A furious plus-size model has said she was stopped from boarding a Qatar Airways flight to her native Brazil because she was too large for her seat.
Social media influencer Juliana Nehme, 38, has now accused the middle eastern airline of discriminating against her due to her size.
In a post for her 118,000 Instagram followers, Juliana said she was not allowed to board her flight from Beirut to Doha on November 22.
She had been on holiday in Lebanon with her family and had arrived in the country via Air France without a hitch, she told her followers.
But being denied boarding on her first return flight meant she also went on to miss her onward connection to Sao Paulo, where she lives.
Juliana said Qatar Airways did not offer to refund her the £830 she had paid for her ticket. Instead, the influencer claimed, the airline said she needed to buy a first-class ticket – which has larger seats – for £2,480, so she fit into a seat on the plane.
Juliana took to social media to vent: ‘They are denying my right to travel… I’m desperate, help me, they don’t want me to board because I’m fat.’
The influencer ended up staying in Lebanon with her mother, while her sister and nephew returned home.
She told her followers: ‘What a shame for a company like Qatar to allow this type of discrimination against people! I’m fat, but I’m just like everyone else!’
At the time of reporting, Juliana remained in Lebanon unable to get back home.
‘I’m here at the Qatar Airways desk, with tickets I bought to go to Doha and from Doha to Brazil,’ Nehme told her thousands of followers on Instagram in Portugese.
‘With no reason, the stewardess from Qatar said I cannot board because I am too fat, and according to her, I have no right to have this plane ticket.
‘I paid $1,000 on my plane ticket, almost R$ 6,000 (Brazil’s currency). I’m here with my mum, my sister and my nephew, a total of $4,000 in tickets for her to simply deny the tickets and not let me board the airplane to Doha, because I am fat.
‘Now, what am I going to do? They are denying my right to travel, but I came here by AirFrance and everything went well, I had no problem. And now, they are denying my ticket,’ a clearly upset Nehme claimed. ‘They are requiring me to buy an executive ticket to go back to my own country, but I came here with normal seat ticket.
‘I am desperate, they don’t want to board me, because I’m fat. I need to buy a business ticket, which is $3,000, I don’t have this money. I don’t know what to do, there is only 30 minutes until the airplane takes off. They are saying I have no right to board in the airplane, because I’m fat. I don’t know what to do.’
Qatar Airways was named the world’s best airline at the 2022 Skytrax World Airline Awards – a record seventh time.
With airlines looking to cut costs as much as possible, how to approach the sensitive topic of overweight passengers has been a contentious subject.
Airline carriers are tasked with calculating the weight and balance of their aircraft to ensure its within allowable limits for the safety of the plane.
In the United States, it has been suggested that the country’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) weighs some passengers before they board.
In recent years, increasing obesity rates in the US means that the standard numbers used by the airline industry to average out passenger weight is likely outdated and therefore, unsafe to use.
It was said at the time that weighing select passengers at airports would establish a more accurate number for average passenger weight so the number of seats available on flights can be adjusted accordingly.
Critics of such a move say this would open the door to discriminatory practices.