Isn't nepotism nuts? Korean Air VP quits over plane outburst
Airline’s senior exec – and daughter of the CEO – resigns in wake of humiliating coverage of Macadamia NutsGate
Korean Air vice president Heather Cho has quit the company following a widely publicised incident in which she berated the crew on one of her own planes for serving macadamia nuts in a bag – rather than her preferred receptacle of a bowl. The plane was preparing to fly from JFK to Incheon on Friday 5 December, but Cho’s outburst – reported by some news outlets as lasting up to 11 minutes – spawned a lengthy delay, and the flight missed its window. Pilots were promptly forced to halt the aircraft’s taxi down the runway and shuffle back to the departure gate.
Significantly, Cho is the daughter of Korean Air chairman and CEO Yang Ho Cho – who himself is eldest son of founder Choong Hoon Cho. In 1999, Cho Jr was sentenced to seven months in jail for tax fraud and embezzlement following a spate of Korean Air accidents that had led to the deaths of some 800 people.
At the time, the then-South Korean President Kim Dae-jung attacked governance at the airline for being too reliant on nepotism. While Heather Cho’s actions were not overtly dangerous so much as plane nuts, the incident and its aftermath hint that the pressure of a role for which she arguably wasn’t the best fit – but which she nonetheless acquired through family connections – led her to make an immature error of judgement.
“I feel so sorry for our customers and South Koreans for causing such trouble,” Reuters quoted her as saying, “and seek forgiveness from the people who might have been hurt by me. I will resign from all my posts at Korean Air to take responsibility for the incident.”
An official at the South Korean Transport Ministry summed up the situation by saying: “Even though she was senior vice-president at the company, she was a passenger at that time, so she had to behave and be treated as a passenger.”
As for whether she will take up another management post any time soon, well – for now, that’s purely macademic.
For further tips on succession planning, buy this CMI Checklist book Managing Others.