Delta Calls Cops on Downgraded Law Professor Who Claims He Was Assaulted By Pilot

University of Arkansas Law School professor Khaled Beydoun is claiming he was assaulted by a Delta Connection regional jet pilot after flying from Atlanta to Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport on Delta flight DL5325 operated by Endeavor Air, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Delta Airlines.

The man was upgraded to first class based on his Platinum status but then downgraded to extra legroom coach. He says it’s because of his race.

He then had words with the captain, whom he claims proceeded to ‘grab him by the neck’ and call the police on him.

Delta says the reason the man was downgraded is because a crew seat was inoperable so a flight attendant needed it for takeoff and landing. The airline downgraded an upgraded passenger, and has procedures for whom to choose.

He wasn’t going to take the downgrade lying down. After the flight the man was waiting for his luggaeg to be returned to the jetway. He says ” the pilot directed him to come to him and grabbed him by the neck.” The pilot claims there was no physical contact.

Delta, for its part, says they provided the man with downgrade compensation however,

Upon arrival at the Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport (XNA) the customer requested to speak with the Captain regarding his seating concerns. The Captain spoke with the customer in the jet bridge but ultimately requested the presence of law enforcement in response to false allegations of physical contact.

It seems clear to me that a passenger needed to be downgraded on the 589 mile flight, and that an upgraded passenger would be selected. There’s no evidence to suggest that Delta deviated from its published procedures for determining which passenger to downgrade, and provided compensation for doing so. Many people would prefer compensation of almost any kind over a complimentary upgrade on a regional jet for a sub-600 mile flight

What seems less clear is what happened during the altercation between the man and the pilot. Here is the police report.

  • The man disagreed with how he was treated and expressed that to crew. Regardless of race that’s asking for trouble, many of us have heard “are we going to have a problem today?” asked over the most minor of issues like expressing concerns over a flight attendant moving your belongings in the overhead bin.

  • Unquestionably flying while appearing Muslim entails its own challenges and experiences.

There’s no corroboration at this time of any physical altercation. The professor, one of several individuals representing Michicago to the US Civil Right Commission, declined when officers responding to the scene asked if he wanted them to get a warrant and the officers report he did not — that e would seek action against Delta. The report says “Khaled refused any type of prosecution for the assault.”

He complained about being seated next to a “large man” and that he had neck pain as a result of leaning into the aisle. He complained the flight attendant was rude in response to his complaints. He complained to officers that they asked the pilot for his side first. They explain it’s because they were called to the scene not knowing which passenger was involved.

Ultimately the man felt disrespected, initially because he didn’t understand why he was downgraded and ultimately because he felt dismissed when he questioned the behavior. He thinks it’s because of his race — as opposed to just because he was a passenger challenging authority (in this case based, it seems, on a mistaken perception of events).

Last year a reality star was scolded by a Delta captain. Two years ago a Delta pilot hit a passenger who was fighting in the jetway. Delta defended the pilot.

It’s a problem that Khaled Beydoun felt mistreated. It’s a problem when any of us feel that way. It certainly seems like the man was wrong. He was frustrated. And instead of turning the matter over to law enforcement — what led United down the David Dao path — a little customer service (which Delta thought they offered in the form of compensation) might have gone a long way.

(HT: Reid F.)

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

More articles by Gary Leff »


  1. Once again, pusssssy Americans scared of 9/11 have given up power to these bullies to do and act however they want.

  2. Do pilots even have anything to do with seat assignments? Seems like they have more important things to worry about.

  3. But, the good news is that you got a blog post from the incident. And, you were able to link back to other blog posts.

  4. (I’m not the same Jason who posted at 3:32pm.)

    Airports have way too many police. If there are 5 available cops to respond to this, then we need to seriously reallocate our resources.

    Police belong on the streets of San Francisco where people are shitting and shooting up heroin. Not in airports to mediate downgrades.

  5. I think what we have ALL LEARNED from reading these posts is to TURN ON YOUR CELL PHONE AND VIDEO for all interactions involving staff where there are disputes. Sadly, most of these folks are way overworked and underappreciated for the work they do, I can only liken the work they do to running a full time day care center with drunk toddlers. I would certainly not agree with ANYONE touching the guy, that was off limits but the pilot was probably stressed out as well and fed up with a stream of petty bullshit complaints from people when all he wants to do is his job and not be bothered with the “people” end of the business. A little KINDNESS could go a long, long way to stopping these situations. Perhaps if the staff had EXPLAINED (TAKEN A MINUTE) why he was downgraded, he wouldn’t have felt it was a racially motivated action.

    Just out of curiosity, what is the standard of compensation IF you are ever downgraded?

  6. @Jason
    Airport Police are a special kind of cops. They were either a nuisance in their original department (e.g. too many shootings, justified or not or just a troublemaker) or got injured on the job and then picked the airport to ride out their career or are too old to work a regular street job. You couldn’t put alot of them into a high crime area.

  7. I am a 61 years old American of Arab ethnicity and a practicing Muslim. I have lived in many parts of the world and many regions in the USA.I have logged millions of airline miles travelling the world. I am very disturbed to see this agitator agent-provacatur maligning the reputation of the South to advace his agenda. As an exSunni, I would like to attest to the fact that most Sunni Palestinians are some of the worst biggots you can ever imagine.

  8. Penny
    You’re assuming the pax is completely truthful in his claims that the pilot put his hands on him.
    As a law professor i’d think he’s take advantage of the police officers when they asked if he wanted to press charges. He declined. Questionable move.

    You mention kindness and explaining the need for the down grade. According to the crew’s explanation it was it was an emergency. The pax states it was possibly he reason. How much time do you expect them to spend, during boarding, explaining that the upgrade you didn’t pay for needs to be used and you’re back to the seat you paid for? And which you’re bitching about as well as trashing your seat mate.

  9. @beachfan The post mentioned the crew member needed it for takeoff and landing. When a flight attendant jumpseat is inoperative we are required by FAA to sit in the closest passenger seat to our jumpseat in order to have access to our exit. Being a single FA cabin he/she would sit in an aisle sit in the first row.

  10. So the guy got at least as good a seat as he paid for but expects to be believed when he complains about everything but the weather. Sure it sucks that he lost his upgrade, but by trying to present himself as the victim in an extraordinarily unlikely series of events, he destroys his own credibility.

  11. Is this man a law professor or a toddler? Instead of suing Delta he’s playing victim and waiving his race card, which is part of the problem.

    He’s a published author of a book on Islamophobia and this incident discredits him completely. His immediate reaction to the 9/11 attacks (instead of horror!) was “please don’t be Muslims, please don’t be Muslims”. And his immediate reaction to his downgrade was “You’re choosing me because I’m Muslim”. Maybe Khaled is the one struggling with Islamophobia and he’s just projecting that on the rest of us.

    Muslims in this country deserve to be respected, absolutely. But people who are insecure as a minority and project their insecurities on everyone else need therapy, giving them more rights and entitlements won’t heal them.

  12. This makes my blood boil. Does ANYONE really think this guy was downgraded because he was a Muslim? This excuse falls along the lines of “The cable guy showed up at my house two hours late, he obviously did it on purpose because he knows I’m _________” (you fill in the blank). Sure.

    The customer is not always right, some are not worth keeping – regardless of their status. DL should blacklist this clown, let him become the problem of DL/UA/WN etc.

  13. @Skaner,
    In other words what you are saying is the order for cops is:
    Airport cops
    Mall cops

  14. @Penny asked:

    “Just out of curiosity, what is the standard of compensation IF you are ever downgraded?”

    I was recently downgraded as an Executive Platinum from an American Airlines FC seat due to equipment change since they went from 4 rows in first to 3 (I was in 4A so looks like they just reassigned the people in row 4 – don’t know if different for paid seats versus upgrades). Found out when I got an alert I needed a seat assignment after checking in and while waiting in Admirals’ Club. Attendant in there rebooked me in coach aisle seat and credited me 5000 AAdvantage miles. Not much (when you have well over a million in your account) but I appreciated it since they frankly didn’t have to do anything and I fully understood why it happened.

  15. @Gary “There’s no evidence to suggest that Delta deviated from its published procedures for determining which passenger to downgrade, ”

    What is that procedure, Gary?

  16. Leaving the behavior of the law professor and the captain aside, why does the FA need to sit in a first class seat?

  17. This incident with incident with Khaled Beydoun, reminds me of a scene in “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” where the peasants claim to be free of systematic oppression but see it everywhere. See the following clip of that scene, it is really funny.

    Similarly, Mr. Beydoun has been liberated from White/Western/Christian oppression and therefore sees it everywhere.

  18. @BOSLGAORD if the flight attendant jumpseat is inoperable, it is FAA regulation that he/she sit in the closest seat to their emergency exit which on this plane is the first class aisle seat. You wouldn’t want them in a coach seat many rows away from their exit in case of an emergency. That is just common sense. This guy is just an entitled brat that thinks he is too good to sit in a coach seat, which is what he paid for and is pulling the race card because he didn’t get his way, which he didn’t pay for the upgrade in the first place. He got he seat he paid for. Please, please, please, let’s stop this nonsense!

  19. “waiting for his luggaeg”
    “that e would seek action against Delta”

    I am happy to proof your articles before posting if you want. Just sayin’

  20. I can’t resist telling my story about Muslims and airplanes. Within a week or two after 9/11, I was returning to Detroit after business trip in Europe. I think it was a Delta flight. I was in business class, sitting in the window seat. The aisle seat was empty. A few minutes after takeoff, a flight attendant touched me on the shoulder and asked if she could seat a passenger in the empty seat. I looked up and said, “sure”. A brown-skinned Middle Eastern man with a very frightened look on his face lowered himself slowly into the seat next to me, glancing at me every now and then. I have rarely seen anyone look so scared. I made a few friendly comments. He smiled, ever so slightly, then looked down, as if he wanted to shrink into the seat. We didn’t speak throughout the flight and, I believe the flight attendant checked on him several times and then helped him off the plane quickly after landing. My assumption is that this Middle Eastern man was harassed by some of the passengers in coach class so Delta moved him. Fortunately, this time, it seemed to work out OK for all parties involved.

Comments are closed.