The daughter of the Korean Air boss has embroiled the carrier in a social media scandal with her boorish behavior after she delayed a flight to kick a crewmember off the plane.
Airline executive vice president Cho Hyun-ah, the eldest daughter of Hanjin Group chairman Cho Yang-ho, boarded the first-class compartment on a flight from New York to Incheon on Friday.
A flight attendant offered Cho a bag of nuts, causing her to erupt into a tirade about service regulations, which require cabin crew to ask passengers first if they would like the snack and then bring it to them on a plate.
Cho was quoted at shouting at the flight attendant, "What kind of service is this? Are you following proper procedure?" When the flight attendant said she was following procedure, Cho summoned the purser and asked him to check the service manual.
When the startled purser fumbled to find the relevant regulation on his company-issued tablet PC, Cho ordered him off the plane.
The airplane, which had already begun taxiing to the air strip, had to return to the boarding gate to drop off the hapless crewmember.
The incident delayed the flight by around 10 minutes, and saddled 250 passengers with the consequences of Cho's hissy fit.
According to airline industry insiders, the so-called "ramp return" maneuver is only executed when the wrong cargo has been loaded or in an emergency.
News of Cho's outburst spread quickly on social media, causing the carrier major embarrassment and confirming every suspicion Koreans entertain about the spoiled brats from big conglomerate families.
Korean Air claimed that the incident was merely a case of disciplining a staff member for failing to abide by regulations, but the excuse did not wash with the public.
Critics pointed out that more vital regulations than those involving bagged nuts require the purser, who is responsible for passenger safety, to be present to supervise cabin crew members, and that shouting in the aircraft is prohibited.
A preliminary investigation by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport found no laws had been broken. The purser reported to the pilot that he had to get off the plane due to a "problem involving service" and the pilot went through proper procedures with flight control.
But a ministry official said, "Even if there was a problem involving in-flight service, it would have been proper for Cho to take disciplinary measures after arrival at Incheon."