Lonely Planet Writer

South Korea introduces tough new penalties for disruptive air passengers

South Korea has introduced tough new penalties for passengers who disturb pilots midflight, in response to the “nut rage” incident on a Korean Air flight in December 2014.

Tough new penalties for Korea air passengers.
Tough new penalties for Korea air passengers. Image by Iwan Gabovitch / CC BY 2.0

Under new laws, passengers who disturb pilots during a flight will face fines of up to ₩50 million (£28,900) and five years in prison. Previously, the maximum fine was ₩5 million (£2890) and there was no provision for jail time.

The fine for drunken passengers who disturb other passengers has also been raised, doubling to ₩10 million (£5800). Crew members also face tough penalties if they fail to hand disruptive passengers over to authorities, with a possible fine of up to ₩10 million.

“The amended law reflects mounting public demand for enhanced aviation safety and the prevention of unruly behaviour during flight following the Korean Air nut rage incident”, the South Korean transport ministry said in a press statement.

The infamous “nut rage” incident occurred as a Korean Air Airbus A380 was departing New York’s John F Kennedy International Airport bound for Incheon, near Seoul. Cho Hyun-Ah (also known as Heather Cho), a vice-president of the airline and daughter of the airline’s chairman, became enraged when a cabin crew member served her macadamia nuts in a bag, rather than on a plate. She demanded the plane be returned to the gate and the chief of the cabin crew ejected. Amid the ensuing controversy, Cho Hyun-Ah resigned from her position at Korean Air. She was later tried and imprisoned for five months for violating aviation safety laws.