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Former airline executive denies 'nut rage' charges

ON TRIAL: The prison bus with Cho on board arriving at a court in Seoul yesterday. Her lawyers say she felt sorry for her actions - which included having a crew chief removed from a flight - but that they did not merit punishment by law.


    Jan 20, 2015

    Former airline executive denies 'nut rage' charges


    THE daughter of the chairman of Korean Air yesterday denied conspiring with airline executives to force flight attendants to lie about her outburst over the way she was served nuts.

    Heather Cho, a former executive of the airline and head of in-flight service before she resigned, appeared in court in Seoul yesterday, following her arrest on Dec 30.

    Cho had demanded that the crew chief be removed from a flight at John F. Kennedy airport in New York, after another flight attendant served her macadamia nuts in a bag, not on a dish.

    The plane, already taxiing to the runway, had to return to its gate.

    The incident, widely referred to as "nut rage", stirred public outrage and ridicule, leading Cho to resign from her posts at the airline and subsidiaries.

    Defence lawyers denied that she had violated aviation security laws by changing the flight's route, or conspired with airline executives to coerce crew members to lie about the incident to investigators.

    Cho, wearing a light-green prison uniform, did not speak during the hearing.

    Her lawyers told the court she felt sorry for her actions, but that they did not merit punishment by law.

    They also denied that she used violence towards the chief steward. The steward and prosecutors had said he was forced to kneel, and Cho poked his palm several times with a folder.

    "As information that no one except investigators could know was disclosed to the press, the defendant, her husband and 19-month-old twin boys wound up in a condition from which they cannot mentally recover," defence lawyer Yoo Seung Nam said.

    Cho is the oldest of Korean Air chairman Cho Yang Ho's three children. Her siblings are also executives with the airline.