A Muslim man was allegedly thrown off a National Express coach after a passenger said she felt "uncomfortable". The incident is believed to have taken place on a coach from Bristol to London Victoria on Thursday (3 December), shortly before the coach departed.
The man was asked to leave the coach following a complaint from a fellow passenger, who said she would feel "uncomfortable" travelling with him because of his religion, the Bristol Post reported. A National Express staff member is then said to have stepped in to ask the man to get off the coach service.
"I couldn't really believe what I was seeing," Rebekah Makinde, a student at the University of Bristol, told the Bristol Post. "As soon as he got on the coach, the women at the front were just silent and staring at him. They were making their feelings very obvious."
Makinde said that as soon as the man sat down, one of the women went to speak to the driver. When the man was asked to leave, Makinde said that he did not protest and just got off the coach. A fellow passenger on the same coach confirmed Makinde's version of events, saying that he heard the group of women say that the man looked "shifty". Nick McDonald confirmed that the man was told to leave the coach as soon as the woman made the complaint to the driver.
National Express denied that the incident was related to the man's religion and said he was asked to leave because of a dispute over his luggage. The company has said that the man had "excess luggage" that was becoming "an issue" for other customers.
A spokesperson for the National Express said: "We categorically deny an incident in which a passenger was asked to leave one of our coaches was in any way Islamophobic. The gentleman concerned boarded with excess luggage, which became an issue for a number of our other customers."
The spokesperson said that the man refused to put his excess luggage in the hold when he was asked to, following which he became "abusive" towards their staff and left the station.
However, passengers Makinde and McDonald insist that the man was asked to leave because of his religion. Both passengers said that they overheard the conversation between the woman and the driver and were certain that his luggage was not the reason he was asked to leave the coach.
Makinde said: "It's ridiculous. Everyone had luggage with them on the coach, I had bags and my laptop on my seat next to me and nobody said anything about that. The coach wasn't even that busy and there were plenty of free seats."
McDonald, who said he also overheard the conversation, confirmed that the man was only asked to leave once the woman spoke to the driver about him.
"She got off the coach to make a complaint and the next thing a man wearing a National Express vest got on and asked him to get off," said McDonald. "If the man was carrying too many bags, why was he allowed to board the coach in the first place? It wasn't until the woman said she felt uncomfortable that he was asked to leave."