A top executive in Korean Air's in-flight service - a daughter of the company's CEO - has resigned after being criticised for having the chief crew member kicked off a plane because of the way she had been served some nuts.

"I feel so sorry for our customers and South Koreans for causing such trouble... and seek forgiveness from the people who might have been hurt by me," Cho Hyun-Ah, 40, said in a statement released by Korean Air on Tuesday.

"I will resign from all my posts at Korean Air to take responsibility for the incident."

Korean Air CEO Cho Yang-Ho immediately accepted her resignation, according to the statement.

The Seoul flight had just left its gate at New York's JFK airport on Friday when the incident occurred.

Cho, sitting in first class, took exception to the arrival of some macadamia nuts she had not asked for, and to the fact that they were served in a packet rather than a bowl.

She summoned the chief purser who, according to an earlier Korean Air statement, replied with "lies and excuses" when challenged over his crew's knowledge of in-flight service procedures.

Cho then decided the chief purser was "incapable" and the plane returned to the gate where he disembarked, causing an 11-minute delay in arrival.

Public backlash

Cho's behaviour attracted heavy criticism in South Korea, where she was accused of being petty and arrogant, and even prompted a state probe over a possible breach of aviation safety laws.

Korean Air's spokesman told the AFP news agency that Cho would retain the title of vice-president even though she no longer had any official role in the company, adding it was not clear whether she would hold any responsibilities in the future.

Korean Air - South Korea's flag carrier - earlier apologised for causing "inconvenience" for passengers but defended Cho's action as a "reasonable" move to improve in-flight service.

It also argued that the final decision to deplane the employee was taken by the captain.

Transport Minister Suh Seoung-Hwan said earlier on Tuesday the incident was being investigated and any regulatory breach would be "handled sternly".

Source: AFP