Asiana Airlines and Korean Air meet PR turbulence amidst employee protests

Staff from competing Korean airlines, Asiana Airlines and Korean Air Lines, have banded together to condemn their top management over recent scandals surrounding managerial issues and misconduct.

Yonhap News Agency reported more than 400 employees from both airlines had gathered to protest. This includes the censuring of Park Sam-koo and Cho Yang-ho, both chairman and CEOs of Asiana Airlines and Korean Air Lines respectively. Protestors also called for steps to be taken to prevent such managerial mistakes and misconduct from occurring again, along with the airlines’ leaders taking full responsibility legally and ethically.

Most recently, Asiana Airlines came under fire following in-flight meal service disruptions which impacted over 100 flights, which led to Park apologising for the incident. This saw said flights taking off without food for passengers and eventually resulted in the suicide of the head of a supplier to the airline’s new caterer which did not supply food on time, the report added.

This is also not the first rally for Korean Air Line employees, who have also held two rallies of their own earlier in May, targeted at Cho and his family for allegations of habitual bullying and employee assaults. Just in April, Cho apologised for the behaviour of his two daughters Cho Hyun-min and Cho Hyun-ah following different controversies, reported AFP.

Younger daughter Cho Hyun-min, a marketing executive at the airline, was pulled into police investigations for assault. This was after claims that she had thrown water at a man’s face during a business meeting.

Meanwhile, Cho Hyun-ah, the older sibling, ran into a PR crisis four years ago called “nut rage”, after she reportedly kicked a cabin crew member off the plane for serving macadamia nuts in a bag instead of a bowl. In the process of kicking the crew member off the plan, Cho Hyun-ah also made a taxiing plane return to its gate, causing a flight delay in the process. The matter made global headlines and sparked outrage within the country.

According to a recent Edelman Trust Barometer, South Korea and Japan were the only countries which saw trust levels being below 60% when it comes to employee trust in employers when doing what is right. This was below the global average of 72% trust when compared with other countries surveyed.

The credibility of CEOs also increased slightly by 7% in 2018 to 44%, up from an all-time low of 37% the year before. Despite regaining some credibility, CEOs are still ranked the fourth least credible spokesperson, followed by the board of directors (41%) and journalists (39%).

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