[SEOUL] The former Korean Air Lines executive jailed for her outburst over in-flight service, known as the "nut rage" case, asked for leniency during an appeal hearing on Wednesday as she sought to reduce her one-year prison term.
Heather Cho, the daughter of the airline's chairman, was sentenced in February over the Dec 5 incident at New York's John F Kennedy airport, where she forced a Korean Air flight crew chief off the plane because she was unhappy about the way she was served macadamia nuts.
On the opening day of Cho's appeal hearing in Seoul High Court on Wednesday, her lawyers said Cho admitted to the abusive acts towards a flight attendant and the plane's chief steward but she did not have any intent to disrupt flight operations.
"Let me take this chance to ask the victims for forgiveness ... I am repenting for what I have done. I am asking for leniency," said Cho, wearing a light green prison uniform and glasses, her hair tied back.
A lower court had ruled that the former vice president and head of in-flight service at the airline had violated South Korean aviation law by ordering the plane to return to the gate after it had started to taxi.
Cho demanded the crew chief be expelled from the flight after she was served macadamia nuts in a bag, and not on a dish. The plane bound for Incheon, South Korea, which had started to move away from the gate, had to return.
The incident stoked widespread ridicule, as well as outrage over the conduct of the country's powerful family-run conglomerates called chaebol.
On Wednesday, prosecutors said her sentence was too light, questioning whether Cho had apologized sincerely as she also claimed in court that she was trying to do her job as the executive in charge of service.
A flight attendant at the centre of the case has separately filed a civil lawsuit against her in New York.
Heather Cho is the oldest of Korean Air chairman Cho Yang-ho's three children. Her siblings are also executives with the airline.