A California woman was sentenced to 15 months in federal prison for punching a Southwest Airlines flight attendant in the face during a trip, fracturing her teeth.
Vyvianna Quinonez was also sentenced to roughly $26,000 in restitution and a $7,500 fine by a federal judge in San Diego on Tuesday for the attack on a Southwest aircraft between Sacramento and San Diego on May 23, 2021.
While on supervised release, the 29-year-old Sacramento woman is barred from flying for three years and is required to attend anger management programs or therapy.
Quinonez admitted to punching a flight attendant in the face and head with a clenched fist and grabbing her hair when she pleaded guilty to one count of interfering with flight crew members and attendants last year. She and her lawyer could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.
Quinonez was requested to secure her seat belt, stow her tray table, and put on her facemask correctly during the flight’s final descent.
Quinonez instead began recording the attendant on her iPhone, shoved her, stood up, hit her in the face, and pulled her hair before other passengers interfered, according to investigators.
Another passenger’s smartphone captured the attack.
The flight attendant suffered three chipped teeth, two of which required crowns, as well as bruises and a cut under her left eye that required stitches, according to the plea bargain.
“Attacks on flight crew members, who undertake critical tasks to guarantee passenger safety, will not be tolerated,” said U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman following the sentencing.
The punishment should “send a very strong message to flying travelers – the FBI will relentlessly investigate anyone who attacks or interferes with flight attendants,” according to FBI Special Agent in Charge Stacey Moy.
The event was part of an uptick in disorderly conduct among airline passengers as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, prompting the head of the flight attendants’ union to request extra federal air marshals aboard aircraft.
The Federal Aviation Administration received more than 5,000 reports of disruptive passengers from airlines in 2021.
The majority of the incidents were passengers who refused to comply with the statutory rule that travelers wear face masks while on flights, but over 300 included drunk people, according to the FAA.