A court in Brazil has ordered Qatar Airways to pay for psychotherapy for a plus-size model they reportedly denied boarding because she was “too fat”.
Influencer Juliana Nehme, 38, accused the airline of discriminating against her due to her size.
In a post for her 167,000 Instagram followers, Juliana said she was not allowed to board her flight from Beirut to Doha on 22nd November.
She had been on holiday in Lebanon with her family and had arrived in the country via Air France without hitch, she told her followers.
But being denied boarding on her first return flight meant she would also miss her onward connection to Sao Paulo, where she lives.
Juliana said Qatar Airways did not offer to refund her the USD 1,000 (GBP 820) she had paid for her ticket.
Instead, the influencer claimed, the airline said she needed to buy a business-class ticket for USD 3,000 (GBP 2,500) 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 20th December that 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 BRL 400 (GBP 63) for a period of at least one year, totalling BRL 19,200 (GBP 3,000), 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 authorised 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 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 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 behavior.”