Ex-Korean Air executive in nuts scandal detained by prosecutors
SEOUL, South Korea (CNN) — A former Korean Air executive who sparked outrage earlier this month by kicking a flight attendant off a plane for serving macadamia nuts the wrong way is being detained by police in Seoul.
Heather Cho, the 40-year-old daughter of Korean Air’s chairman, is in the South Seoul Detention Facility, the Seoul Western District Prosecutor’s Office said. Officials gave no other details, other than the investigation into the incident is ongoing.
A spokesman for the office, Lee Kwang-woo, said an arrest warrant was approved because “the necessity was recognized because of the graveness of the case and there was an attempt to systematically cover up the charges since the beginning of the incident.”
Cho resigned from her post as a vice president at the company in the aftermath of the incident earlier this month on a flight from New York’s JFK airport to South Korea’s Incheon International Airport.
She ordered that the plane turn back to the gate and that a flight attendant be removed because she was served nuts in a bag instead of on a plate in first class.
Although her role put her in charge of in-flight service, Cho was a passenger and was not flying in an official capacity.
Amid public anger over her behavior, she and her father both apologized for the incident. Cho, whose Korean name is Cho Hyun-ah, said she accepted “full responsibility” for what happened.
Last week, prosecutors said an arrest warrant might cover charges of violating aviation safety rules, including a change in a flight plan, assault on a plane, coercion and interference in the execution of duty. The warrant was approved Tuesday night.
Testimony from crew members and passengers confirmed that Cho used “violent language in a loud voice,” which may not be compliant with an aviation safety law that requires cooperation of passengers on a flight, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport said earlier this month.
The captain of the plane has also faced criticism for obeying Cho’s demands to turn back the plane and remove the flight attendant.
The airline faces possible disciplinary action from the government because of the captain’s failure to command and supervise crew members to ensure the safe operation of the flight, the ministry said last week.