South Korea will fine unruly air passengers disturbing pilots during a flight over $41,000 or hand down a five-year jail term, according to a new law brought into effect in the country Tuesday. Under the law, crew members will be required to hand over the disruptive passengers to authorities or pay a fine of over $8,294.
The changes in South Korean aviation law comes in response to a December 2014 incident, where Cho Hyun-ah, the daughter of Korean Air Lines’ CEO and chairman Cho Yang-ho, ordered a taxiing plane back to the gate in New York — from where her flight took off — to remove a steward, who served her macadamia nuts in a bag instead of on a plate. The 41-year-old former vice-president of the airline was convicted for violating air-safety laws. Cho served five months in jail and was released in May 2015 after an appeals court overturned the ruling saying she did not cause a change in flight route.
South Korea’s previous law for the same offence carried a penalty of 5 million won (over $4,000) and did not have a jail term. "The amended law reflects mounting public demand for enhanced aviation safety and the prevention of unruly behavior during flight following the Korean Air nut rage incident," the country’s transport ministry said in a statement, Agence France-Presse reported.
Following the incident, dubbed “nut rage,” Cho was widely criticized for her behavior. Her actions delayed the plane by 20 minutes, but the South Korean public saw it as an extreme example of what some call the brazen elitist attitudes of the “chaebol,” or the wealthy families that own much of South Korea’s biggest companies.