffed himself in a suitcase flown from Melbourne to Sydney on board a Tigerair flight.
But speaking to The New York Times today, he insisted that his removal from the plane was no stunt. "The only thing I can say is, I would never film a phone video. That's when it's really serious and I must film," he told the newspaper.
In the video posted to Twitter today, some passengers behind Saleh can be seen waving and saying goodbye.
However, one passenger says to the Delta workers, "Why are you guys doing that?"
"'Cause we spoke a different language," Saleh says.
"That is so upsetting," the other passenger says.
Delta workers are seen in the video asking Saleh to walk toward the front of the plane, and he is visibly upset.
Saleh told ABC News in a phone interview that he was speaking to his mother on the phone in Arabic when a woman told a Delta crew member that she felt unsafe. He added that he was flying with a friend of his.
Crew members, according to Saleh, then told him and his friend that they were removing them for being too loud and disorderly.
After being removed from the flight, Saleh said, police and airport security staffers spoke with the pair.
After the video in which Saleh claimed to have stuffed himself in a suitcase on a Tigerair flight, the airline later pointed out inconsistencies with his story and said the video was a hoax, according to news reports.