GIMPO, South Korea (Reuters) - Korean Air Lines said it will allow crew members to “readily use stun guns” to manage violent passengers, and hire more male flight attendants, after coming in for criticism from U.S. singer Richard Marx over its handling of a recent incident.
The new crew guidelines, announced on Tuesday following the Dec. 20 incident, will also include more staff training, use of the latest device to tie up a violent passenger, and the banning of passengers with a history of unruly behaviour.
Men account for about one-tenth of Korean Air flight attendants, and the carrier said it will try to have at least one male on duty in the cabin for each flight.
“While U.S. carriers have taken stern action on violent on-board behaviour following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 (2001), Asian carriers including us have not imposed tough standards because of Asian culture,” Korean Air President Chi Chang-hoon told a news conference.
“We will use the latest incident to put safety foremost and strengthen our safety standards,” he said.
In South Korea, the number of unlawful acts committed aboard airplanes has more than tripled over the past five years, according to government data.
South Korean police on Tuesday sought an arrest warrant for the passenger involved in the latest incident, identified by his surname Lim, on charges including inflicting injury to the crew and a passenger on the Vietnam to South Korea flight.
An airline spokesman said the man had consumed two and a half shots of whiskey during the flight.
The incident came to light when Marx said on Facebook and Twitter that he helped subdue “a psycho passenger attacking crew members and other passengers,” accusing crew members of being “ill-trained” and “ill-equipped” to handle the “chaotic and dangerous event”.
Marx’s wife Daisy Fuentes, a TV host and model who was with the singer during the flight from Hanoi to Incheon near Seoul, said on Instagram that crew members “didn’t know how to use the taser & they didn’t know how to secure the rope around him (he got loose from their rope restraints 3 times).”
Video of the incident posted on YouTube showed a young man in a business class seat spitting and swearing at crew members trying to restrain him with a rope.
Lim, in his early 30s, appeared on Monday for questioning by police, wearing a mask, thick-rimmed glasses and a hat. He apologised for his behaviour but said he could not remember what had happened, according to video shown by broadcaster SBS.
Korean Air said it sent a thank-you letter to Marx’s management agency for helping control Lim.
Korean Air was involved in a high-profile case of bad passenger behaviour in late 2014 when the daughter of its chairman, who was an executive with the carrier, forced a flight crew chief off the plane at New York’s JFK Airport because she was unhappy about the way she was served macadamia nuts.
The “nut rage” incident provoked widespread ridicule and resulted in the executive, Heather Cho, serving nearly five months in jail.
Reporting by Hyunjoo Jin; Editing by Michael Perry and Tony Munroe