Geum Yi

Korean Air heiress steps down after ‘nut rage’ incident

December 10, 2014
Cho Hyun-ah, daughter of Hanjin Group Chairman Choi Yang-ho and Korean Air Vice President

Cho Hyun-ah, daughter of Hanjin Group Chairman Choi Yang-ho and Korean Air Vice President

By Chung Hyun-chae

Korean Air Vice President Heather Cho resigned from all flight services-related posts Tuesday, bowing to the public uproar over her anger inflicted on a flight crewmember for not serving macadamia nuts in a “proper” fashion.

“I sincerely apologize for unintentionally causing public concern. I seek forgiveness from all those who have been hurt. I will take full responsibility for the incident and step down from my post,” she said in a statement.

However, Cho will retain her positions as vice president and board member of the airline.

Her resignation came hours after her father Cho Yang-ho, chairman of Hanjin Group, the parent group of the nation’s largest airline, apologized for the inconvenience caused by his eldest daughter’s spat with the crewmember on a plane bound for Seoul from New York.

“I sincerely apologize for causing any inconvenience to the passengers,” the 65-year-old chairman told reporters, on his return from a trip to France.

He also promised to investigate the incident and take all necessary measures.

Korean Air said the chairman held a meeting with top executives at Incheon International Airport, right after he returned from the overseas trip, and accepted his daughter’s resignation.

Cho came under fire for overstepping her bounds by ordering a flight crew manager of the airline to get off the plane for what she called “poor service.”

Cho was flying first class on Flight KE086 bound from New York to Incheon, Friday. According to the carrier and witnesses, she yelled at a junior flight attendant who offered her a bag of macadamia nuts without asking whether the she wanted them or not.

Cho claimed that flight attendants have to ask passengers if they want nuts, and if so, they should offer nuts on a plate, not the entire bag.

Cho called for the chief flight attendant to bring out a service manual and when he failed to find it immediately, she ordered him to get off the plane.

To deplane the chief purser, the airplane, with some 250 passengers, had to return to the gate, which caused it to arrive at Incheon International Airport 11 minutes later than scheduled.

The People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy, a progressive civic group, said it will file a complaint against Cho with the prosecution for the alleged breach of the Air Traffic Law.

The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport is also looking into the incident to see whether any rules were broken. Causing a commotion on a plane is considered a punishable act under South Korean law.

Korean Air’s pilot union also issued an official statement urging the company to take full responsibility for the “shameful” incident.