Korean Air Lines, South Korea's top air carrier, will face sanctions on a "nut rage" case.
The airline's former vice president ordered a Dec. 5 flight in New York to return to the gate in violation of aviation safety law, the country's transport ministry said Tuesday.
Cho Hyun-ah, daughter of the airline's chairman Cho Yang-ho, ordered the flight from New York to Incheon, west of capital Seoul, on Dec. 5 to return to the gate after being served macadamia nuts in a bag, not on a plate.
After scolding a purser and a cabin crew who served her nuts, the 40-year-old former vice president ordered the head of the cabin crew off the plane, violating the aviation law that stipulates only captain can decide on whether to return the plane in emergency situations.
The airline could face up to 21 days of flight suspension or a 1.44 billion won (1.3 million U.S. dollars) fine for the incident, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport said. The final sanctions will be concluded after a legal review at an earliest date possible.
The sanctions came as the ministry concluded that the airline asked the purser to lie during a probe into the case. Park Chang- jin, the head of the cabin crew, was asked to say Cho didn't use a violent language and he voluntarily got off the plane, according to local media reports.
Park was quoted by a state-run broadcaster KBS as saying that he and the flight attendant were forced to kneel down before Cho, using an abusive language and yelling at them.
Amid mounting criticism toward the airline, Chairman Cho offered a public apology for the incident, saying last Friday that it was his fault because he should have raised her better.
Hours after the apology, younger Cho appeared at local media after being summoned by the transport ministry's aviation and railway accident investigation board for questioning. She bowed and apologized for the incident.
Cho resigned as the head of in-flight service last week. Amid the unshrinking public anger, Cho stepped down from all executive positions from the airline and other affiliated companies.
The transport ministry said Cho used an outrageous language and yelled at the crew based on testimonies from some crew members and passengers, noting that the ministry would file a complaint against her with prosecutors within this day if it breaches the aviation safety law.