Plus-Size Model Refused Travel By Qatar Airways, ‘Too Big For Coach’

São Paulo-based plus-size model Juliana Nehme took to social media to share the ordeal of being denied travel in economy class on Qatar Airways at the end of her holiday in Beirut.

She says she flew Air France on the way over, but at check-in for her Qatar flight to Doha she was told that she “wasn’t welcome to board because [she’s] fat and…they weren’t going to welcome me on the flight” unless she paid for a premium cabin seat.

Since Nehme couldn’t afford to fly business class, the airline refused her transportation, but wouldn’t refund her ticket. However “[a]fter hours of begging” they returned her checked bags.

I paid a thousand dollars. I stayed for almost 2 hours begging to travel. My mother tried everything. I was threatened when trying to record what they were doing. The counter lady pushed me and nothing worked.

…They wanted my mother to leave and leave me alone here in Lebanon But I don’t speak English or Arabic. …I was extremely humiliated in front of all the people at the airport! All because I’m FAT!

I might actually have a little bit of sympathy for Qatar here, or rather for other passengers on the flight, except that this woman was traveling as part of a group of four. If she could sit next to her own group on either side, and they’re alright with it, then I don’t see the problem. She’d just need a seat belt extender.

While Beirut – Doha isn’t long haul, it’s too long to be seated in an economy seat next to someone who takes up your room. But there are better ways of dealing with this than refusing transportation or requiring that someone fly business class. Many airlines will let you buy the seat next to you and keep it empty. Southwest will sell that second seat to a larger passenger and then refund the cost if the plane goes out less than full.

Qatar Airways is fantastic in the air, and their lounges in Doha are (for the most part) excellent. However, on the ground and dealing with any irregularity, I find them to be difficult in the extreme. For instance they’ve been known to involuntarily downgrade passengers flying on partner-issued award tickets when they oversell a flight – rather than seeking volunteers. Here no volunteer was even needed!

Update: Qatar Airways shares the following,

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 travelling party did not produce a 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 on Thursday evening from Lebanon.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. You can’t fit 10 pounds of sausage into 5 pounds of casing!

    I just went to her IG page and she appears to be well in excess of 400 pounds. And she’s pretty wide – certainly wider than 17-18”, the width of most coach seats. Even with a seatbelt extender, she wouldn’t fit into an economy seat without spilling over into the adjacent seats.

    Whether the airlines handled it politely (probably not), the ultimate decision was correct. I’ve been in a situation where I was involuntarily seated next to a morbidly obese person, and it was miserable. It forced me to contort my own 5’8 160# body into a position that was physically uncomfortable and left me in pain for days.

    If you are too big to fit in a small seat, buy 2 or buy a larger seat.

  2. Plus Sized “Model”? – looking at her pictures, she has to be 400 pounds, maybe 500,give or take 50. There is no way she can/could fit into one seat – unless it is a first class seat – and then it would be an accomplishment. Claiming that she could not afford to purchase a first class seat is laughable – skipping a lunch or two would give her more than enough money to pay for the seat. Stating that she would need a “seat belt extender” is also laughable – 3-4 extenders would more than likely be needed. Why am I being so harsh, you ask? Well I am so tired of people complaining about how they are treated when they knowingly know that their personal size will be an issue.

  3. In the US she is a Customer of Size and would be required to buy 2 economy seats together She would not nor should she be allowed to purchase and occupy only one seat. Not sure about Qatars policy about buying 2 economy seats vs 1 business but in no event could. She expect to buy and sit in one economy seat. She should not have been surprised she was denied boarding. This is on her

  4. I’ve had the displeasure if being seated next to a “plus sized” person. It is extremely unfair to the other passengers that seated next to them.

  5. The other option for those that don’t see why Qatar was right to deny boarding for a single purchased economy seat (not disputing it could have been handled better) maybe you would like us to start charging each passenger by weight like fedex ups or the usps does. It costs more to transport a heavier package but we charge the same per passenger even though a child or smaller person costs less? Be careful what you wish for since this is in reality what any shipping company should do

  6. Bravo to the Qatar Airways staff. Seriously, if you are a person of size, there are consequences beyond health.

  7. Being perpetually offended or entitled doesn’t fly (so to speak) if every part of the world.

    Influencers are the biggest (no pun intended) Karen’s in the world looking for issues to post

  8. More likely- ‘Too Big For Couch!”

    How deep do her carbon footprints go?

    Special meal order? Two of everything with Diet Coke.

    Obesity is nothing to celebrate or market too. Woke companies like Victoria’s Secret; Dove; Coke; Disney; Proctor & Gamble- take note!,

  9. Yeah, no. That would have been difficult to ship freight. No way in hell should it be allowed in a passenger cabin.

  10. Good for them. Imagine what it would be like for her seatmate to have her blubber spilling over into their personal space? Qatar was looking out for their normal customers.

    And she’s hardly plus sized, more like gargantuan-massed.

  11. She knows she’s huge and should buy 2 Econ seats, but doesn’t, and hopes to get away with it.
    Seems like that works pretty well mostly, but not on that QR flight!
    If the coach cabin was fully booked and there was no option to buy a 2nd seat, well, too bad!
    She knew the risks, and lost.
    I am struggling to imagine what exactly someone of that size would model, apart from party tents and the like……

  12. Let’s be honest. She’s grossly obese and will soon suffer consequences to her health if she isn’t already. It’s time to stop glamorizing obesity. There’s no upside to being this size

  13. All you bigots on here that left nasty comments should be ashamed of yourselves. Yes, she’s overweight but to berate her for it is disgusting and heartless. I’m sure being denied was embarrassing enough but these comments are trash!

  14. Americans ARE FAT! The rest of the world is getting FATTER AS WELL except for nations in food crises.
    Per the CDC website: Obesity is a common, serious, and costly disease
    The US obesity prevalence was 41.9% in 2017 – March 2020. (NHANES, 2021)
    From 1999 –2000 through 2017 –March 2020, US obesity prevalence increased from 30.5% to 41.9%. During the same time, the prevalence of severe obesity increased from 4.7% to 9.2%.
    Childhood obesity rates are alarming. In some countries, formerly “healthy” groups are getting to be overweight…mostly because of the spread(no pun intended) of American foods/products/fast food restaurants! As a group of travelers who presumably have seen people all over, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the CRAP that is put into what the health/medical community often refers to as the SAD/ Standard American Diet versus what is served in other places!
    You all may not be fat NOW, but give yourselves time! Because the food industry here is and has been getting away with literal MURDER for decades by loading crap into our foods to lower the production costs/increase profits at the expense of our health. Young people are very susceptible as they are most at risk. You all can make rude comments but the REALITY is that when OVER 40% OF YOUR POPULATION IS CONSIDERED OBESE, it doesn’t take a genius to KNOW that there will be problems when you keep shrinking seat sizes on planes in restaurants, in offices, etc.

    You all seem surprised that she is a plus sized model? How about the plus sized fashion industry generated nearly 500 BILLION dollars in 2020 and is expected to generate nearly 700 billion by 2027!!!! Then consider these other industries…
    The plus sized furniture market? Plus sized shoes…yes, I noticed Skechers had a new shoe for larger plus size feet, not wider, just “more room” and there are devices being manufactured all over the world to accommodate larger and obese and morbidly obese people. Everything from plus sized bath scales to plus sized rain gear.
    I personally think the food industry and the pharmaceutical industry are working together to make people fatter for profit! Given the numbers, there is a big chance that either YOU or someone in your IMMEDIATE FAMILY is or will become obese or morbidly obese in your lifetime.

    But laugh all you want, some damned body is getting rich as hell off of making people larger at home and abroad.
    Smart money would be on investing in those products to HELP people of size by offering services to make them WANT to travel with you like a plus size seat, stay in your hotel with plus size furniture or dine in your establishment that has nice comfy chairs for them or by creating innovations for them to make their lives easier or more comfortable, because guess what, lots of people with money are fat too…or didn’t anyone see the last potus? Or you could just sit around making fat jokes like you did in high school.

  15. She is in Beirut with her mom, sister, and nephew. I’m guessing the nephew may still be a toddler and perhaps that’s how all of them fit in the same row in economy when flying Air France.
    Im surprised she’s not flying Air France back home or a sky team carrier like MEA.
    Since it is Thanksgiving weekend hopefully one of her followers who has a ton of miles can help her out and get her an award business class seat home to Brazil.
    Just thinking more about it, there may be no business class award seats available on QR right now due to the World Cup. She is better off just flying Air France back home.

  16. Do a google image search. “Plus size” is ‘generous’. This woman simply wouldn’t fit in an economy seat. No way, no how, unless one on either side was empty and the armrest lifts up.

  17. AA Business Class would put you between the plus size model and the crying baby and call it an enhancement

  18. When a passenger is so large as to require more than one seat so as not to intrude into the neighboring seat space that is occupied ….. there is nothing good to come from it.

  19. Brian,

    Visiting (friends and) relatives is what people do during vacation.

    Based on her not unusual Lebanese last name, I’m assuming she’s a member of the relatively prominent Syrian-Lebanese community in Brazil.

  20. Qatar gets my business. No slippery slope, wiggle room, asking others in the same reservation BS (what happens if there’s a cancellation and need to be split amongst different flights?) and all the other poor excuses in this article and comments.

    If you’re too FAT, pay for ENOUGH SEATS for your SIZE or GET THE MEDICAL ATTENTION you need. No, it’s not normal, and the very low lifespans and high diabetes rates prove it.

    If only other airlines were as good as Qatar!

  21. Could she even fit into one of those new-fangled AA toilets? Well done QR. I’d hate to be behind her during an emergency evac.

  22. If that is the case how she was able to travel on Air France. Why people are ridiculing obesity. Most American Men and Women are obese and their weight equals her weight.(one cannot estimate weight from picture/s) Qatar had no business to refuse refund of her ticket money. People are talking of Industry practices. Pray what is Industry Practice in Airline Industry by the way when each Airline does what it wants to do. IATA is dead as a Dodo.

  23. Instead of traveling, someone should check her into a weight-loss clinic. We should not be normalizing her morbid obesity. She is literally killing herself.

  24. Rama…,
    the rate of obesity in the latest year the CDC has reported is 42% among American adults which is not a majority although it is very high.
    Note, however, that she is not an American. She is a Brazilian.
    There are abundant weight loss solutions available in Brazil including stomach banding.
    Worldwide, the most promising treatments for obesity are self-injectable diabetes drugs which have also been shown to have significant weight loss effects. Some are approved by the FDA for weight loss while others are still only available as type 2 diabetes drugs. Novo Nordisk is the leading seller of diabetes drugs in the US and has products in that class with Eli Lilly right behind. Eli Lilly has been one of the best performing large cap stocks over the last year, far outperforming the sinking market although diabetes drugs are only part of their portfolio.
    There are solutions for obesity which is not just an American problem.

  25. So much hate exists in America, Canada, Europe, and Australia because things like this and transgender propaganda in preschools has become the norm. When it is now considered offensive to say someone is fat, or that you’d wish your sons and daughters not be born gay, or you are proud to be White and celebrate your White heritage, the only rational reaction is for us to hate on the institutions and people pushing this irrationality.

    Are we better off or worse off with this “model” living on earth or flying in an airplane?

  26. Most of the nasty remarks here range from the juvenile to borderline mentally ill. Every single one of us has flaws, some visible to others, some more hidden from the public eye. Have a little compassion. Yes, this woman is very much obese. No, I would not want to sit next to her in an economy seat (though I doubt it would ruin my life or keep me grousing about it for years if it did happen). Finally, yes, she should be purchasing an additional seat or fly business/first. However, there is no need at all for an airline employee or anyone else to humiliate her in public. In addition, AF got her there so why couldn’t Qatar manage to provide her a seat? I read elsewhere they put her on a later flight. Also, she was flying with family so wouldn’t they be the ones sitting next to her? Finally, nobody knows why she is this size. If losing weight was just a simple matter of cutting back, you wouldn’t see so many people overweight by even just ten or twenty pounds. Like most things, it’s a complex issue. Regardless, it’s a situation she is living with and she should expect to be able to travel without being humiliated.

  27. Looks like she eventually made it on another QR flight to Brazil. I guess Qatar Airways reviewed her case especially after this made the news.

  28. If you are a plus size model, then you are profiting off your weight, therefore the extra costs associated with traveling are yours to pay. Stop behaving like victims for your own life choices.

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