- Korean Air executive who delayed a flight over a bag of macadamia nuts may face legal action
- South Korea's transportation ministry said on Tuesday it had filed a complaint to prosecutors.
- Heather Cho, who resigned from her post last week, will report to the prosecutor's office on Wednesday
- Sales of macadamia nuts have boomed unexpectedly despite scandal
The Korean Air executive who delayed a flight over a bag of macadamia nuts may face legal action after South Korea's transportation ministry said on Tuesday it had filed a complaint to prosecutors.
Heather Cho, who resigned from her post last week, may be in violation of aviation safety laws, the ministry said, after she ordered the Seoul-bound plane to turn back to the gate and that a flight attendant be removed all because she was served nuts in a bag instead of on a plate in first class.
Testimonies of crew members and passengers confirm 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 in a press release.
Although her role put her in charge of in-flight service, she was only a passenger on the flight and was not flying in an official capacity.
Cho, whose Korean name is Cho Hyun-ah, will report to the prosecutor's office on Wednesday, as part of an ongoing investigation.
The airline also 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, said the ministry.
Calling it quits
Cho resigned last week from the airline's catering and in-flight sales business, and from its cabin service and hotel business divisions, Korean Air said.
But the 40-year-old kept her title as a vice president of the national carrier, according to company spokesman.
The company chairman, Cho Yang-ho, who is also her father, publicly apologized for the incident, saying that she will resign from the vice president job and positions held in affiliate companies.
The incident, which took place last week at New York's JFK airport, stirred anger among the South Korean public.
"She was one of the passengers, not the vice president of Korean Air at that moment. I'm not sure what she was thinking, but it's likely she was bossy and acted above her position," Baek Ki-Jong, a South Korean resident, told CNN.
"It was an abuse of power, and a wrong action to take," he said.
Angered Internet users have condemned Cho for bringing about international embarrassment and shame to the country.
They are calling for Korean Air to change its name to Hanjin Airlines in a petition on Agora, a popular Korean online discussion forum. Korean Air is owned by South Korea's large family-owned corporations, known as Hanjin.
"Hanjin Group's 'Korean Air' is no longer a national company. They should not use 'Korea' in the name. As a citizen of Korea, I cannot allow the word Korea to be used," commented "Acorn", one user on the site.
Despite the public outrage, the scandal has triggered an unexpected boon for some of Korea's online retailers.
Sales for macadamia nuts have surged 20-fold over the past week on Gmarket, Korea's most popular online shopping site which is owned by eBay, said Lee, a company spokesperson who declined to give his full name.
The round, white nuts have become the top two best sellers on another Korean online retailer, Coupang. One brand, Mauna Loa, sold out earlier but is now back in stock.
Some Coupang users left comments on the site demanded that the nuts they ordered to be shipped and delivered on a plate, and not in a bag.