The former Korean Air executive whose onboard "nut rage" tantrum delayed a flight in 2014 will avoid jail as South Korea's top court upheld her suspended prison term on Thursday.
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Cho Hyun-ah, who is the daughter of the company's chairman and was the head of the airline's cabin service at the time of the incident, achieved worldwide notoriety after she had an onboard tantrum after a first class flight attendant served her nuts in a bag instead of on a dish. Infuriated, Cho ordered the chief flight attendant off the flight forcing the plane to the gate at New York's John F. Kennedy Airport.
Cho was previously sentenced to one year in prison. She was released later after a high court shortened the prison term to 10 months and suspended that sentence for two years, confirming some charges but acquitting her of a contested charge of violating the aviation security law.
The Supreme Court on Thursday upheld Cho's suspended jail term, saying a majority of judges ruled that diverting a plane that was taxiing didn't constitute forcing a change in the plane's route, a crime that can be punished by up to 10 years in prison.
According to a Supreme Court statement, Cho "yelled several times" to crew members, ordering them to tell the plane's captain to "stop the flight immediately" because she didn't want to let in a flight attendant who didn't know about proper service procedures. After being informed of Cho's request and overwhelmed, the captain was forced to return the flight to the gate, it said.
Court officials said Thursday's verdict is final and cannot be appealed.
During her trial, Cho admitted using violence against one flight attendant by pushing her shoulder and throwing an object at her. A statement from one crew member described Cho as behaving like an "angry tiger."
The incident was a lightning rod for anger in a country whose economy is dominated by family-run conglomerates known as chaebol. The first and second generations of these families were credited with helping to transform South Korea into a developed nation. But the third generation is often regarded as pampered and entitled, and the public is less tolerant of their excesses.