Korean Air has been ordered to pay 20 million South Korean won (almost $18,000) to a flight attendant after he was excoriated by an executive when she was served her macadamia nuts in a bag instead of a porcelain bowl as their plane prepared to take off.
The infamous “nut rage” incident took place in 2014, when Heather Cho — vice president of Korean Air at the time and daughter of the company’s CEO, Cho Yang-ho — demanded the plane return to its gate at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport so the flight attendant could be removed.
The event prompted public outrage and led the South Korean government to increase penalties for unruly air passengers.
Heather Cho served five months of a one-year prison sentence after a South Korean court found her guilty of violating aviation law.
The flight attendant filed a civil suit against Cho and Korean Air, asking for a total of 400 million South Korean won ($354,000). The Seoul Western District Court ordered that Korean Air pay him 20 million won for attempting to coerce him to drop the case. He is also entitled to another 30 million won ($27,000) as compensation for Cho’s assaults and insults, the court said. It’s unclear if he has received that sum yet.
Cho and her sister, Emily, have both been fired from Korean Air by their father in the aftermath of scandals.
Emily Cho triggered public anger after reports emerged that she insulted an advertising executive and threw water in his face earlier this year. She has apologized, saying what she did was “foolish.” But labor unions demanded Cho step down as senior vice president and face punishment.
Many of South Korea’s biggest businesses — including Korean Air, Samsung and Hyundai — are family-run conglomerates known as “chaebol” inside the country.
South Koreans have long voiced frustration over what they see as corrupt and entitled behavior by the families that run chaebols.