The Worst Passenger Ever Was An Exec At The Airline
In 2014, a Korean Airlines flight turned around and headed back to the gate at JFK airport, at the direction of one passenger dissatisfied with the service. You might be surprised any of the crew would obey her, but this passenger happened to be a Korean Airlines VP, the daughter of the chairman, and heiress to the company.
Heather Cho was flying first class, and for refreshments pre-takeoff, the crew served her macadamia nuts. The problem (according to Heather) was they didn’t serve the nuts in a glass bowl, like a first class passenger deserves. They just handed her a sealed plastic snack pack.
So Heather complained to the stewardess. Then when the chief steward showed up and failed to rectify matters, Heather jabbed him in the chest with the safety manual and allegedly made him kneel and apologize. She ordered the taxiing plane to turn around so they could kick him off. Later, she fired the steward.
The other week, when the crew on a Frontier Airlines flight duct taped a passenger to his seat, many of us wondered just what staff are supposed to do when a passenger becomes unruly. Is duct tape appropriate? Are handcuffs a better choice? Should they at least have a plan of some kind figured out in advance? Turns out no plan really works when the screaming passenger happens to be your boss.
Up to this point in Heather Cho's story, she sounds like someone extremely entitled who got her way. But while your average bad passenger story ends when the flight does, Heather had to face repercussions afterward. She'd redirected a plane, against the airport's instructions, which is something no regular drunk passenger manages. And so, back home in South Korea, she was put on trial—and found guilty.
She later managed to appeal the charge for violating plane safety, but she was still convicted of assaulting the crew. And so she spent four months in prison.
The fired steward received $90,000 in compensation and left the travel agency to take up a career in politics. Also, right after the original incident, sales of macadamia nuts in Korea reportedly tripled.
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For more on the pains of air travel, see also:
Top image: Jonathan Palombo