Korean Air "nut rage" heiress could go to jail for 15 years
Her father is the chairman of Korean Air, and she once held a high-flying executive position with the company, but now Cho Hyun-ah (Heather Cho) has been arrested and charged with flight safety violations that could land her in jail for 15 years. It's a lesson for anyone who gets upset when macadamia nuts aren't served on a plate in first class.
By now the whole world knows that on Dec. 5, 2014, Ms. Cho was displeased that she was served macadamia nuts in a bag instead of on a plate when she was flying as a first-class passenger on a Korean Air flight. She was so angry that she ultimately ordered the plane to abandon its pending takeoff and return to its gate at New York's JFK Airport to kick out the head flight attendant.
How did the 40-year-old Cho Hyun-ah have the power to turn around a plane? She was the head of Korean Air in-flight service and catering, and the eldest daughter of the chairman. In other words, if there were a kingdom called Korean Air, she would be the royal princess. However, even though she and the plane safely arrived in Seoul after the incident, the flight with 250 passengers was delayed 20 minutes on takeoff and arrived in Seoul 11 minutes late.
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Once the incident was reported, Korean Air tried to downplay it by saying her decision was based on her concern for flight safety. The backlash was strong from the South Korean public. People were outraged at her behavior, seen as a symbol of privilege and arrogance from chaebol families who enjoyed a different treatment. The government vowed to investigate the incident properly.
On December 30, Ms. Cho was arrested in Seoul on charges of disrupting the flight schedule and assaulting two flight attendants. Another Korean Air executive was also arrested on charges of ordering the flight attendants to give false statements and ordering the chief flight attendant to delete an initial report about the incident. Before she was arrested, Ms. Cho had already resigned and been removed from all her executive positions in her father's conglomerate.
On January 7, Ms. Cho was indicted on charges of violations against South Korea’s aviation safety law. The most serious charge is for forcing the flight to deviate from its normal route and carries up to 10 years of penalty. The other charges include the use of violence against the flight crew, obstructing a government investigation, and forcing the aircraft's head flight attendant off the plane. If she is convicted of all charges, she could face up to 15 years in prison.
A few days ago, I was shopping in the grocery store and saw some lovely packages of Hawaiian Macadamia nuts. I had no idea which brand of nuts was served on Korean Air, but I couldn't help but recall the "nut rage" incident. I started thinking how sad it was that she was detained and wasn't able to spend the holidays with her family. In a way, the root of this incident goes to anger management and the abuse of power which could lead to a terrible decision in a split second. Was she so zealous in demanding perfection from in-flight service that she couldn't wait till the plane arrived in Seoul to discipline the flight attendant? Or, did she do it because "she could" from her powerful perch as the heiress and executive in a hierarchy? It's possible that she'll have 15 years to reflect and think over what she did.
Do you think she'll get the full punishment? Even more importantly, do you think she understands by now that what she did was wrong?