Korean Air apologised as it faced a media backlash over the daughter of the airline’s CEO, who had a chief purser ejected from a plane in a furious reaction to being incorrectly served some macadamia nuts.
While insisting it was “reasonable” for its executive vice-president Cho Hyun-Ah to have raised a problem with the in-flight service, the airline admitted that forcing the New York-Seoul flight to return to its gate to remove the senior crew member had caused an unreasonable delay.
Cho, 40, is the daughter of the family-run carrier’s CEO, and she has been widely criticised in the South Korean media for behaving in heavy-handed, imperious fashion.
“Korean Air apologises to its passengers for the inconvenience caused by the excessive behaviour of returning the aircraft and ejecting the flight attendant even though the circumstance was not an emergency,” the airline said.
An English-language version of the same statement omitted the mention of “excessive behaviour.”
The Seoul flight had just left its gate at New York’s JFK airport on Friday when the incident occurred.
Cho took exception to the arrival of some macadamia nuts she had not asked for, and to the fact that they were served in a packet rather than a bowl.
She summoned the chief purser who, according to the Korean Air statement, replied with “lies and excuses” when challenged over his crew’s knowledge of in-flight service procedures.
Cho then decided the chief purser was “incapable” and the plane returned to the gate where he disembarked.
The airline statement noted that the final decision to deplane the chief flight attendant was taken by the captain.
South Korean Transport Minister Suh Seoung-Hwan said that the incident was being investigated and any regulatory breach would be “handled sternly.”