Tougher aviation laws against unruly air passengers have been enacted in South Korea, after the so-called nut rage scandal which saw top Korean Air executive Heather Cho jailed.
Under the new rules, passengers will pay a higher fine if they disturb the pilot. Transport officials say they revised laws because of public demand.
Heather Cho – also known as Cho Hyun-ah – was convicted in February 2015 after ordering a taxiing plane back to offload a steward who served the nuts in a way she deemed inappropriate.
The case attracted global attention.
In South Korea it reopened a national debate about elitism and the Korean business system, which is dominated by family firms known as chaebols.
Besides being the vice-president at Korean Air at that time, Heather Cho is the daughter of the airline’s chairman.
During the incident Heather Cho was angered that she was given macadamia nuts which she did not ask for, and was offended that they were served in a bag, not in a bowl.
After confronting flight staff, Heather Cho ordered the plane which was taxiing at New York’s JFK Airport to turn back and offload the chief steward.
Under the new law, passed by parliamentarians in 2015, anyone who disturbs the pilot during a flight could face up to five years in prison or a 50 million won ($41,200) fine.
Previously the same offence did not have a jail term and only had a 5 million won fine. Crew members are also now compelled to hand over unruly passengers to the police, or risk a 10 million won fine.
“The amended law reflects mounting public demand for enhanced aviation safety and the prevention of unruly behavior during flight following the Korean Air nut rage incident,” the transport ministry said in a press statement.
Heather Cho was convicted of violating airline safety. She served five months in jail before she was freed in May after an appeals court overturned the ruling saying she did not cause a change in flight path. Another conviction of using violence against flight attendants still stands.
Former Korean Air executive Heather Cho has been found guilty of breaking aviation law over the “nut rage” case.
Heather Cho, also known as Cho Hyun-ah, was jailed for one year, avoiding a possible maximum sentence of 10 years.
She had forced her Seoul-bound plane to turn back to the gate and offload a steward because she did not like the way she had been served nuts.
The case garnered global interest and caused an uproar in South Korea.
Heather Cho, who was a vice-president with the South Korean airline, was found guilty of obstructing aviation safety.
Her plane was taxiing at New York’s JFK Airport on December 5 when witnesses say she became angry after being served macadamia nuts she did not ask for and which were still in a bag and not in a bowl.
Cho Hyun-ah ordered the plane to return to the gate and offload the chief steward.
“This is a case where human dignity was trampled upon,” Judge Oh Sung-woo said on February 12.
Heather Cho had treated the flight “as if it was her own private plane”, Judge Oh Sung-woo added.
“It is doubtful that the way the nuts were served was so wrong.”
The judge said Heather Cho has failed to show enough remorse even after she submitted letters to the court apologizing for the incident.
Prosecutors had asked for a sentence of three years in prison on charges of breaking aviation law, assault and interfering in an investigation.
Witnesses testified during the trial that Heather Cho struck a crewmember with the service manual.
Her defense team argued that aviation safety had not been violated as the plane was still being pushed by a truck away from the gate.
However, the judge rejected that argument saying the plane was classed as “in flight” and she interfered, correspondents say.
Heather Cho, who is the daughter of the chairman of Korean Air, publicly apologized for the incident and resigned from all her posts at the airline in December.
The trial has opened a national debate about the Korean business system, which is dominated by family firms known as chaebols.
Some of the families running these businesses have been accused of high-handedness and acting with impunity.