Executive quits over nuts incident

Published: Wednesday 10th December 2014 by The News Editor

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A top executive of Korean Air has resigned amid mounting public criticism that she delayed a plane over how she was served macadamia nuts.

A recent flight was delayed when its chairman’s daughter, who was also vice president responsible for cabin service at the airline, ordered a senior crew member off the plane.

His crime? Allowing her and other passengers in first class on a flight from New York to South Korea to be served bagged macadamia nuts instead of nuts on a plate.

Company officials said that chairman Cho Yang-ho has accepted the resignation of Cho Hyun-ah, his eldest daughter, as executive vice president of cabin service. Although she will retain other executive level roles at the airline and its affiliate businesses.

Ms Cho, 40, is the oldest child of the Korean Air chairman. Her two siblings are also executives at South Korea’s largest airline.

The incident caused an uproar in South Korea where it was seen as an example of over-mighty behaviour by the offspring of the moneyed elite.

The country’s economy is dominated by family-controlled conglomerates known as chaebol.

Family members often wield greater influence over major companies than shareholders and executives with no blood ties to the founding family.

The Cho family owns about 10% of Korean Air Lines Co, part of a business empire than spans the travel, logistics, hotel and leisure industries.

Korean Air confirmed that Flight 86 was delayed at John F Kennedy airport on December 5 due to the nut incident. But the company said the decision to disembark the crew member was made by the flight’s captain.

South Korea’s government said it is investigating whether Ms Cho violated aviation safety law. Ms Cho could face legal action if the probe shows that she interrupted the flight or endangered safety by using threats, her status or violence.

Before Ms Cho’s resignation, the airline said it was “natural” for Ms Cho to fault the crew’s ignorance of procedures.

Cabin crew are required to ask first-class passengers whether they want nuts, partly to avoid serving them to people with allergies. The nuts also should have been served on a plate.

The airline said it will step up training to improve customer service and safety.

Published: Wednesday 10th December 2014 by The News Editor

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