Unhappy flyingThe Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport filed a complaint to the prosecution Tuesday against former Korean Air Vice President Cho Hyun-ah, who ordered a passenger plane on a New York runway to go back to the gate to eject a crew member because her macadamia nuts were served the wrong way. The ministry said it’s considering such penalties as a temporary suspension of flights. With the ministry’s latest action, the government took a step toward legal and administrative sanctions on the airline for a vice president’s high-handed forcing of an airplane to return to a gate even though she is not a member of the flight staff.
The Transport Ministry believes that Cho’s action violated Article 23 of the Aviation Security Law, which stipulates that passengers should not hamper the safe flight of a plane. The ministry submitted the results of its own investigation to prosecutors before deciding to leave to them a legal judgment on whether she violated Article 46 of the same law, which deals with punishments for obstruction of safe flights of aircraft. The government has recognized that the disgraceful act of the vice president on the plane, which drew public uproar at home and abroad, constituted a hindrance to the safety and convenience of passengers.
The problem is whether the ministry’s act of filing a complaint and punishing the nation’s top airline will really help ease concerns of the public. Korean Air must come up with a genuine apology to all of the passengers on board and devise reasonable measures to prevent any such recurrence down the road.
The episode calls for a massive shakeup of our outmoded corporate culture. Even though the responsibility for the incident should first be borne by Cho, our distorted corporate culture, which cannot restrain executives’ irrational behavior no matter how it affects customers, also played a part in the incident. If someone can force an airplane on the tarmac to retreat to a gate without any appropriate procedure or rational judgment, that’s the very legacy of the past our society must get rid of.
If the air carrier wants to become a respected company, it must change its distorted corporate culture first. A rational corporate culture also serves as an effective crisis management system.
This incident also raised the serious question of what is customer-friendly service. Service starts with endeavors to respect customers. The airline must show sincerity toward passengers rather than relying on a corporate manual for customer service.
JoongAng Ilbo, Dec. 17, Page 34