South Korea to report ex-Korean Air exec to prosecutors over role in flight delay

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Cho Hyun-ah, daughter of chairman of Korean Air Lines, bows in front of the media outside the offices of the Aviation and Railway Accident Investigation Board in Seoul

Cho Hyun-ah, also known as Heather Cho, daughter of chairman of Korean Air Lines, Cho Yang-ho, bows in front of the media outside the offices of the Aviation and Railway Accident Investigation Board of the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport, in Seoul December 12, 2014. Cho, 40, who was an executive at South Korea's flag carrier in charge of in-flight service until she quit this week, was being removed from all posts at affiliate companies. On December 19, while at New York's John F. Kennedy airport, seated in first class on a South Korea-bound flight, she was displeased with being served macadamia nuts in a bag and not a dish. The pilot brought the plane back to its gate for the cabin crew chief to be expelled. REUTERS/Song Eun-seok/News1 (SOUTH KOREA - Tags: TRANSPORT CRIME LAW) ATTENTION EDITORS - NO SALES. NO ARCHIVES. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS. SOUTH KOREA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN SOUTH KOREA

SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korea's transport ministry said on Tuesday it would report to prosecutors a former Korean Air Lines executive who delayed a flight earlier this month because she was unhappy about how she was served nuts.

A ministry official said its probe has confirmed the former executive, Heather Cho, was engaged in abusive behavior towards flight attendants in the Dec. 5 incident at John F. Kennedy airport in New York and may have broken aviation law. Cho may face legal charges if prosecutors pursue the case.

Cho is the daughter of the airline's chairman and was previously head of its in-flight services. She apologized over the incident, which fueled outrage and ridicule in South Korea, and resigned her posts last week.

"As it has been confirmed that (Heather) Cho raised her voice and used abusive language as testified by some flight crew members and passengers, we will report her to the prosecution for potential violation of aviation safety law," the ministry said in a statement.

The ministry said Korean Air also violated aviation law and it is reviewing punitive measures for the airline, which could include flight suspensions and a fine, the statement said.

Korean Air didn't immediately comment on the ministry's statement.

The plane pushed away from the airport departure gate as the incident was taking place on board. The pilot then brought the plane back to the gate to expel the cabin crew chief, after Cho complained about being served macadamia nuts by a flight attendant in a bag and not on a dish.

The incident was first reported on Monday. Public outrage grew after Korean Air issued what many in the country took to be a half-hearted apology for what it termed an inadequate performance by the cabin crew chief, appearing to rationalize Cho's conduct.

The crew chief said in a local television interview that Cho swore at him and jabbed his hand with a document folder, pointing her finger at him while he kneeled to apologize to her.

The ministry said it was not able to confirm whether Cho physically assaulted any of the crew members.

(Reporting by Jack Kim; Editing by Paul Tait and Kenneth Maxwell)