Korean Air executive Heather Cho, 40, also known as Cho Hyun-ah, resigned Tuesday from the airline’s catering, after she was severely criticized for kicking off a crew from the airline’s flight on Friday. The flight from JFK airport in New York to Incheon International Airport in South Korea, went back to the gate following Cho’s demand to deplane the crew member after she was served macadamia nuts in a bag, instead of on a plate in the VIP class.
After an attendant served macadamia nuts without asking, Cho summoned the service crew head and asked a question about the policy on serving nuts. When he could not answer, she ordered the aircraft to go back to the gate to deplane him.
The carrier’s rule is to ask the passenger before serving. The plane already left the gate for takeoff, but it took just about two minutes to return as it was just less than 10 meters from the gate. The flight arrived at Incheon only 11 minutes delayed. It had 250 passengers and 20 cabin crew on board.
After the incident resulted to a public backlash, Cho apologized and said she is taking responsibility and resigned from all her positions on Tuesday. She was the VP for cabin service and catering of Korean Air. During the incident, she was among the passengers, and was not in an official capacity. Cho is the eldest daughter of Cho Yang-ho, chairman of Korean Air, according to Yonhap, a huge news agency in South Korea.
Cho Yang-ho is chairman of the Hanjin Group of companies which comprises Hanjin Transportation Co, Hanjin Shipping Co. and Korean Air. He heads the organizing committee of the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.
People have turned to social media to criticize the Korean Air executive after kicking off crew from flight and though she resigned, it seemingly aimed to quickly put out the fire, President Park Ju Gun of CEOSCORE corporate watchdog in Seoul said. However, she may come back when things die down, as this always happens when there is no line to separate management and ownership, Park added. An airline spokesman said Heather Cho is keeping the vice president position.
Yonhap reports Cho’s father issued apologies Tuesday for the inconvenience caused by the delayed flight and promised to have the incident investigated further. The airline likewise apologized on behalf of Heather Cho. It promised to re-educate its employees to meet higher standards of service.
Company officials talked to the deplaned crew member for two hours in Seoul. The person, who is not identified, is now on leave after submitting a doctor’s letter. The company mentioned Cho raised her voice during her encounter with the cabin crew.
The union of Korean Air pilots criticized the airline, as it seems to protect Cho and put the blame to the flight crew. By using her authority to order the pilot, she and the management mar the reputation of the firm, they said.
In an editorial on Tuesday, Dong-A Ilbo, a South Korean newspaper censured Heather Cho’s actions as examples of the privilege sense that members of Korean wealthy families have. It said, she as vice president could reproach a crew member for wrong service but, the aviation law states, only the captain oversees the flight crew.
Heather Cho’s biography on Nanyang Technological University website, show she joined Korean Air in 1999 and had an active part in the establishment of Korean Air’s new corporate identity. She studied at University of Southern California and Cornell University. The Korean Air executive may have already resigned after being criticized for kicking off a crew from flight, but the Transport Ministry of South Korea said on Monday, they will take action against the carrier if it is found flouting regulations.
By Judith Aparri
Photo courtesy by David Montiverdi – Flicker License