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Korean Air vows to strengthen security training

Dec. 27, 2016 - 16:16 By 원호정

Korea‘s largest air carrier vowed Tuesday to strengthen security training for its air cabin crew following strong public backlash for a seemingly weak response to an unruly passenger on Dec. 20.

Korean Air President Chi Chang-hoon told reporters at a press conference at Korean Air’s Training Center in Gangseo-gu, Seoul, that the airline would be improving its training procedures for cabin crew to focus more on drills for real-life scenarios.

Korean Air flight attendants practice restraining unruly passengers Tuesday at the Korean Air Training Center in Gangseo-gu, Seoul. (Yonhap)

“Illegal acts on flights have been increasing, and have become a social issue,” Chi said. “Although we have been taking appropriate countermeasures, we feel that a stronger response is needed.”

Chi also said that Korean Air would more actively block passengers with previous offenses from boarding other Korean Air flights following a set of new guidelines that are “still being finalized.”

The safety manual will also be revised to provide more specific guidelines to flight attendants about when they are permitted to use tasers and stun guns against passengers. 

“American airlines, for instance, take strict measures against unruly passengers on their flights, but Asian airlines still hesitate to apply those measures,” Chi said. “After the recent incident, Korean Air will strengthen its own guidelines, putting safety above all else.”

The airline had been slapped with criticisms that unruly passengers were often let off with a slap on the wrist because of flight attendants‘ service-oriented attitude.

The 34-year-old man surnamed Lim, whose drunken violent behavior was made public by American pop star Richard Marx on social media, became the first person to be banned by Korean Air from future flights.

“Lim booked a Korean Air flight to Hanoi on Dec. 29. We have sent an official letter to deny him from boarding,” said Chi. The airline has also banned Lim from another flight in January, but has not decided how long the ban will hold. 

The Incheon International Airport Police has requested an arrest warrant for Lim, accusing him of impeding the safe flight of an aircraft and violating Article 46 of the Aviation Safety and Security Act. This is the same crime charged against Korean Air heiress Cho Hyun-ah during the infamous 2014 “nut rage” incident, and carries a prison sentence of up to five years. 

Korean Air officials also pointed to the weak enforcement of laws against unruly passengers as a problem in reducing in-flight disturbances.

“Laws in Korea are very strict when it comes to punishment. However, we don‘t see them (authorities) exercising those laws on airlines,” said Michel Gaudreau, Korean Air’s Senior Vice President for Corporate Safety, Security, and Compliance. 

“We need the government to enforce the laws that we have in place to those who cause harm to our crew members and put our flights in jeopardy.”

By Won Ho-jung (