Korean Air chief sorry for daughter’s ‘nut rage’

Heather Cho faces the media as she arrives at Seoul's transportation ministry. Picture: Getty
Heather Cho faces the media as she arrives at Seoul's transportation ministry. Picture: Getty
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The embarrased chairman of the Korean Air Lines Company has apologised for the behaviour of his adult daughter after she delayed a flight in a “nut rage.” incident.

Cho Yang-ho made a deep bow before journalists in response to simmering public anger over his daughter’s over-entitled attitude and the airline’s handling of it.

Heather Cho, who was head of cabin service at Korean Air, was angered when a flight attendant in first class offered her macadamia nuts in a bag, not on a plate.

She ordered a senior crew member off the plane, forcing the aircraft to return to the gate at John F Kennedy airport in New York.

Flight 86 was already on the runway for its 12:50am departure from JFK to Icheon when she lost her temper. About 250 passengers were affected by the delay.

The flight eventually arrived in South Korea some 11 minutes late.

Ms Cho’s actions caused uproar in South Korea and abroad.

South Korean media called the 40-year-old a “princess” and some Koreans said she was an international embarrassment to her country.

Mr Cho called his daughter’s behaviour foolish and said he regretted he had not raised her better. “It’s my fault,” he said. “As chairman and father, I ask for the public’s generous forgiveness.”

Earlier this week, Ms Cho resigned as Korean Air’s head of cabin service but retained other executive roles at the airline and its affiliated companies.

Her father said yesterday that she was resigning from executive roles at all affiliates of Hanjin, the group that controls Korean Air.

Ms Cho also apologised yesterday over the incident, which has left her a laughing stock.

She said she would apologise to the cabin crew chief.

“I will apologise sincerely… in person,” she said in response to a question by a reporter as she arrived at a transportation ministry office to answer for last Friday’s incident.

Dressed in black, Ms Cho emerged from a black Hyundai sedan at a building near Gimpo International Airport.

She stood before cameras but looked towards the ground as snow fell, her voice barely audible. “I sincerely apologise for causing trouble for everyone. I’m sorry,” she said.

She is also under a separate investigation by local prosecutors following a complaint filed by a civic group that accused her of breaking multiple laws.

The incident was first reported on Monday, and public outrage grew after Korean Air issued what many in the country took to be a half-hearted apology that rationalised her conduct in the face of inadequate performance by the cabin crew chief.

Investigators searched the offices of Korean Air, and the transport ministry said it was looking into whether Ms Cho had violated aviation laws. She could face prosecution and a fine if found to have committed wrongdoing, an official said.

Ms Cho, clearly stung by the criticism of her and the knock-on effect for her father and the airline staff, added: “I will step down and take responsibility over the incident.

“I also beg the forgiveness of those who may have been hurt by my actions and offer my apologies to our customers.”

The airline itself is the largest in terms of fleet operating from South Korea, headquartered in Seoul. Its cargo division serves 130 cities in 45 countries, with the domestic side catering for 20 destinations.

The Korean Air Lines Company was founded as Korean National Airlines in 1946 before being privatised in 1969.

It was voted Asia’s best airline by Business Traveller magazine readers two years ago and is a sponsor of the 2014 Asian Games.