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    Dec 10, 2014

    Korean Air VP in 'nut case' quits


    HEATHER Cho, daughter of Korean Air chairman Cho Yang Ho, resigned after a public backlash was sparked when she ordered an employee to leave the plane over service standards.

    The 40-year-old vice-president of the Seoul-based airline, who is also known as Cho Hyun Ah, offered her resignation to the board and the directors accepted it, the carrier said in a statement yesterday.

    "I apologise to the customers and the public for causing social issues, and to those who have been hurt by my actions," Ms Cho said in the statement. "I will take full responsibility and resign from all my positions."

    The Seoul-bound flight, which had about 250 passengers and 20 cabin crew members on board, had just left its gate at New York's John F. Kennedy airport on Friday when the incident occurred.

    Ms Cho had taken exception to the arrival of macadamia nuts which she had not asked for, and to the fact that they were served in a packet rather than a bowl.

    She summoned the chief purser who, according to an airline statement, replied with "lies and excuses" when challenged over his crew's knowledge of in-flight service procedures.

    Ms Cho then decided that the chief purser was "incapable" and the plane returned to the gate, where he disembarked.

    Under the carrier's rules, passengers must be asked first before they are served.

    Ms Cho was lambasted in local media for behaving in an imperious fashion.

    "This ugly behaviour by the Korean Air boss' daughter puts the entire nation to shame," Seoul's top business daily, the Maeil Business Newspaper, said in an editorial. "This is a global embarrassment for South Korea."

    The Dong-A Ilbo newspaper said that Ms Cho's actions had exposed the "sense of entitlement and supercilious attitude" prevalent among the rich.

    Mr Cho is chairman of the Hanjin Group of companies that includes Korean Air, Hanjin Shipping and Hanjin Transportation. He is also president of the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics organising committee.

    Yesterday, South Korean Transport Minister Suh Seoung Hwan said that the incident was being investigated and any regulatory breach would be "handled sternly".

    The airline apologised to its customers for the inconvenience caused, but noted that the final decision to deplane the chief flight attendant was taken by the captain.

    This was challenged by its pilots' union, which said: "Cho should be held responsible because she had used her authority to have the pilot return the plane to the gate."