‘Humiliated’ plus-size model claims Qatar Airways denied her boarding for being ‘too fat for economy’

Airline says woman was kept off plane for being ‘extremely rude and aggressive to check-in staff’

Lucy Thackray
Friday 25 November 2022 10:31 GMT
Qatar Airways insists the woman was refused travel due to her behaviour
Qatar Airways insists the woman was refused travel due to her behaviour (Getty Images)

A Brazilian plus-size model has accused Qatar Airways of denying her boarding due to her weight.

Model and influencer Juliana Nehme, who has 153,000 Instagram followers, posted a strongly-worded caption about the incident, as well as filming the staff member who she says barred her from flying.

Ms Nehme starts by saying that she had flown with Air France on her outward journey to Lebanon, with no problems.

“I came on an economy ticket and did not experience any embarrassment or harassment,” she says.

While in Lebanon, she says, “I bought a return ticket to Brazil through Qatar, and arriving at the time to check in, a Qatari stewardess called my mother ... and I told her I WASN’T WELCOME TO BOARD BECAUSE I’M FAT. And they weren’t going to receive me on the flight!”

In an incident that appears to have taken place on Thursday, she says Qatar staff would only let her board if she bought a business class ticket for $3,000. She says she had already paid $1,000 for her initial ticket, which staff did not offer to refund.

Ms Nehme adds: “I tried until the end to allow me to fly, since we were four people travelling together, and she REFUSED UNTIL THE END to sell me the ticket! I stayed for almost two hours begging to travel. My mum tried everything.”

She also alleges that one of the staffers “pushed” her during the confrontation, saying “I was threatened”.

“When I tried to record what they were doing, the girl at the counter pushed me and it didn’t help.”

The 38-year-old model, who lives in Sao Paulo, says in her caption that she is now stuck in Lebanon. Two of her party - Ms Nehme’s sister and nephew - were able to return to Brazil.

Meanwhile she and her mother have remained in Lebanon since the incident.

“I’m having hotel and taxi expenses that I didn’t need! I don’t have the money to keep me here any longer. And they said I have to pay for another ticket for my mum and to upgrade mine to [business class].

“I was extremely humiliated in front of all the people at the airport! All because I’m FAT! Shame on a company like Qatar to allow this type of DISCRIMINATION to people! I’m FAT But I’m JUST LIKE EVERYONE!” she said.

“It’s not fair to buy my ticket and be HUMILIATED, THREATENED AND BARRED FROM FLYING!”

However, an airline representative told The Independent Ms Nehme had been denied boarding for being “extremely rude and aggressive to check-in staff”.

They also alleged that one of her party had failed to provide the correct Covid-19 documentation needed for Qatar.

“Qatar Airways treats all passengers with respect and dignity and in line with industry practices and similar to most airlines, anyone who impedes upon the space of a fellow traveller and cannot secure their seatbelt or lower their armrests may be required to purchase an additional seat both as a safety precaution and for the comfort and safety of all passengers,” said the spokesperson.

“The passenger in question at Beirut Airport was initially extremely rude and aggressive to check-in staff when one of her travelling party did not produce required PCR documentation for entry to Brazil. As a result, airport security was requested to intervene as staff and passengers were extremely concerned with her behaviour. We can confirm that the passenger was rebooked on a flight from Lebanon.”

Ms Nehme’s followers were outraged by her version of events, with many sharing her video and account of the interaction.

“The minimum Qatar needs to do is offer upgrade and not make you buy, after this whole situation,” wrote one.

“If she got there by plane, obviously she fits in an airplane seat. If the company has a size and or weight limit, it needs to be clear on their website for customers to see,” wrote a fan named Priscila.

“We are already in contact with professionals in Brazil ... to try to send legal support to Ju,” wrote Gordan Lei.

Later, Ms Nehme posted a second update from Lebanon, telling her followers in the caption: “I thank you from the heart for all the affection and all the fight for a fairer world and without #prejudice and not even #fatphobia.”

In the accompanying video, she becomes tearful as she gives her version of events.

“I’m sharing it here so that you can share and help me. I look forward to the opportunity to be able to return home.”

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