Ex-Korean Air VP gets 1-year jail term over ‘nut rage’

February 12, 2015
Cho Hyun-ah, the eldest daughter of Korean Air Chairman Cho Yang-ho and former vice president of the airline company, appears at the Seoul Western District Court in Seoul on Dec. 30, 2014, to be questioned on charges of violating aviation safety laws. The court is to decide whether to approve a warrant to arrest Cho, who caused a controversy by ordering a crew member to leave a Korean Air plane over an alleged breach of snack-serving protocol in New York in early December. (Yonhap)

Cho Hyun-ah, the eldest daughter of Korean Air Chairman Cho Yang-ho and former vice president of the airline company, appears at the Seoul Western District Court in Seoul on Dec. 30, 2014, to be questioned on charges of violating aviation safety laws. The court is to decide whether to approve a warrant to arrest Cho, who caused a controversy by ordering a crew member to leave a Korean Air plane over an alleged breach of snack-serving protocol in New York in early December. (Yonhap)

SEOUL, Feb. 12 (Yonhap) — A Seoul court sentenced a former vice president of Korea Airlines Co. to one year in prison Thursday for obstructing aviation safety by ordering a taxiing plane to return to the gate over in-flight service in December.

Cho Hyun-ah, the eldest daughter of the chairman of South Korea’s largest full-service carrier, faced five counts of charges: changing the air route of a flight, violence leading to obstruction of aviation safety, intimidation, obstruction of business and obstruction of justice through deception.

The first, changing the air route, carries the heaviest penalty of up to nine years in prison with no option of suspension.

Cho was convicted of the charge despite her wish to receive a suspended jail term. Prior to the ruling, she had submitted six letters of apology to the judges to avoid imprisonment.

“It is questionable whether Cho truly feels remorseful,” Judge Oh Seong-woo said in the ruling. “The so-called ‘nut rage’ case trampled on the integrity of humanity.”

On Dec. 5, Cho ordered a senior crew member to de-plane after being served her macadamia nuts in an unopened bag instead of on a plate. The Seoul-bound flight from New York had already been taxiing when she had it return to the gate.

The news outraged the South Korean public, leading her to step down as vice president of cabin service four days later.

Prosecutors said Cho had also tried to exert influence over the transport ministry’s probe into the case.

Cho had pleaded innocence, arguing the airport runway should not be considered part of the “air route.” She claimed she had ordered the chief steward off the plane because he did not have the service manual thoroughly memorized.

Prosecutors had sought a prison term of three years for Cho.

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