A woman has claimed an airline denied her the right to fly because she is “too fat.”
Juliana Nehme, 38, an influencer and plus-size model from Brazil accused Middle Eastern airline Qatar Airways from discriminating against her due to her size.
Her video about the alleged incident has since gone viral.
In it she explained that she, her mother, sister and nephew were on holiday in Lebanon and on their way home to Brazil, via, Doha, when a staffer told her she would have to purchase a more expensive first-class seat if she wanted to board the flight.
However, the airline said one of Juliana’s family members failed to produce the required Covid-19 PRC test documentation to board the flight, the Daily Mail reported.
“The passenger in question at Beirut Airport was initially extremely rude and aggressive to check-in staff when one of her traveling party did not produce required PCR documentation for entry to Brazil,” a Qatar Airways spokesperson told the publication.
“As a result, airport security was requested to intervene as staff and passengers were extremely concerned with her behavior.”
In her clip, which has attracted more than 50,000 ‘likes’ and thousands of comments since she shared it on Thursday, Juliana explained she had no issues boarding an Air France flight into Lebanon where she and her family were on holiday.
In Portuguese, she said: “I bought a return ticket to Brazil through Qatar and arriving at the time to check in, a Qatar flight attendant called my mother while another staffer was finishing our check in and told her I wasn’t welcome to board because I’m fat.”
Juliana said her family spent a total of $4,000(USD) on economy seats – including her $947 ticket, “only to be denied from boarding the flight.”
Juliana was allegedly told she would need to pay further for a first class ticket if she wanted to fly with the airline as the seats are bigger.
“A Qatar airline (staffer) called my mother while the lady was finishing our check in and told her that I wasn’t welcome to board because I’m fat and they weren’t going to welcome me on the flight!” she said.
Outlining its policy, Qatar Airways said any passenger “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,” the Daily Mail reported.
This, the airline said, was in line with industry practice and most other airlines.
“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,” the frustrated tourist said while at Beirut – Rafic Hariri International Airport.
“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 $2,029, 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.”
In her post, Juliana said she spent almost two hours begging the airline to board the flight and travel back home.
“My mother tried everything [too]. I was threatened when trying to record what they were doing,” she claimed.
She ended up staying in Beirut Airport, Lebanon with her mum, while her sister and nephew caught the Qatar Airlines flight to Doha, Qatar.
“I’m spending money on hotel and taxi that I didn’t need! Can’t afford to hang around any longer. And they said I have to pay for another fare for my mother and upgrade mine to executive. But nobody wanted to tell me! I was extremely humiliated in front of all the people at the airport! All because I’m FAT!”
At the time of reporting, Juliana was still in Lebanon.
A Qatar Airways spokesperson told the Daily Mail “the passenger has been rebooked on a flight this evening [November 24] from Lebanon”.
Airline obesity policies differ in degree and detail, but decree essentially that if you don’t fit into a seat with an extension seatbelt and the armrests down, you will be charged for two seats or removed from the plane, according to Smarter Travel.
Some airlines may do their best to accommodate obese passengers by offering a second seat for free or refunding the advance purchase of a second seat if the flight isn’t fully booked on the day.
Meanwhile, the government’s Australian Institute of Health and Welfare states 67 percent of Australian adults are overweight or obese .