Korean Air CEO's daughter apologises to steward over 'nut rage'

It comes amid claims she made the cabin crew kneel and seek forgiveness over being served nuts in a packet rather than a bowl.
Cho Hyun-ah, who was head of cabin service at Korean Air and the eldest child of Korean Air chairman Cho Yang-ho, speaks to the media upon her arrival for questioning by authorities for delaying a flight in an incident now dubbed ‘nut rage’. Lee Jin-man / AP Photo
Cho Hyun-ah, who was head of cabin service at Korean Air and the eldest child of Korean Air chairman Cho Yang-ho, speaks to the media upon her arrival for questioning by authorities for delaying a flight in an incident now dubbed ‘nut rage’. Lee Jin-man / AP Photo

SEOUL // The daughter of Korean Air’s CEO visited the home of a cabin crew chief on Sunday to apologise for kicking him off a plane over the way a snack was served, amid claims she made him kneel and ask forgiveness.

Cho Hyun-Ah, formerly a top executive at Korean Air, resigned on Tuesday from all her posts at the family-run flag carrier in the face of an intense public backlash and investigations by state authorities.

Ms Cho, 40, forced a New York-Seoul flight to return to the terminal and eject the cabin crew chief on December 5 after she took exception to the arrival of some macadamia nuts she had not asked for, and to the fact they were served in a packet rather than a bowl.

Sitting in first class, Ms Cho forced cabin manager Park Chang-jin and a female attendant to kneel in front of her, calling Mr Park names, pushing him into the cockpit door and jabbing him with a service manual, according to his account of the incident.

Ms Cho visited the homes of both staff members on Sunday to offer a personal apology. But neither was home so she left notes at their doors saying sorry, a company spokeswoman said.

The former airline executive has denied she forced the pair to kneel. “I’ve never heard such thing. I don’t know anything about it,” she said when reporters asked her to confirm claims by Mr Park.But another passenger in first class confirmed most of Mr Park’s account and said she saw the two attendants on their knees.

“I felt so sorry for the flight attendants, who looked totally terrified of her,” the passenger said after meeting Seoul prosecutors on Saturday to give testimony over the incident.

“Cho’s voice was so loud that even people in the economy class turned to look,” the passenger said, describing the atmosphere during the 14-hour flight as “very menacing and distressing”.

Mr Park said in his interview with Seoul’s KBS television that the incident had been deeply humiliating.

“You can’t imagine the humiliation I felt unless you experience it yourself,” he said.

“She said, ‘Make contact [with air traffic control] right now to stop the plane. I’m not going to let this plane go’. How could I disobey the daughter of the owner in a situation like that?”

Mr Park has also claimed that Korean Air officials had for the past week pressed him to take the blame for the incident. The airline declined to comment on the allegation.

Ms Cho’s behaviour sparked fierce criticism in South Korea, where she has been accused of being petty and arrogant. The transport ministry and Seoul prosecutors have launched investigations into whether she breached aviation safety laws and caused disruption to business.

Korean Air CEO Cho Yang-Ho gave a televised press conference Friday to apologise for his daughter’s “foolish act”.

“I failed to raise the child properly. It’s my fault,” he said.

The incident, branded “nutgate” on social media, renewed resentment at the elite families who run South Korea’s powerful business conglomerates known as chaebol.

The founding families of the business giants are credited with leading the country’s growth for decades. But they have often made headlines with incidents in which they were accused of abusing power.

* Agence France-Presse

Published: December 14, 2014 04:00 AM

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