Korean Air has apologised for inconveniencing passengers after the daughter of its chairman ordered a crew member off a flight for serving bagged nuts in the first class cabin.
South Korean daily Segye Ilbo reported that the flight from New York City to Incheon, South Korea, returned to the gate after Cho Hyun-ah told the head of cabin crew to leave the plane.
The report said Ms Cho quarrelled with crew in the first class cabin and the flight departed 20 minutes late.
Ms Cho, 40, is vice president responsible for cabin service at the airline. She is the oldest child of Korean Air chairman Cho Yang-ho. Her two siblings are also executives at South Korea’s largest airline.
The incident caused uproar in South Korea. The country’s economy is dominated by family-controlled conglomerates known as chaebol. Family members often wield greater influence over major companies than shareholders or executives with no blood ties to the founding family.
Korean Air confirmed that Flight 086 was delayed at John F Kennedy airport 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.
Korean Air said today it was “natural” for Ms Cho to fault 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.
It said Ms Cho could not be reached for comment.