, SEOUL, Dec 16 – South Korea says it will punish Korean Air with a flight ban or fines after the daughter of its chief executive delayed a flight with a tantrum over how some snacks were served, in a “nut rage” incident that caused a national uproar.
Cho Hyun-Ah, a former senior executive with the flag carrier, forced the chief cabin crew member off a New York-Seoul flight after she took exception to being served macadamia nuts she had not asked for – and in a bag, not a bowl.
“We plan to impose a flight ban or a fine against Korean Air”, the transportation ministry said in a statement.
The flight ban could last for up to a month on an unspecified route and the fine could be up to $2 million, it added.
The ministry will also “file formal complaints with the prosecution against Cho Hyun-Ah today” and ask them to open a criminal investigation, it said.
A ministry investigation found that 40-year-old Cho screamed and hurled abuses at a flight attendant and the chief purser during the incident on December 5, a breach of an aviation safety law.
The ministry also vowed to probe whether the firm’s “corporate culture” – criticised for being dominated by the whims of the owner family – posed any safety risk to passengers.
The case has sparked a wave of public anger in South Korea.
State prosecutors are also investigating unconfirmed allegations that Cho used violence against cabin manager Park Chang-Jin, including his claims that she pushed him into the cockpit door and jabbed him with a service manual.
Cho has denied reports she also made him and the flight attendant kneel and beg her forgiveness, but another passenger in first class confirmed most of Park’s account, saying she forced both to their knees.
She publicly apologised and resigned from all her posts at the family-run business conglomerate Hanjin Group, which owns Korean Air, in the face of intense public uproar.