December 17, 2014 12:20
The government is proposing to slap Korean Air with a 21-day suspension of flights to New York and W1.44 billion in fines for violating aviation laws in what has become known as the "nut rage" incident (US$1=W1,088).
The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport already on Tuesday filed a complaint with prosecutors against airline heiress Cho Hyun-ah for violating aviation security laws by forcing an aircraft to change course.
Cho boarded a Korean Air flight from New York to Incheon last week and got enraged over the way her nuts were served in first class, forcing the pilot to taxi back to the terminal to kick the purser off the plane.
The ministry said an investigation revealed that Cho shouted at and insulted cabin crew. A ministry official told reporters that passengers and flight attendants on the scene testified to Cho's abusive behavior. But the official added the ministry will leave it to prosecutors to confirm whether Cho physically abused flight attendants on board.
Korean Air escaped charges over deviating from its route since the incident happened when the aircraft was still on the landing strip at JFK International Airport.
The ministry said the pilot failed to properly supervise the cabin crew, while Cho and the purser who was forced to disembark gave false testimony during initial interviews. Korean Air officials are believed to have pressured flight attendants to lie to investigators.
A ministry official said the violations can incur a 21-day flight suspension and W1.44 billion in fines. The government also plans to launch a special inspection of Korean Air's operations.
Cho had told investigators last week that she had told the purser and flight attendant to leave the plane, but denied ordering the pilot to return the plane to the boarding gate.
"Cho had drunk one to two glasses of wine before boarding the flight, but that does not seem to have affected her judgment," a ministry official said.
The civic group People's Solidarity for Participatory Democracy said investigators need to conduct further interviews with the purser since Korean Air management sat in on his initial interview. But a ministry official said the manager was present only during the first 20 minutes of the interview and then left.
The civic group last week also filed a complaint against Cho with prosecutors.
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