Korean Air Chief Insults Pilots On Facebook

Filed Under: Korean Air, Media

You’d think Korean Air’s management team would have learned their lesson in 2014, following the PR disaster which arose from their nut rage incident. The chief’s daughter, Heather Cho (who was head of inflight service for the airline at the time), requested a Korean Air A380 return to the gate at JFK after she wasn’t pleased with how the flight attendant served her nuts.

She was disgraced and fired, and ended up going to jail. Her prison sentence was cut short, however, and she even made a return to the company.


While not quite to the same level, Korean Air’s chief, Cho Yang-ho, has just made the PR troubles for his family even worse.

As I wrote about in January, Korean Air and their pilots are going through pay negotiations. Korean Air was offering pilots a 1.9% pay raise, while the pilots wanted a 37% pay raise, despite the airline’s unprofitability.

The airline claimed they’re losing money due to competition from Chinese and Middle Eastern airlines, which is the same reason the pilots wanted a pay raise — the pilots claim they’re being recruited by Chinese and Middle Eastern airlines, which are offering better pay.

A Korean Air pilot was trying to explain the complexities of the job on Facebook, and was probably pretty surprised when the airline’s chief himself responded. Per The Chosunilbo:

Cho was responding to a lament on Facebook by Korean Air co-pilot Kim Seung-kyu, who elaborated on the complexities of a captain’s job.

“They say that pilots with a nine-figure salary shouldn’t complain because they work barely 100 hours a month,” Kim wrote, “so let me show you what we have to prepare for each flight.”

Under company rules pilots are supposed to report for work an hour and 45 minutes before a flight, but in fact they have to make preparations at home or in their hotel several hours before flights and turn up two-and-a-half hours before take-off, he said.


Bizarrely the airline’s president responded as follows:

Cho then lashed out, reinforcing his family’s reputation for high-handed behavior that landed his daughter in jail last year.

“Your posting is full of professional jargon, but 99 percent of your work isn’t new,” Cho wrote. “Aircraft are flying on autopilot, which is easier than driving a car. Pilots are useful only in emergencies. You’re just exaggerating. A dog would laugh.”


  • What kind of airline chief responds to individual employee complaints on Facebook?
  • Even if that’s how he really feels (which seems like an unfortunate way to downplay the roles of pilots, especially given Korean Air’s safety record going back a couple of decades), perhaps he shouldn’t express himself so publicly?

Pilots aren’t happy about this, and apparently the Korean Air pilots union is considering suing Cho for defamation. I don’t know anything about the Korean legal system, though that seems a bit extreme on the surface. Was what he said incredibly stupid and counter productive, especially during a period where they’re negotiating? Absolutely. But calling it defamation might be a stretch…

(Tip of the hat to View from the Wing)

  1. Billionaires and their tantrums. Someone should remind him he isn’t exactly young and has more to lose than most people.

  2. This chief is the father of that spoiled daughter who threw a big tantrum over nuts garnering international infamy. She even made the purser to kneel down to apologize and i remembet her being quite aggreasive both physically and verbally. Now you can see where such arrogance comes from. In fact their entire family is known for their arrant hubris. The wife is quite famous amonst the KA FAs. Btw it’s quite rich to see how full of themselves they are when they built their wealth being obsequieous to the former dictator and pretty much got monopoly over Korean air and charging much higher fare to Koreans.

  3. Well, if that is how he feels about pilots (“useful only in emergencies”), I’ll avoid Korean Air until they replace this idiot. When I fly, I want the person at the controls to be well prepared to handle the plane under all circumstances, and that means *avoiding* emergencies. Anyone with even the most distant connection to aviation understands how important pilots are. I can’t imagine flying an airline whose CEO does not value his customers’ safety.

  4. While a 37% pay raise seems unreasonable, I’m willing to bet part of the airline’s lack of profitability may be due to the fact that it’s a family run business….operating under what sound like a wholly incompetent group of people. If they can’t even be professional in public situations I can’t imagine what things are like behind the scenes and closed doors at the HQ.

  5. Yes, of course Korean Airlines should be boycotted until the jerk (I have more accurate descriptions, but I shall be civil ) is bounced. Amazing arrogance

  6. Koreans tend to overexagerate things, especially when it comes to lawsuits. It’s what happens when you have a legal system that was essentially plopped into the country from the U.S. 30-40 years ago. Say…. some guy on the internet will insult a celebrity. Said celebrity will then proceed to sue the commenter in court–that’s the kind of court system you’re looking at when it comes to South Korea, so not surprised at all that people are suing over “defamation.”

  7. “She was disgraced and fired, and ended up going to jail. Her prison sentence was cut short, however, and she even made a return to the company.”

    Ah, the rich and famous, getting away with stuff we normally couldn’t…

    “Heathrow Cho”

    Maybe she was conceived at some airport hotel there?

    Ah, just kidding. Lucky edited it anyway.

  8. I do like his comment about autopilots flying the planes. With drone technology we could soon have automated planes flying with remote pilots for the takeoff and landing. The only time pilots are really needed as backup is during takeoff and landing and both of those happen within close range of ground facilities so a a remote ground pilot doing the takeoff and then handing over to autopilot and a remote ground pilot at the destination airport doing the landing could work.
    For the very minuscule number of cases where pilots need to override the autopilot during cruise better autopilot systems could be built to eliminate the need. And for diverting for medical emergencies or unruly passengers the airhostesses could be given that authority to do a divert. (Its all a question of entering in some waypoints into a navigation computer. Something that either the ATC could do or even airhostesses could be trained to do in a 2 week course)

    Looking forward to cheaper and more comfortable travel due to elimination of pilots. Etihad could probably use the space saved by not having a cockpit to have another Apartment on their planes.

  9. Defamation is very different in some countries. Especially in some Asian cultures where insults are very rare, it probably has quite tough laws about what you can say to people, even more in public.

    I would think that the union should probably sue for defamation because they’ve just been called lazy and useless, whereas training and professional duty are usually very high in pilots. Don’t forget how many people’s lives are in their hands at any given time in the air.

    Plus that’s no way to behave as a CEO. But with our political leaders setting a great example, what do you expect these days…

  10. By the way – the average pay for all pilots (captains and first officers) is somewhere around $135,000 per year (depending on exchange rates – it’s near 140 million KRW) – and from what I hear, the Chinese and Middle Eastern airlines recruiting Korean Air (and Asiana) pilots usually offer $200,000~$275,000 (per year)

  11. Doesn’t surprise me. It wasn’t until the nut rage incident that I realized Korean Air is such a corrupt company.

    And that, kids, is why I will NEVER fly Korean Air anymore. (By the way, I’m Korean).

  12. Why are (Korean) people so stupid to CREATE problems….make a fuss over things and go thru such a hassle when it can be avoidable. What a waste of time, energy and even money.

    BTW, China is not only splashing cash for recruiting pilots, but footballers with huge incentives as well, as they have shortage of talented/well trained people. What a waste of huge population.

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