Korean Air nut rage incident: Airline executive Heather Cho found guilty in air rage case and sentenced to one year in prison

Lynsey Barber
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Heather Cho's nut rage has landed her with a year in prison (Source: Getty)

A cautionary tale for anyone who gets a little cranky when flying (and who doesn't?) has emerged.

The woman involved in possibly the first-ever case of “nut rage” when she threw a tantrum which resulted in a plane being delayed, has been sentenced to one year in prison in South Korea.

Heather Cho was found guilty of breaking aviation laws when she forced a Korean Air plane to return to the departure gate at JFK airport - all because she was unhappy with the way a steward had served her a packet of macadamia nuts. Cho demanded the crew member be removed from the flight.

Cho, who at the time was an executive at Korean Air and also just happens to be the daughter of the airline's chairman, now faces a year-long jail sentence, although she avoided a possible maximum sentence of up to 10 years.

The judge in the case, which caused outrage in South Korea and attracted worldwide attention, said Cho treated the flight as if it was her own private plane and that it was "doubtful" that the way the nuts were served - in a packet rather than in a bowl - was so wrong.

Despite a letter to the courts apologising for the incident, the judge said Cho failed to show enough remorse. She also publicly apologised and resigned from her job after the incident in December.

Prosecutors had sought a three-year jail term for Cho if convicted of breaking aviation law by ordering the plane to return to the gate after it began to taxi and of using her position to obstruct due process. She was found not guilty on the second charge.

The defence had argued aviation law had not been broken as the plane was not classified as "in-flight", however a judge ruled that it was.

Witnesses also testified that Cho hit a steward with a service manual during the trial.

"This is a case where human dignity was trampled upon," said Judge Oh Sung-woo.

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