A court in Brazil has ordered Qatar Airways to pay for psychotherapy for a plus-size model they reportedly refused to board because she was “too fat.”
Influencer Juliana Nehme, 38, accused the airline of discriminating against her due to her size.
In a post, Juliana told her 167,000 Instagram followers she was not allowed to board her flight from Beirut to Doha on Nov. 22 allegedly due to her weight.
Her video about the alleged incident has since gone viral.
She had been on holiday in Lebanon with her family and had arrived in the country via Air France without any problems.
However, on their way home to Brazil, via Doha, Juliana said a staffer told her she would have to purchase a more expensive first-class seat if she wanted to board the flight.
It also meant she would miss her onward connection to Sao Paulo, where she lives.
Juliana said Qatar Airways did not offer to refund her the $1,000 she had paid for her ticket.
Instead, the influencer claimed, the airline said she needed to buy a business-class ticket for $3,000 so she could fit into the section’s larger seats.
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!”
And now, a court in Sao Paulo has ordered Qatar Airways to pay for psychotherapy for Juliana so she can come to terms with the distress caused by the incident.
Judge Renata Martins de Carvalho ruled on December 20 the airline must pay for psychiatric or psychological treatment for the influencer by a trusted professional.
The treatment must consist “of a weekly therapy session worth $78 for a period of at least one year, totaling $3718 to be deposited in the plaintiff’s bank account”.
Judge Carvalho said the “granting of urgent relief is a reasonable and proportionate measure to ensure that the stressful and traumatic event is overcome” by Juliana.
The influencer’s lawyer, Eduardo Barbosa, described the ruling as “a milestone in the fight against prejudice”.
Juliana had spoken of the trauma of what she went through, telling Brazilian media: “It was like I wasn’t a human being to them. I was a fat monster that couldn’t get on board.
“It was horrible. I’d never imagined going through something like this, ever.
“It hurts me now to remember how much I blamed myself, because I blamed myself a lot, I even asked my mother for forgiveness several times.
“I said, ‘Mum, forgive me, because me being like this stopped you from going home.’ And she said it wasn’t my fault.”
Juliana and her mother were eventually able to return home on another flight without having to pay any more money after speaking to the Brazilian ambassador.
She told local media: “The ambassador called me and said he would help me. We stayed in an embassy home waiting for the decision.
“Then, he called me on the 24th and said that he had spoken with the president of Qatar (Airways) and that I was authorized to return paying only what I had paid, that I wouldn’t have to pay anything else.
“We took a flight that same day and arrived in Brazil on the 25th.”
Qatar Airways said in a statement: “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 traveler 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 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.
“As a result, airport security was requested to intervene as staff and passengers were extremely concerned with her behaviour.”
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 (36 percent) or obese (31 percent).