Heather Cho ordered a plane back to the gate after a flight attendant served nuts in a bag
She later apologized and resigned from her role as vice president with Korean Air
Now, prosecutors say they are seeking an arrest warrant; decision expected next week
Prosecutors: The potential warrant would include charges of assault and coercion
South Korean prosecutors are seeking an arrest warrant for the former Korean Air executive Heather Cho who sparked outrage by kicking a flight attendant off a plane for serving macadamia nuts the wrong way.
The warrant would cover charges of violating aviation safety rules, including a change in a flight plan, assault on a plane, coercion and interference in the execution of duty, the Seoul Western District Prosecutors’ office said Wednesday.
A decision will be taken on issuing of the warrant early next week after a review procedure, the prosecutors’ office said.
Cho, the 40-year-old daughter of Korean Air’s chairman, resigned from her post as vice president at the company in the aftermath of the incident earlier this month on a flight from New York’s JFK airport to South Korea’s Incheon International Airport.
She ordered that the plane turn back to the gate and that a flight attendant be removed because she was served nuts in a bag instead of on a plate in first class.
Amid public anger over her behavior, she and her father both apologized for the incident. Cho, whose Korean name is Cho Hyun-ah, said she accepted “full responsibility” for what happened. She wasn’t available for comment Wednesday.
Testimonies of crew members and passengers confirm that Cho used “violent language in a loud voice,” which may not be compliant with an aviation safety law that requires cooperation of passengers on a flight, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport said last week.
Although her role put her in charge of in-flight service, she was only a passenger on the flight and was not flying in an official capacity.
Officials are also seeking an arrest warrant for another Korean Air executive, identified by his surname of Yeo, on charges of ordering employees to delete an initial report of the incident, the prosecutors’ office said.
Korean Air said Wednesday it was monitoring the situation, as an arrest warrant hadn’t been issued yet.
The office said that prosecutors had raided the office and residence of a government official at the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport who was suspected of leaking information on the investigation into the case to Yeo.
The captain of the plane has also faced criticism for obeying Cho’s demands to turn back the plane and remove the flight attendant.
The airline faces possible disciplinary action from the government because of the captain’s failure to command and supervise crew members to ensure the safe operation of the flight, according to the ministry.
Journalist Yoonjung Seo reported from Seoul, and CNN’s Jethro Mullen wrote from Hong Kong. CNN’s Elizabeth Joseph contributed to this report.