We’ve all heard the story by now about Cho Hyun-ah, Korean Air’s Vice President for inflight services and daughter of the airline’s Chairman, who flew New York JFK – Seoul at the beginning of December and had an altercation with a crew member.
She was flying first class, and a flight attendant presented her with an unopened bag of macadamia nuts, rather than asking her if she wanted the nuts and then serving them on a plate per proper procedure.
Ms. Cho scolded the flight attendant, and dressed down the purser. She apparently hit the flight attendant, as this assault is the only charge she faces that she pled guilty to. She ordered the purser off the plane.
The aircraft, which was apparently 56 feet toward the runway at this point, returned to the gate to offload the purser. The incident delayed departure by 20 minutes.
And the world went ‘nuts’… more so in South Korea than in the U.S. where the story continues to have legs. Ms. Cho has been detained since since late December, and faces up to 15 years in prison.
I think most people agree that,
- Actually assaulting a flight attendant over this is reprehensible.
- Turning the plane back to the gate, and delaying all of the passengers onboard, was terrible judgment under the circumstances.
I don’t imagine I would want to work for Ms. Cho. I don’t believe she belongs in prison. She should probably reach a quiet settlement with the flight attendant over the assault charge and with the purser simply to keep further discussion of the incident out of the media.
This is embarrassing for Korean Air, and for her father the Chairman of the company who has now publicly declared that he has admonished his daughter.
It also strikes me that this is very Korean, and that the bad behavior doesn’t come close to replicating how badly Qatar’s flight attendants are treated (something, it seems, that they voluntarily sign up for, and there’s a long line for the jobs in full knowledge of this poor treatment).
Ms. Cho should be dismissed permanently from Korean Air — and should be hired by a major U.S. airline as Vice President of inflight.
US airlines are making historic investments in their inflight hard product. American alone is floating numbers like $2 billion (accounting for all of its previously-announced investments). But no matter how much they invest in seats, or inflight entertainment, or internet, they cannot deliver a product that’s on part with many of their international competitors.
United brought back ‘the Friendly Skies’ without friendly people, describing their features and benefits as ‘flyer friendly’.
Because the actual friendly part doesn’t really cost more. In fact, net net it tends to be airlines with lower labor costs that are actually friendlier. I explored this notion four years ago in Genuineness vs. Plasticism in Flight Attendant Interactions with Customers.
Flight attendants can be there primarily for your safety or can provide an experience of true hospitality. In the U.S., those outstanding crews are generally great by virtue of their own choice and drive rather than company culture. Fixing that is the part that not only doesn’t cost money, it can be less expensive, but it’s hard to get there once you’ve lost it.
While I think the extreme approach to inflight standards was inappropriate on the Korean Air flight I also think that an extreme commitment to inflight could benefit a US carrier. Delta, United, and American do not suffer from too lax an approach.
Tell me, am I off base?
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