Former Korean Air Exec Receives One-Year Sentence In “Nut Rage” Case (Updated)


The former Korean Air executive who offloaded a flight attendant at JFK in December over a bag of nuts is appealing the one-year prison sentence handed down Thursday, the Korea Times reportedFriday.A district court judge in Seoul ruled that Cho Hyun-ah, the daughter of Korean Air Chairman Cho Yang-ho, was guilty of acts of violence that disrupted airline operations and caused safety concerns, The Times reported. The court ruled that Cho had changed the flight’s course because she stopped the pushback and delayed the departure by 24 minutes, thus disrupting other flights at JFK and causing a safety hazard. “It is reasonable to regard not only air route but also ground movement as a flight’s course,” the court said in the Timesreport.Her attorney,Seo Chang-hui, told The Times the rulingmisconstrued facts and the principle of aviation law and called the sentence “unjustified.”

Cho, who goes by Heather Cho, was Korean Air’s executive vice president in charge of in-flight customer service until the wake of the Dec. 5 incident, which was dubbed “nut rage” and caused a public relations uproar for the airline. She was sitting in first class when a junior flight attendant gave her a bag of macadamia nuts. Because Cho didn’t order nuts and they weren’t served on a dish, she lost her temper and blamed the chief flight attendant for the infractions. She ordered him off the plane, which had to return to the gate and was 11 minutes late arriving in Seoul. “Although she had the right to exclude a crewmember from duty as a company executive, such a right should have been exercised according to due procedure before a flight. Kicking the attendant off the plane was beyond her authority,” the court said in the Times report. Prosecutors sought a three-year sentence, but the judge decided on one year, considering that she did not cause an accident and the flight crew’s jobs would not be affected.