On Friday, Korean Air and Hanjin Group chairman Cho Yang-ho bowed apologetically and blamed himself for the outlandish behaviour of his eldest daughter and former Airline executive Heather Cho.
The younger Cho landed in hot water last week after she ordered a flight she was on to return to its gate at New York’s JFK International Airport. Why? To kick off the head flight attendant due to unhappiness over how she was served macadamia nuts.
The international outcry from to the incident led Cho — who was in charge of in-flight service and catering for Korean Air as well as hotels for a Korean Air subsidiary — to resign her post as executive vice president of her father’s multi-billion dollar conglomerate, the Hanjin Group, earlier this week.
T he Hanjin Group is comprised of major international shipping lines and logistics companies, as well as Korean Air.
In an attempt to regain some of the luster the family lost over the past week, the elder Cho stepped in front of a slew of reporters and apologised profusely for his daughter’s behaviour.
He also announced his daughter’s dismissal from any position within Hanjin Group from which she has not already resigned.
“I apologise to the people of [South Korea] as chairman of Korean Air and as a father for the trouble caused by my daughter’s foolish conduct,” the tycoon said, according to Reuters.
“Please blame me; it’s my fault,” Cho said, according to the New York Times. “I failed to raise her properly.”
In a separate press conference, Heather Cho also took questions from a gaggle of reporters. In a dramatic turn of events, the executive appeared sullen and spoke almost inaudibly as she apologised for her behaviour.
The controversy began when the younger Cho, seated in first class of a Korean Air Airbus superjumbo, was served macadamia nuts in its original packaging by a junior flight attendant instead of following the airline’s service procedure, which requires the crew member to ask if the passenger would like some nuts and then serve the snacks on a plate.
Cho then proceeded to grill the flight’s head flight attendant over the company’s service policies. Apparently unhappy with the crew member’s response, Cho ordered the airliner to abandon its place in line for take off and return to its gate at JFK to deplane the head flight attendant. This manoeuvre cause the flight to be delayed 20 minutes and arrive at its destination in South Korea 11 minutes late.
Korean media is reporting that the country’s transport ministry is investigating whether Cho violated any Korean aviation regulations.
According to Marketwatch, Korean aviation regulations state that an aircraft preparing for takeoff should only return to the gate if the pilots determine that there’s an emergency that would threaten the well being of the plane and its passengers. Violators could be subject to 10 years of jail time!
The incident has invited criticism of family owned conglomerates — known as “chaebols” — in the Korean economy. In addition to Hanjin Group, other chaebols such as Samsung, Hyundai, and LG have risen to global prominence over the past few decades.
Many in the public as well as the press characterised the Hanjin’s airline heiress as entitled and inappropriate.
Hopefully, the elder Cho’s apologies have walked back some of the uproar over the ugliness of the incident.
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