Saleh sparked a tweet-storm after posting video of himself and a friend, 22-year-old Slim Albaher of Brooklyn, being removed from Delta Flight 1. In the tweet, Saleh claimed people complained to flight attendants because he was speaking Arabic while on the phone with his mother.
The flight was delayed 53 minutes while authorities responded to the incident. Delta says 20 passengers on the flight all say the same thing about the passenger, but what exactly they said, Delta has not released.
Flight 1 arrived in New York City around 3:00 p.m. on Thursday. Our sister station, WABC, talked to three passengers, one of whom witnessed the initial confrontation. That witness suggested it does appear Saleh made a deliberate attempt to provoke a confrontation.
The woman, who asked us not to use her name, says the incident began when Saleh thrust his fist in the air and began speaking in a language some described as Arabic. She said he did this at least three times, touching off a confrontation between Saleh and a woman with a baby, who said she was not comfortable. Others backed her up and demanded Saleh be ejected from their flight.
Another passenger admitted he did not witness the initial confrontation, but what he heard from others who did see it seems to support the witness' version of events. A third passenger, an ordained minister from Ohio, said if it was a deliberate provocation or prank she would be very angry.
After the plane landed, Delta said the crew was debriefed and statements were collected from some passengers about the incident.
The airline released a statement:
"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's initial tweet and those that followed led to a trending #BoycottDelta hashtag, but many including Delta were also quick to point out that Saleh is also a known prankster and someone who has pulled hoaxed on airlines.
Earlier this month, Saleh claimed in a video to have smuggled himself on a plane in a suitcase.
NEW VIDEO IS UP!!— Adam Saleh (@omgAdamSaleh) December 13, 2016
I Smuggled Myself On A Plane To Another City and IT WORKED!! (IN A SUITCASE)https://t.co/qkNzQR7eXW
After that incident, Tigerair Australia responded with a tweet of its own, pointing out the airline had video of Saleh boarding the plane.
Back in February, Saleh also produced a video in which he counted down in Arabic on a plane in what he termed an experiment.
After Wednesday's incident, Metropolitan Police questioned the two men, but released them after determining that they did not do anything illegal.
WABC has learned, based on their conversations with Metropolitan Police, it appears Saleh first claimed to be talking to his mother on the phone in Arabic and then to Albaher in Arabic. During an ensuing back in forth with a woman seated in front of them, Saleh asked her if she had ever heard another language. The verbal dispute continued with her and with another man. After it escalated, the captain came back and asked that the two men leave the plane, which they did.
In a statement, Saleh explained: "I was speaking to my mom on the phone like I always do before getting on a flight. 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 and his friend booked with Virgin Airlines to return to New York City. He also tweeted he would be "heading to our lawyer" once they landed.
Thank you all so much for your support!! I appreciate every single one of you!!! Will talk when I land! Love xx— Adam Saleh (@omgAdamSaleh) December 21, 2016