Korean Air Executive Resigns After Delaying Flight Because Of Macadamia Nuts

| by Jared Keever

A Korean Air executive has resigned from her post and could face stiff penalties after she forced a Korean Air flight at New York’s JFK to return to its gate because she didn’t like the way she was served by a flight attendant. 

The Daily Mail reports Heater Cho, a senior vice-president with the company, was on a 12:50 a.m. flight back to South Korea. The plane had already taxied to the runway when an attendant served Cho a bag of macadamia nuts. Cho, the eldest daughter of Korean Air Chairman Cho Yang Ho, reportedly lost her cool, telling the attendant nuts were supposed to be removed from the bag and placed in a glass dish before being served to passengers. 

She is said to have demanded that the attendant retrieve the company’s in-flight service manual to review the proper procedures.

“The chief flight attendant failed to get the right manual, and this led Cho to believe he was not qualified for that job,” a Korean Air official told The Korea Times.

Cho then reportedly ordered the attendant off the flight, forcing the pilot to return to the gate so the man could exit the plane.

Witnesses said she shouted during the incident. 

Korean officials said they are investigating whether Cho broke any laws by forcing the pilot to return to the gate. The flight arrived at its destination, Incheon, 11 minutes late because of the delay.

“We'll see whether her behavior was against the law. It is an unprecedented case, so we need to see the related regulations,” a ministry official said. “Even though she is senior vice president at the company, she was a passenger at that time, so she had to behave and be treated as a passenger.”

Cho resigned from her positions in the airline’s catering and in-flight sales businesses Tuesday, according to an airline spokesman who spoke to CNN.

She will keep her title as vice president, the spokesman said. 

The Daily Mail suggests Cho could face up to 10 years in prison for causing the disturbance.

The Korean Times reports she could face a fine of 5 million Korean won, or about $4,500.

Sources: Daily MailThe Korea TimesCNN / Photo Credit: Eric Salard / Flickr, BBC/AFP